Inmates who suffer from mental illness on the rise in Dougherty - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Inmates who suffer from mental illness on the rise in Dougherty County

Dougherty County Sheriff's Office is seeing a high number of people with mental illnesses in their custody. (Source: WALB) Dougherty County Sheriff's Office is seeing a high number of people with mental illnesses in their custody. (Source: WALB)
In Dougherty County, 14% are under psychiatric care, 22% undergo mental health counseling, and 37% are on mental health medication. (Source: WALB) In Dougherty County, 14% are under psychiatric care, 22% undergo mental health counseling, and 37% are on mental health medication. (Source: WALB)
Chief Jailer, John Ostrander (Source: WALB) Chief Jailer, John Ostrander (Source: WALB)
DOUGHERTY CO., GA (WALB) -

The Dougherty County jail is seeing an increasing number of people with mental illnesses in their custody.  

Officials explained the statistics are similar to statistics seen at jails across the country.

In Dougherty County, 14 percent are under psychiatric care, 22 percent undergo mental health counseling, and 37 percent are on mental health medication.

"The inmates that come here are actually on low-level charges.," said Chief Jailer John Ostrander.

Charges like substance abuse, loitering, and criminal trespassing. 

Ostrander explained that because of this, they are working to have all of the staff go through crisis intervention training.

"The answer has been a one size fits all take them to jail solution. We're trying to give them more opportunities to make decisions," said Ostrander.

He goes on to explain that a jail isn't the best place for someone with their illness.  

Through training, the deputies will be able to make the distinction if a person needs to go to jail or to a treatment center that will benefit the individual.

"It would be better to divert them at the moment of arrest to a treatment facility rather than bring them to jail," said Ostrander.

The Dougherty County Jail has a partnership with Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital and Aspire Health Group to give the existing inmates the treatment they need to keep them from having a lifelong criminal history.

"They tend to stay in jails longer and add to the recidivism rate. They tend to come back if they aren't treated at that time," said Sheriff Sproul.

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