In the past 15 years the number of mentally ill individuals in jail or prison has risen fourfold, from 4% of the jail/prison population to 16% or more, according to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). The rate of serious mental illness among people booked into U.S. jails each year is at least three to four times higher than the rate of serious mental illness in the general population. The problem is no less severe in Colorado. According to the state’s Department of Corrections, the percentage of individuals with serious mental illness in its prisons is 20%, an increase of approximately 1% each year since 1991.

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