Why is Idaho Sending Non-Criminal Mental Health Patients to a Prison?

A temporary program in Idaho that houses  “dangerously mentally ill” patients, who often face no criminal charges, in prisons has continued for five decades, Audrey Dutton reports for ProPublica. Idaho has continued to ignore warnings over and over that its law fails mental health patients by sending them to a cell block.

At the start of this year, the Legislature refused to use any of Idaho’s $1.4 billion surplus to build a $24 million mental health facility for patients, opting to continue holding them without charges at the state’s maximum security prison south of Boise. In placing patients who have not been charged with crimes in prison instead of in a treatment facility, Idaho is at odds with the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and the recommendations of the American Psychiatric Association, the American College of Correctional Physicians, federal courts and the United Nations. Civilly committed patients with the most severe symptoms spend as much as 23 to 24 hours a day confined to cells the size of a parking space.

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