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Letters: Sick and in jail

Letters: Sick and in jail
Handcuffs dangle from a handrail in one of the open dorm areas of the Twin Towers Correctional Facility dedicated to mentally ill inmates. (Los Angeles Times)

Re "Try compassion, not prison," Column, Oct. 6

As Steve Lopez explained, 3,200 mentally ill inmates fill L.A. County jails. Many of them are charged with nonviolent offenses. Many of them are suffering needlessly. The system is inhumane.

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Jail makes those who are sick even sicker, worsening their symptoms and leaving them more difficult to treat. If that weren't enough, inmates with mental illness in Los Angeles have suffered a pattern of physical abuse from deputies.

The Twin Towers Correctional Facility in downtown L.A., where most of the inmates with mental illness are housed, has one of the country's highest rates of jail inmates sexually victimizing other inmates. The suicide rate for inmates with mental illness is incredibly high. The problems are so dire that the federal government is conducting an investigation.

Lopez reported that nearly half of the mentally ill inmates in our jails could safely be released to supportive housing and treatment programs. To act any other way is cruel.

Peter Eliasberg

Los Angeles

The writer is legal director for the ACLU of Southern California.

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