In this CNN article, the plight of those on the ninth floor of the Miami-Dade county jail - the mentally ill who await their court dates -is discussed. Most of them face drug charges or charges that result from a run in with police. Judge Leifman speaks about why the situation has become so desperate for so many.
"Leifman says 200 years ago people were considered "lunatics" and they were locked up in jails even if they had no charges against them. They were just considered unfit to be in society. Over the years, he says, there was some public outcry, and the mentally ill were moved out of jails and into hospitals. But Leifman says many of these mental hospitals were so horrible they were shut down.
Where did the patients go? Nowhere. The streets. They became, in many cases, the homeless, he says. They never got treatment.
Leifman says in 1955 there were more than half a million people in state mental hospitals, and today that number has been reduced 90 percent, and 40,000 to 50,000 people are in mental hospitals.
The judge says he's working to change this. Starting in 2008, many inmates who would otherwise have been brought to the "forgotten floor" will instead be sent to a new mental health facility -- the first step on a journey toward long-term treatment, not just punishment."