Keeping the Mentally Ill out of Jail

January 18, 2017

Capital Public Radio

By Bob Moffitt

A summit is underway this week to develop ways to reduce the number of mentally ill people in county jails.

Sheriffs, judges, elected officials, and mental health professionals from 53 counties are in Sacramento this week.

Dr. Fred Osher of the Council of State Governments Justice Center says each county must be able to quantify its problem before it can be solved.

“It’s really critical to have that data to understand who we want to target for the alternatives in incarceration assuming they don’t pose a risk to public safety,” says Osher.

Three hundred people are attending the summit. Ryan Raftery is a Sacramento County Assistant Public Defender. He supervises mental health court and mental health/drug addiction court.

“I’m excited to see this many people become educated about some of the best practices and the changes we need to do in order to make a difference in this mentally-ill population,” says Raftery.

Department of Justice surveys show nearly two-thirds of people in jail have a mental illness.

Rosemarie Smallcombe is a Mariposa County Supervisor.

“We need to get past the experimentation phase and get into the realm of taking real action.”

The Stepping Up Initiative is hosting the summit. It was started in 2015 and now counts about 320 counties nationwide as partners in the effort.

Help Us Reduce the Number of
People with Mental Illnesses in Jails