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Lawmakers address mental health care needs of prison Wednesday

State lawmakers will hear ideas Wednesday on dealing with mentally ill prisoners.

A recent audit found that more than 30 percent of criminals in Wisconsin prisons have mental health care needs.

It cost almost $60 million to provide care to those inmates in 2007.

And Larry Dupuis of the American Civil Liberties Union says the best way to reduce that cost is to make sure the mentally ill don't end up behind bars.

The Legislature's audit committee will hold a hearing on the subject Wednesday morning at the Capitol.

The ACLU recently won a federal court injunction that forces the state to do a better job of giving medications to mentally-ill prisoners.

State corrections secretary Rick Raemisch says he'd like to see an expansion of mental health courts, which can divert certain offenders into treatment.

And he says some prisons have special units with more tolerant officers which reduce the number of days mentally-ill inmates are in segregation cells for breaking rules.

As a result, Raemisch says more prisoners are behaving, and they feel safer.