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The United States has only about 5% of the world’s population, yet almost 25% of the world’s incarcerated population—confining more people in jails and prisons per capita than any other country. More than half of all incarcerated people in the United States have unmet mental health needs.
Jails and prisons have become the largest mental health facilities in the nation. In the absence of adequate access to health services, people with unmanaged mental health needs often intersect with law enforcement and spend time in jails, then cycle in and out of detention, homelessness, and joblessness. People with unmet mental health needs are 16 times more likely to be killed during a police encounter than other civilians approached or stopped by law enforcement. But with the right supports and services across the lifespan—support for children, access to housing, employment, and quality care—we can yield healthier populations and prevent crises.
Our nation’s leaders need to prioritize Care Not Cuffs. Add your name to the petition and support caring for people’s health needs—providing access to quality care, education, affordable housing, and employment that pays a living wage—rather than relying on society’s default of sending in the police to criminalize and punish people who are unwell.