Staff graphic by Jennifer Tilley
Staff graphic by Jennifer Tilley
A local jail built to detain defendants awaiting trial and the convicted serving time is burdened by being a detox center and mental health facility as well.

A doctor who used to service the Monroe County Jail once said, in regard to mental illness, it was one of the sickest jails he's seen. People with mental illness are consistently filtering in and out of the jail's "revolving door."

"The jail is the largest mental health facility in the county," jail commander Sam Crowe said recently as a mentally ill woman's wails echoed through a jail corridor.

As talk about a new multi-million-dollar jail project continues, community resources for people with mental health and substance abuse issues are too few and lack funding. It's these services that advocates and studies agree help people get back on their feet and avoid the system altogether. Monroe County has some resources and specialty courts, but many people still fall through the cracks as addressing mental health remains a significant community issue.

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People with mental illness have a much higher risk of incarceration and criminal justice system involvement, according to a Monroe County incarceration and criminal justice system study. National studies have found these individuals often are disproportionately represented in jails.

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