* The problems at Cook County’s jail are never-ending, and appear to be getting worse. One reason is the huge influx of the mentally ill, which now account for more than 20 percent of the jail’s inmate population. And a big reason behind that population surge is state budget cuts to mental health budgets. Tribune…
After dipping to 8,900 in 2011, the average annual jail population — primarily inmates awaiting trial — has been on the rise, with the daily count now frequently more than 10,000, the highest totals since a day in 2007. […]
While the jail is overcrowded, detainees no longer sleep on mattresses on the floor, as they did during some other episodes of overcrowding, and the sheriff, whose operation of the jail is monitored by a federal judge, no longer assigns inmates to sleep on bunks in shifts.
The exception is at Cermak Health Services, the county-run hospital on the jail grounds where acutely mentally ill inmates are treated and patients sometimes sleep on mattresses the floor, according to the sheriff’s office. […]
More than 2,000 mentally ill detainees are being held at the jail, and many of them have medical issues as well, said Superintendent Robert Lyles, who runs Division 2, the jail’s largest unit. “When the state hospital and private (mental health) facilities were shut down, it seemed like the jail had to adapt,” he said. “It’s a challenge every day.”
Some mentally ill inmates are kept longer than necessary because no beds are available in state treatment centers when a judge finds them unfit to stand trial, public defenders and others involved in the cases said. Although Gov. Pat Quinn has pledged to boost spending on mental health services next year by $25 million, [Sheriff Tom Dart] and other officials are skeptical.
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