Sheriff moving mentally ill inmates into apartments

CORVALLIS, Ore. (AP) — The sheriff of Benton County wants to move a couple of regular guests who have mental illness from the lockup to apartments.

“People with mental illness issues require a lot more supervision in jail,” said Sheriff Diana Simpson said. “The goal is to reduce reincarceration, improve care and alleviate overcrowding issues.”

As a test, she said, she plans to move two people into a county-owned apartment complex where the sheriff’s department has rented two studio units for $370 a month.

That compares favorably with the average cost of $150 a day to jail every inmate — or $1,050 a week, Simpson said.

Undersheriff Scott Jackson, the former jail manager, said that jailing people who suffer from mental illnesses interrupts their treatment, which only makes the problem worse.

“Social Security and disability (payments), Medicaid-Medicare and the Oregon Health Plan are either suspended or terminated when they are incarcerated,” Jackson said.

Parole and probation officer Abe Griswold will get additional training in how to deal with the mentally ill and supervise the program.

“I’m anticipating frequent contact, two to three times a week,” Griswold said. “We’ll make sure they’re taking their meds and have a structured environment.”

Those housed in the apartments will have to volunteer willingly to be housed and must follow the standard rules of their parole or probation, including a curfew of 10 p.m. to 8 a.m., dependent upon employment hours.

Simpson said the first two inmates haven’t been selected, and prosecutors, defense lawyers and mental health workers will help with that process.

Benton County District Attorney John Haroldson said the program is an important step.

“We work in a system where you only benefit by having more options,” Haroldson said.



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