Debate in DeSoto County over mentally ill inmates - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Debate in DeSoto County over mentally ill inmates

By Chip Washington - bio | email | Twitter | Facebook

HERNANDO, MS (WMC-TV) - A debate is brewing in DeSoto County over the care of mentally ill inmates.  Under Mississippi state law, mentally ill patients who may be a danger to themselves or others have to be remanded into the custody of county jails.

DeSoto County District 3 Supervisor Bill Russell says that is a serious problem.

"Right now we've got the jailers giving the meds and distributing meds, but there's no treatment that takes place for those people while they're in the jail. They're just maintained," Russell said.

Russell says such inmates should be in a private state facility and more importantly, while in jail, should be separated from rest of the inmate population.  Sheriff Bill Rasco agrees with that assessment, and has suggested this should be factor in the building of a new jail facility.

"We're gonna ask the architect to look into it, because down in Harrison County they're working with the state to where they had built a facility, and hopefully that's what we're planning on doing," he said.

DeSoto County currently pays the public-privately funded agency Communicare to track, assess, and treat mentally ill individuals in the county. A man who wished not to be identified says jail is not the answer for people needing mental care

"Everyone I saw that came here for mental evaluation, took them about three weeks to be processed thru the jail in order to get them out or send them to a proper state facility," the man said.

Russell believes if the county jail is responsible for the care of mentally ill individuals, those inmates should be treated by registered and qualified medical professionals. He added that this should be a priority, and the county needs to do something about it sooner rather than later.

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