Media Release: Jail Mental Health Study

Having trouble viewing this email? View it as a Web page.

hennepin county sheriff's office

News Release


Media Contact:  Michael Sheehan, 612-919-5918

Sheriff’s Office takes unique look at jail population with a focus on mental illness

September 22, 2016 (MINNEAPOLIS) – The Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office released a study showing approximately half of inmates would benefit from or are in need of mental health services while incarcerated in the Hennepin County Jail.  

During the “One-Day Snapshot Study,” jail medical staff performed full medical assessments for 640 of the 680 inmates in the Jail on July 27, 2016.  Study partners also reviewed other verifiable information for the 68 inmates, including medical histories, public court records, incidents during previous incarcerations, and county records from County Departments.

The analysis showed that 52 percent of the inmates had confirmed indicators or met other criteria associated with mental illness. Thirty-six percent of the inmates had a confirmed mental health diagnosis or concern in the jail’s intake health assessment, or had confirmed prescriptions for Neuroleptic medications. An additional 16 percent of the inmates displayed behaviors associated with serious mental illness or had a significant history connected to mental illness.

“This new information is solid evidence that our jails continue to serve as the largest mental health facilities in the State.   Previous estimates of one-quarter (1/4) to one-third (1/3) were based solely upon inmates who self-identified during a brief health screening process performed by Sheriff’s deputies,” said Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek. “Now that we have better information about the extent of mental illness among jail inmates, we can begin working on better ways to provide the services they need and deserve.”

The health assessments were performed by Registered Nurses from the Hennepin County Medical Center, the medical and mental health service provider of the Hennepin County Jail.  “Hennepin Healthcare System is collaborating with multiple community partners,” said HCMC Psychiatrist Dr. Ian Heath, “including the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office and Hennepin County Human Services Public Health Division, to create an efficient system connecting people with the necessary services and supports to achieve the best plausible outcomes.” 

Commissioner Jeff Johnson, who chairs the county’s Public Safety Committee along with the Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee said, “Everyone has recognized this as an issue for some time and these numbers confirm the severity of the problem. We need expanded Crisis Intervention Training for police and jail alternatives for the mentally ill that are proven to work as part of the solution.”

Hennepin County Chief Public Defender Mary Moriarty, co-chair of the Behavioral Health Committee, said, “We know that many of our clients struggle with mental health issues and that they should receive treatment, instead of being warehoused in jail or prison.  I hope that this additional information will push the criminal justice system to find better solutions for these clients.”  

The Sheriff’s Office and other Hennepin County agencies have partnered to identify several innovations that they hope will provide enhanced services for inmates who are mentally ill, including the following new initiatives:

  • Registered Nurses will conduct 24/7 health screenings for all inmates during the booking process.
  • Housing/Classification decisions for inmates with mental illness will be based upon acuity levels as determined by Jail medical staff.
  • Inmates will be provided 24 hours’ worth of medications upon release from the Jail, RN’s from HCMC also will oversee this service.
  • The Sheriff’s Office Court “expediter” works to ensure inmates are making reasonable progress through court hearings and evaluations while in custody.  

- HCSO -

Look for more news on the Hennepin County Sheriff's website at