When the Mentally Ill Land in Jail Instead of in Psych Treatment

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There are approximately ten times more mentally ill people behind bars than in psychiatric hospitals. Last month, a 24-year-old African American man died in a Virginia jail four months after being arrested for stealing about $5 worth of junk food. Jamycheal Mitchell was accused of stealing a Snickers bar, a Mountain Dew and a Zebra Cake from a 7­Eleven. His family says he suffered from schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. The courts were aware of his mental illness and found him unfit to stand trial. A judge recommended he be transferred to a mental health facility, but the transfer never happened. Slate's Dahlia Lithwick says this is just one example of an ongoing failure of the criminal justice system and its treatment of the mentally ill.

Photo: Keith Allison