While confined in a jail, a prisoner must contend with a wide array of unknowns. Some have to do with getting out: When will I be released, when will I speak to a lawyer, when will I see a judge, how will my case be resolved, will I be sentenced to prison time? Others with life on the outside: What will happen to my family, my home, my job? And still others concern safety while inside: Will my property be stolen, will I be assaulted, am I safe if I go to sleep?
For anyone, the stress is enormous. For a person with a mental illness, however, the stress can increase symptoms — depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts — and for a small minority of those with a mental illness, it can prompt a spiral into a state of mania or psychosis. Not only is the jail not a conducive environment to successfully treat people, but due to the severity of some individuals’ disorders, those who are mostly indigent and homeless are unable to advocate for themselves. As a result, they become lost in the system and languish within jail walls.
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