This CalHPS research piece was funded by the California Health Care Foundation as part of the Reentry Health Policy Project. My co-authors include David Panush and David Maxwell-Jolly.

Click here to download the full report.


This policy brief uses data from the Board of State and Community Corrections (BSCC) to estimate the number of jail inmates who receive psychotropic medication and assess the relative representation of this group among the jail population. To provide a measure of the prevalence of mental illness in jail, we reviewed data from 45 counties that completed the BSCC Jail Profile Survey from March 2012 to February 2017. Receipt of psychotropic medications is used as an indicator of serious mental illness.


The following are the main findings of the study: 

  1. The number of incarcerated individuals on psychotropic medications is increasing. The annual average number of incarcerated individuals receiving psychotropic medication in our sample of 45 counties increased by about 25% between March 2012 and February 2017.

  2. Individuals receiving psychotropic medications compose a large share of the total jail population. The population of individuals receiving psychotropic medication represents about 20% of annual Average Daily Population (ADP) statewide, as of February 2017.

  3. The share of the total jail population receiving psychotropic medications is increasing. The percent of annual ADP taking psychotropic medications increased by 4 percentage points between March 2012 and February 2017 2012, from 16% to 20%.