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Local jail populations are exploding and have become the "new asylums," with six of 10 inmates suffering from mental illness, according to a new report released today by the Justice Policy Institute.
The 38-page report (PDF) says that despite lower crime rates, the jail population has nearly doubled over the past 20 years.
Researchers note that jails are "warehousing" more individuals who have yet to be convicted of any crime and for longer periods of time. This is attributed, in part, to rising costs of bail.
“Jail bonds have skyrocketed, so that means if you’re poor, you do time. People are being punished before they’re found guilty—justice is undermined," report co-author Amanda Petteruti said in a release about the findings.
The report, Jailing Communities: The Impact of Jail Expansion and Effective Public Safety Strategies, says that communities are struggling to deal with jails full of individuals with drug addictions, who are homeless or who are charged with immigration offenses.
Racial disparities were also noted. For instance, Latinos were revealed to be the most likely to have to pay bail, have the highest bail amounts and are least likely to be released before trial. African-Americans are five times as likely to be jailed than whites and three times as likely as Latinos.
The report makes several recommendations, including that communities should:
- Improve release procedures for pretrial and sentenced populations.
- Develop and implement alternatives to incarceration, such as community-based corrections.
- Divert people with mental health and drug treatment needs to the public health system and community-based treatment, which is more cost-effective than incarceration.
Hat tip Criminal Justice Journalists.