Federal Lawsuit Challenges Ohio’s Treatment (or Lack Thereof) of Mentally Ill Offenders upon Release
The Ohio Justice and Policy Center has filed a federal lawsuit claiming that Ohio violates both the Constitution and the Americans with Disabilities Act when it releases mentally ill offenders back into the community with insufficient follow-up care:
Advocates for prisoners and the mentally ill said they are suing to help not only the released prisoners, but also the taxpayers who must pay tens of thousands of dollars a year to keep them locked up when they commit new crimes and are sent back to prison.
They say the cost of providing treatment to a mentally ill person in the community is about $7,400 a year, compared to the $25,000 a year it costs to incarcerate them.
But instead of treatment, the lawsuit claims, ex-convicts with mental problems get $65 to $75, a bus ticket and two weeks of medication upon their release. The suit said many of those former inmates soon move into homeless shelters or drug-infested neighborhoods, where their mental health quickly deteriorates.
“Dumping prisoners with mental illness at homeless shelters creates a revolving door phenomenon,” said Bess Okum, staff attorney with the Cincinnati-based Ohio Justice and Policy Center, which filed the suit on behalf of nine current and former prisoners. “Many of these former prisoners commit new crimes because of their untreated mental illness.”