Jail Inreach Project
The Jail Inreach Project began in 2007 in collaboration with Mental Health Mental Retardation Authority of Harris County and the Harris County Sheriff’s Office. The project’s goal is to reduce rearrest rates by providing intervention strategies that include treatment plans and continuity of care post release.
Those with mental illness tend to suffer poor physical health and have increased rates of contact with the criminal justice system. It has been found that homeless individuals with mental illness are inclined to be homeless for longer periods than non-mentally ill homeless individuals. Typically, there is little contact with family, friends and other social support systems, and they have the highest mortality and morbidity rates among the homeless population.
At any given time, nearly 25% of county jail inmates are diagnosed with mental illnesses like schizophrenia, major depression and bipolar disorder, compared to 5% in the general population. Those with severe mental illness have nearly twice the number of legal charges against them as those without.
The inmate population of the Harris County Jail increased dramatically from 2004 to 2009, from about 7,600 inmates to 11,500 on any given day. Roughly, 2,400 inmates are taking prescribed psychotropic medication, making it the largest provider of mental health services in the state of Texas. The ineffective and disjointed system results in many of the homeless mentally ill cycling between the streets/shelters, hospital emergency centers and jail cells – the “revolving door phenomenon.” The cost to the county attributable to the increased rearrest rates of mentally ill individuals exceeds $27 million per year, according to a 2011 New York Times article.