Report says jails are warehouses for the poor, mentally ill, addicted

February 10, 2015
Jails have become warehouses of people too poor to post bail or too ill with mental health or drug problems to adequately care for themselves, according to a report entitled Incarceration's Front Door: The Misuse of Jails in America. The report, by the Vera Institute of Justice, found the majority of those incarcerated in local and county jails are there for minor violations, including driving with suspended licenses, shoplifting or evading subway fares, and have been jailed for longer periods of time over the past 30 years because they are unable to pay court-imposed costs. While most reform efforts, including early releases and the elimination of some minimum mandatory sentences, have been focused on state and federal prisons, the report found that the disparate rules that apply to jails are in need of reform. The MacArthur Foundation announced it would invest $75 million over five years in 20 jurisdictions that are seeking alternatives to sending large numbers of people to jail. The jurisdictions, which could be cities, counties or other entities that run local jails, will be announced this spring.