“The state of mental illness in this country is beyond the trite notion of a crisis; it’s at a point of comedic absurdity.” This scathing assessment of the American mental health crisis, offered by California Governor Gavin Newsome, lays bare in the starkest of terms what anyone who works in criminal justice already knows: we are failing hundred of thousands of people with mental health issues. Governor Newsome’s evaluation is particularly important to keep in mind this May, mental health awareness month.

America’s three largest psychiatric treatment facilities are prisons—a result of the sharp decline in the number of psychiatric hospital beds since 1955—and over 16% of people in prisons are dealing with some form of serious mental illness. The criminal justice system has assumed the woe begotten position as a backstop to the public health system.

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