We used to have a state psychiatric hospital system. That system has been destroyed. Now, the severely mentally ill, when they get any treatment at all, are primarily treated in American prisons.
"Many times individuals who really do require intensive psychiatric care find themselves homeless or more and more in prison," Sisti says. "Much of our mental health care now for individuals with serious mental illness has been shifted to correctional facilities."
The percentage of people with serious mental illness in prisons rose from .7 percent in 1880 to 21 percent in 2005, according to the Center for Prisoner Health and Human Rights.
A consensus of other experts estimates that the total number of state beds required for acute and long-term care would be more like 50 beds per 100,000 in the population . At the peak of availability in 1955, there were 340 beds per 100,000 . In 2010, the number of state beds was 43,318 or 14.1 beds per 100,000 .