>> The East Baton Rouge Parish Prison in Louisiana has a notorious reputation, a staggering 25 inmates died there from 2012 to 2016. At least five of them suffered from a serious mental illness or showed signs of one. The prison is a vivid example of how some US jails struggle to treat the mentally ill filling their cells.
Jonathan Fano, who is bipolar, became the sixth inmate since 2012 to die at the jail amid a mental health crisis. He spent three months in an isolated cell at East Baton Rouge. He was arrested after police found him wandering through this neighborhood near the state capital, naked, cussing at imaginary people and smashing mailboxes.
Medical staff at the jail accused him of faking his condition and started weaning him off his anti psychotic medication. Two weeks later, the 27 year old was found hanging from a torn mattress cover.>>
> The warden declined to discuss Fano's death citing a family lawsuit but says the jail can't fully treat those with mental illness.
>> Prison is set up for behavior problems, lot of mental health problems. You never know when these individuals gonna snap.>> Since 1970, the number of people residing in a psychiatric inpatient treatment center in the US has fallen 64%. That has left jails and prisons among the first line providers for those in the throes of crisis.
>> We used to have a public charity hospital here called Earl K Long. The police would pick someone up and take them to Earl K Long and the mental health system would kick in at that point. Well, in the budget cuts and the privatization of the healthcare system here in Louisiana, that went away.
And so, there was no place to put them so they ended up in the jail. It's not worked out very well.>> We really need some help.>> We don't have enough nurses.>> We're burnt out.>> One of the nurses had to go home early because she had feces thrown on her.
>> There are a lot of things that can be done, that needs to be done. And I think one of the things that needs to be done is opening up mental health hospitals back up.>> The East Baton Rouge Sheriffs Office which oversees the jail blamed most deaths on drug use, poor health and preexisting conditions.
A private consultant hired to assess treatment found the jail was substantially understaffed. Isolation units transformed into de facto inpatient mental health wards were woefully inadequate for the most unstable mentally ill.