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$63 Billion: US pays high financial, social costs of incarcerating millions

April 23, 2012
by Dennis Grantham, Editor-in-Chief
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CBS Sunday Morning report highlights the tremendous social and financial costs of a justice system that incarcerates 2.4 million people annually.

Martha Teichner’s CBS Sunday Morning report, Incarceration Nation, deserves special attention because it offers a brief, but important, focus on the tremendous social and financial costs of incarceration in the US.  It can be difficult to “get out the word” on problems like these, but Teichner’s report is a resource for anyone in the behavioral health field who wants to start the conversation and point it in the right direction.

As the report points out, many of the 2.4 million Americans in jail and prison today are members of poor and minority communities—those most likely to be homeless in urban areas, to lack adequate healthcare, and therefore, to run afoul of law enforcement.  The report touched upon the high numbers of non-violent offenders being held, the  potential of jail diversion, the promise of education and treatment during incarceration, and the importance of helping incarcerated individuals to “re-enter” society in a productive manner after their time is served.
 
The report didn’t go into detail on those with behavioral health problems in the justice and prison system, though a recent Behavioral Healthcare article points out that 25 percent of all incarcerations, and their enormous costs to society, could be prevented if appropriate—and far less costly—community-based treatment and support options were available for non-violent offenders with mental or substance use disorders.
 
At a time when every community, county, and state is scratching for funds, it would pay all in the behavioral health services to explore how our services can be of help to local law enforcement and to the many with behavioral health disorders who come into contact with the justice system.  To learn more about how the San Antonio/Bexar County, Tex. took on this problem in an award winning fashion, see this article.  Or, click here to see all of our criminal justice related coverage.
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Dennis Grantham

Dennis Grantham

@BH_dgrantham

www.behavioral.net