Mentally Ill inmates to be moved from Hamilton County Jail

HAMILTON COUNTY, Tenn. (WDEF) – For years the overcrowding at the Hamilton County Jail has been a known issue, and the sheriff’s office says they’re one step closer to a solution.

Through a new partnership, the county will move the mentally ill inmates to facilities that better suit their needs.

With an average of 1500 inmates between the county jail and Silverdale detention center, the sheriff’s office has reached a limit that they need to address immediately.

Director Gino Bennett says, “The people that are locked up in our county jail has really reached a crisis level and it is no longer just an issue that we want to do something about, we have got to do something about it. ”

Bennett says beginning in January, the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office will work with an outside agency to focus on moving mentally ill inmates to other facilities.

“The largest mental hospitals in the county are jails and prisons. Jails and Prison were built and meant to harbor criminals, not the mentally ill. Incarcerating the mentally ill for minor crimes should not be our only option… it can not be our only option. We must go way beyond that,” says Bennett.

Out of the 500 inmates at the county jail and the 1000 Silverdale average, the department estimates that 40% of the inmates suffer from some type of mental illness, compared to the Bureau of justice estimating of 50-60%.

Bennett says a group is coming in to help the county find the funding for other options because of the financial costs of medicine, medical care and supervision currently falls in the county.

“We will look for alternative places of support other than the county jail and some of that is in place now and some of it will have to be developed,” says Bennett.

Bennett says the support will not only benefit the mentally ill inmates who need one on one assistance but also save millions for the county over the next couple years.

Categories: Chattanooga, Hamilton County, Local News