South Dakota is 1 of 5 states that incarcerate for mental health

Mental Health

South Dakota is one of five states where this procedure, putting people in jail on what’s known as an involuntary mental health hold, is an option provided in statute.

When the anger takes over and Nick Johnson loses control, he might end up in the hospital.

Or, if the hospital staff think he is too aggressive, they send him to the Minnehaha County Juvenile Detention Center.

Even with no criminal charge, the struggling 14-year-old in a mental health crisis is treated like a prisoner, not a patient.

Adults responsible for his care don’t feel they have a choice. Johnson lives with the trauma that comes from their decisions.

“It feels like I’m in prison,” Johnson said. “Why would a kid have to go through that?”

Sioux Falls and other South Dakota communities rely on jail cells as part of their mental health system, even though national advocacy groups are critical of the practice and local jail officials say their facilities aren’t designed for mental health treatment.

These are people like Johnson, struggling with a diagnosed mental illness. Jailing people for being in crisis criminalizes mental health, traumatizes an already sick person who needs treatment and is a potential violation of their Constitutional due process rights.

Read the full story at the Argus Leader