LA jail adapts amid meth-fueled rise in mentally ill inmates

Photo: MGN Online

LOS ANGELES (AP) – Perhaps the largest group of mentally ill inmates in the U.S. resides in Los Angeles, in one of the world’s largest jail complexes.

Over the past seven years, the population at Twin Towers Correctional Facility has spiked almost 50 percent, with nearly every inmate having both mental illness and substance abuse problems.

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Sheriff Jim McDonnell attributes the “explosion” in the number of mentally ill prisoners to methamphetamine use.

Doctors say it’s often difficult to distinguish whether patients had underlying conditions and turned to drugs and those whose chronic drug use led to psychiatric disorders.

But no matter the cause, the uptick has led the sheriff’s office to implement new training for deputies to deal specifically with mental illness and programs that focus on treatment, instead of punishment.