Report: Mental health spending cuts inmate population

The study found each dollar states spend on mental health roughly cuts 25 cents off its jail expenditures by reducing its inmate population


By C1 Staff

CORVALLIS, Ore. — A report published in the journal Social Science and Medicine found 35 out of 44 states analyzed could reduce jail populations by spending more on mental health care.

The cost of housing jail inmates averages $60 a day per inmate. Researchers suggest that investing in public inpatient mental health care while maintaining the current level of community health care could reduce the population. 

Professors from Oregon State University researched data from 44 states and the District of Columbia over a nine-year period, examining the relationships among government spending on community mental health care, spending on inpatient mental health care and jail population.

The report found that many mentally ill inmates could be safely supervised and more effectively treated somewhere other than jail. The alternative treatment could also result in inmates that are less likely to commit crimes in the future, according to a press release.

“Our findings show that if per-capita public inpatient mental health spending is increased by 10 percent, the jail population shrinks by 1.5 percent,” Researcher Jangho Yoon said. “The positive spillover effect of increased inpatient spending is greater at lower levels of community spending, which shows the principle of diminishing marginal return applies here.”

The study found each dollar states spend on mental health roughly cuts 25 cents off its jail expenditures by reducing its inmate population.

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