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The New Asylums

    A man with praying hands speaks to a prisoner

    Miri Navasky
    Karen O’Connor
    May 10, 2005

    Fewer than 55,000 Americans currently receive treatment in psychiatric hospitals. Meanwhile, almost 10 times that number — nearly 500,000 — mentally ill men and women are serving time in U.S. jails and prisons. As sheriffs and prison wardens become the unexpected and often ill-equipped caretakers of this burgeoning population, they raise a troubling new concern: Have America’s jails and prisons become its new asylums?

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