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Does Bail Reform Decarcerate Mental Illness? Public Health Challenges for a Large County Jail System

NCJ Number
Journal of Correctional Health Care Dated: 2022
K. Hinami; M. W. Epperson; T. Lyons; J. Nowinski-Konchak; A. M. Cibulskis; H. Y. Zhang; C. Mennella
Date Published

Although bail reform reduces jail census, whether or not its effects extend to incarcerated individuals with mental illness is unknown


Using a novel high-sensitivity measure of serious mental illness (SMI) from jail-based electronic health records, we conducted an interrupted time series analysis assessing the impact of Illinois bail reform on total jail registrations and the nested subset with SMI +/- co-occurring substance use disorder (SUD). Compared with a decline in total jail registrations, admission of individuals with SMI +/- SUD showed no decline. Consequently, the proportion of admissions involving SMI increased between 2015 and 2019 from 26% to 35%. Intentional efforts involving cooperation by the health, social services, and justice sectors are needed to translate the impact of bail reform onto the population experiencing SMI. (Publisher abstract provided)