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Letters: Jail isn't for the mentally ill

February 07, 2013

Re "Prison's revolving door," Editorial, Feb. 5

Crime and arrests in Los Angeles County continue to decline. On the countywide Criminal Justice Coordination Committee's website, the first annual report on public safety realignment shows recidivism rates lower than expected for people transferred from state prison to county supervision. Yet the same report says the population of L.A. County jails has risen by 22%. Why?

In a 2007 study, USC psychiatry professor H. Richard Lamb found that 95% of the severely mentally ill men in the county's Twin Towers jail had been there before. A 2010 study, also by Lamb, found that as states closed mental hospitals, three times as many mentally ill people were being admitted to county jails as mental hospitals.

Do we need more studies, or do we need to wake up to what we already know? It is too expensive and too cruel to house mentally ill people in jails.

Marsha Temple

Los Angeles

The writer is the executive director of the nonprofit Integrated Recovery Network.

The Times is right: Appropriate clinical intervention could prevent crimes caused by mental illness. But for some people with diseases such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, the very nature of their brain-based illness precludes them from knowing they are ill. Consequently, they do not engage in treatment.

Several years ago, Los Angeles County started a pilot project for this severely ill population under Laura's Law. It was a partial implementation of what's known as assisted outpatient treatment. Jurisdictions that have fully implemented this program have dramatically reduced the incarceration rates of those who undergo treatment.

If L.A. County wants to stop the revolving door of the jailhouse, it must fully implement this law.

Carla Jacobs

Tustin

The writer is a board member of the Treatment Advocacy Center.

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