Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart To '60 Minutes': 'Jails And Prisons Are The New Insane Asylums'

Jails like Cook County's are the nation's new insane asylums Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart told newsmagazine "60 Minutes" during Sunday's feature on the repercussions untreated mental illness in America.

"There's no denying that jails and prisons are the new insane asylums -- that's what we are," Dart said (embedded above).

"This is a population the people don't care about," Dart said of mentally ill inmates who languish in lockup or make return visits -- sometimes hundreds of times over. "As a result of that, there are not the resources out there to care for them."

Dart's comments come less than two weeks after HuffPost reported on the growing crisis at the Cook County Jail. The facility is now the largest mental health clinic in the state and is among the largest in nation, as well.

In an earlier interview with HuffPost, Cook County Sheriff's Office spokesman Ben Breit said mentally ill inmates make up 25 percent to 30 percent of the jail's population at any given time. On "60 Minutes," Dart estimates the rough number to be somewhere between 2,500 and 2,800 inmates with mental illness.

Previously, Dart told HuffPost that his "exploding" jail population is due in part to mentally ill people being arrested on low-level offenses.

"Most of guys that are in here are on goofy charges: Drugs, retail theft, criminal trespass, like when they're looking for a place to sleep; for the women, prostitution. They're locked up and put on bonds they couldn't conceivably make, even though it's a thousand bucks."

"60 Minutes" correspondent Steve Kroft asked Dart if he believed there was a connection between the nation's mental health crisis and the spate of mass shootings perpetrated by mentally ill men like Navy Yard shooter Aaron Alexis, and Virginia Tech shooter, Seung-Hui Cho.

"I do think there are connections here," Dart replied. "Some are getting treated. Other ones aren’t getting treated. People are falling through the cracks all the time. And so to think that that won’t then boil up at some point and end up in a tragedy -- that’s just naive."



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