Photo of the Mead building lobby, Yankton State Hospital, S.D. Photographer Christopher Payne visited state mental institutions across the country, many of which were abandoned. His book, <em>Asylum: Inside The Closed World of State Mental Hospitals</em>, <a href="http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=140146150">captures what he found</a>.
Credit Christopher Payne
For the past decade, Miami-Dade County Judge Steve Leifman has fought to get treatment for people with mental illness and keep them from ending up in jail.
Credit Courtesy of Judge Leifman
Sheriff Greg Hamilton runs the Travis County Jail in Austin, Texas.
Credit Courtesy of the Travis County Sheriff's Office
Three hundred and fifty thousand: That's a conservative estimate for the number of offenders with mental illness confined in America's prisons and jails.
More Americans receive mental health treatment in prisons and jails than in hospitals or treatment centers. In fact, the three largest inpatient psychiatric facilities in the country are jails: Los Angeles County Jail, Rikers Island Jail in New York City and Cook County Jail in Illinois.
In the 19th century, the mentally ill were often sent to horrific asylums. Today they fill the nation's jails; the conditions aren't much better. Last year, almost 1.1 million people with serious mental illnesses were arrested nearly 2 million times.
It's those old asylums — mostly closed, often abandoned — that have fascinated photographer Christopher Payne. A few years ago, he put together a book of images from those buildings, titled Asylum: Inside The Closed World Of State Mental Hospitals.
Firefighters of Station 4 in Alexandria, Va.: (left to right) Chief Fire Marshall Robert B. Rodriguez, Jeff Taylor, Capt. Tony Washington, Assistant Chief of Operations Andrew Sneed.
Credit Lily Percy / NPR
Fires are on the decline nationwide, but that doesn't make a firefighters job any easier. In fact, it may be harder now. Not only are fires more complicated these days, but the scope of firefighting has changed drastically and now includes fire prevention, public education, safety inspections and more than anything, emergency medical assistance.
"Seventy percent of our calls are medical calls," probational firefighter Jeff Taylor tells weekends on All Things Considered guest host Laura Sullivan.