The Wall Street Journal had a staggering report recently that showed just how many crazy people America keeps in its jails instead of mental hospitals aimed at helping them get better.
America’s three biggest jail systems — New York City, Los Angeles, and Cook County in Illinois — have 11,000 inmates being treated for mental illness. By comparison, the WSJ reported, the three largest state-run mental hospitals in the U.S. have only 4,000 beds.
This is a huge problem because prisons don’t have the best reputation for helping the mentally ill get better. It is not a new problem, however.
Minneapolis-based photographer Jenn Ackerman got permission to photograph the Kentucky State Reformatory‘s psychiatric unit in 2008, after reading an article about the mentally ill prison. It was not easy for Ackerman to get this kind of access, and the photos she took are absolutely haunting. We are running them with her permission.
Ackerman toured the prison's Correctional Psychiatric Treatment Unit, where inmates often must be restrained for their own protection.
The facility is staffed by licensed mental health professionals, but corrections officers like this one comfort inmates, too.
The psych unit started out with just 13 beds in 1998 but grew to 150 beds by 2008. This inmate on suicide watch curls up without a blanket.
This inmate, who's also in his cell for 23 hours a day, talks to himself. The ACLU has found that prolonged isolation can exacerbate mental illness.
Corrections officers often help the mental health staff manage mentally ill inmates, Sergeant Jeremy Rioux told Ackerman. 'It's a thin line between mental health and security,' he told her.
This inmate being secured has to wear a mask so he doesn't spit on corrections officers and doctors.
An inmate named Bobby Slater pictured here later hanged himself in his cell, according to Ackerman. In September, NBC reported that suicide killed more inmates than homicide, overdoses, and accidents combined.
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.