Every dollar a state spends on mental health cuts about 25 cents from jail expenditures, according to a new study from Oregon State University.
The study, published in the journal "Social Science & Medicine," looked at 44 states and Washington, D.C., over a period of nine years.
Professor Jangho Yoon with the College of Public Health and Human Sciences, says 35 of the states could have reduced their jail populations by spending more money on inpatient mental health care.
“We find that $1 increase in inpatient mental health expenditures would lead to a 25-cent decrease in jail costs overall,” Yoon said.
The idea is that the more help you give someone struggling with mental illness, the less likely they are to run afoul of the law and go to jail.
The U.S. Department of Justice estimates that more than half of inmates have a mental health problem.
The average cost for housing a jail inmate is $60 a day.