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Sheriff Tom Dart: Prisons, jails are ‘the new insane asylums’

Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart

Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart

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Updated: November 1, 2013 10:17AM



Appearing on CBS’ “60 Minutes” on Sunday night, Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart spoke of the peril of housing mentally ill inmates in jail.

In light of a slew of mass shootings carried out by people with mental illnesses, correspondent Steve Kroft interviewed Dart at the Cook County Jail.

Dart said the jail housed at least 2,500 inmates with mental illnesses. He also characterized prisons and jails as “the new insane asylums.”

To highlight “what happens when we take mentally ill people and we cram them into the criminal justice system, where they’re not supposed to be,” Dart shared videos recorded by his staff inside the prison showing mentally ill inmates behaving erratically.

“This is a population that people don’t care about and so as a result of that there are not the resources out there to care for them,” Dart said. “The irony is so deep that you have a society that finds it wrong to have people warehoused in state mental institutions but those very same people were OK if we warehouse them in a jail. You’ve got to be kidding me.”

Dart said leaving their needs to an ill-equipped incarceration system is a recipe for disaster.

“Some are getting treated, some are not getting treated. People are falling through the cracks all the time,” he said in the interview. “To think that won’t then boil up at some point and end up in a tragedy, that’s just naive.”

Kroft pointed out that most mentally ill inmates are released back on the street after stints at the jail “with a packet of pills and no plan.”

Email: mdudek@suntimes.com

Twitter: @mitchdudek



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