The largest mental health facilities in the United States are now county jails. About 15 percent of men and 31 percent of women incarcerated in jails have a serious and persistent mental disorder. Conservative estimates suggest that 900,000 persons with serious mental illness are admitted annually to U.S. jails, usually as pretrial detainees. Los Angeles County is no exception to this trend. On average, in 2018, 30 percent of individuals incarcerated in the county jail system on any given day were in mental health housing units and/or prescribed psychotropic medications (5,111 of 17,024 individuals in the average daily inmate population for that year). This reflected a substantial increase since 2009, when just 14 percent of those in the county jail were in the jail mental health population. Moreover, between 2010 and 2015, there was a 350-percent increase in the number of incompetent-to-stand trial cases referred to Department 95, Los Angeles County’s mental health court program.
Estimating the Size of the Los Angeles County Jail Mental Health Population Appropriate for Release into Community Services