The Summit County Jail in Akron, Ohio, will be the first in the country to close its doors to violent mentally ill inmates unless they first get medical treatment, Sheriff Drew Alexander announced Monday, saying his jail is “not going to be a dumping ground anymore for these people.”
Alexander has long complained that housing mentally ill inmates in jail is inhumane, telling the Akron Beacon-Journal
those inmates should be treated at a mental hospital. He has threatened to reject violent mentally ill people for some time, but is now able to block their admission following a federally funded review of the jail’s mental-health programs.
According to a National Institute of Corrections consultant, such inmates should “be referred to the hospital emergency room or the psychiatric crisis center for evaluation prior to being accepted into the jail.”
Alexander, who is active in the National Sheriffs’ Association, says he doesn’t know of any other jail in the United States that has a similar policy.
The issue came to the forefront in Akron after the 2006 death of an inmate following a violent struggle with deputies in the jail’s mental health unit. Five deputies ended up being indicted, with one being found not guilty of murder after an eight-day trial. Charges against the remaining four, all facing less-serious felonies, were dismissed.
Alexander said the new policy is similar to another already in place that requires people with medical emergencies to be first treated at an area hospital.
“Our intention is not to turn away each and every mentally ill person who commits some kind of crime, especially misdemeanors, and are brought to our jail,” jail administrator Gary James said. “The majority get along fine.”
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