California Ordered to Slash Jail Populations to Improve Mental, Medical Health

Throughout the country, jails have traditionally been condemned as some of the worst places for adequate health care, and mental health has played an especially important role in arguments encouraging lawmakers to take action and require greater services. Poor counseling, psychotherapy, and other mental health services have consistently been blamed for relapse of criminal behavior after release, as well as appalling or, in some cases, inhumane treatment within jails themselves. By no means immune to these trends, the state of California has battled a rising inmate population for years, and has failed to convince regulators that its sparse health services are on par with basic expectations. As a result, the state has recently been ordered to cut its inmate population by forty thousand over the next two years.

The move, which was originally fought by the state administration but which has since been addressed with formal plans for attaining the reduction, is aimed at allowing for greater attention to be paid to medical and mental health care, and to ensure that those inmates in need of treatment receive adequate services. The state has said that it plans to restrict the incarceration of minors, alter probation and state laws to lower incarceration rates, and consider other measures to safely keep the population within acceptable limits.

Amidst the planning, however, the panel issuing the order has placed a hold on its decision pending the outcome of a Supreme Court case assessing whether the judges have the authority to order an action that may necessitate the early release of offenders. As the case develops, advocates for greater therapy and other treatments in jail are sure to keep a close eye on the state’s reactions.

© Copyright 2010 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • vanessa W.

    vanessa W.

    January 15th, 2010 at 10:00 AM

    It is good to know that there r plans of providing better healthcare for inmates.they are denied things that we so take for geanted in our everyday lives.I would also suggest they have counseling sessions for these people.

  • Ryanne R

    Ryanne R

    January 15th, 2010 at 2:47 PM

    Ok great so the inmates left in jail become mentally fit but the ones who are released are left to fend for themselves, and what about the general public now having to deal with this population that may have been released early without adequate treatment and mental health care? What does that mean for us- and hopefully there will be some sort of follow up with the ex inmates who still need care but have been released from the system, but somehow I doubt that’s gonna happen.

  • Oliver


    January 15th, 2010 at 3:40 PM

    Conditions in jails are mostly pathetic and this leaves no room for mental health, thereby causing a lot od mental health problems in the inmates. This needs to be fixed, and fast. Because more the solution is delayed, we have more repeat criminals striking…

  • yolanda


    January 16th, 2010 at 6:22 AM

    I used to work in a halfway house for federal inmates and thet received great after care even while in the halfway house. Many if them said they had the same kind of care while in the prison system. So there is something being done for them, but just how effective in the long term it was for them I don’t know. What I do know is that there probably is not the money available to folloe them after they are released from the system to ensure that the treatment and care that they got was enough yo really make an impact on them for the rest of their lives. I like to think that it was but you can’t ever tell what the end results are going to be once they have to find a way to make it out in the general population again.

  • Tawny


    January 17th, 2010 at 8:37 AM

    I fail to see how reducing the prison population and improving the healthcare provided in prison have anything to do with one another. You can’t simply ignore those who are committing crimes and leave them on the streets all for increasing the budget allottment elsewhere. Those two things are separate and would seem to me to require very different resolutions. Yes more needs to be done so that the prison population does not continue to skyrocket but that has little to do with the mental helathcare needs of those who are already in prison. The money has to be found, but one should not have to suffer at the expense of another.

  • Sara


    January 18th, 2010 at 2:17 PM

    For argument’s sake let’s say that this is a good thing. So then my question becomes if they could not foot the bill for meager care for the jail population while they were incarcerated how will they get the money to do even more for the inmates? Sounds like a tax increase just waiting to happen!

  • Nan


    January 19th, 2010 at 1:04 PM

    It really is a catch 22- nothing is going to satisfy all.

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