On ‘Radio Times’: Mentally ill inmates overwhelm Pa. jails

 The correctional complex on State Road in Philadelphia. (Emma Lee/WHYY, file)

The correctional complex on State Road in Philadelphia. (Emma Lee/WHYY, file)

Nationally, prisons and jails are turning into modern day mental institutions. There’s an increase of people with serious mental illnesses being locked up behind bars. 

In Pennsylvania, the state Department of Corrections announced a plan to introduce the Stepping Up Initiative — a national initiative to reduce the number of people with mental illnesses who are incarcerated. Thirteen counties have already joined the initiative.

This morning on Radio Times, Marty Moss-Coane talked with Dr. Fred Osher, director of health systems and services policy at the Council of State Governments Justice Center—a leader behind Stepping Up. Bruce Herdman, chief medical director the Philadelphia Department of Prisons discussed the increase of women with mental health illnesses being incarcerated. And John Wetzel, Pennsylvania Secretary of Corrections addressed the misconception that there’s a correlation between mental illness and violence.

“We don’t see variance when we look at violent versus non-violence,” Wetzel said. “I don’t think that someone who’s mentally ill is more likely to commit a crime than somebody else.”

To hear more about how state and city agencies are addressing the needs of mental ill inmates, listen to Radio Times.

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