By Gretchen Bolander
Jasper County is joining a growing list of counties taking a new approach to mental health issues in the criminal justice system.
Eric Theis, Jasper County Court Administrator, is hoping a new approach to criminal justice and mental health issues means less crime in the future. He says, “if these people are continuing to go into the system, why not address the root causes and root problems?”
The Jasper County Court Administrator is working on a federal grant to screen county inmates and help those with a mental health diagnosis. “And start linking them to services should they be released pretrial or give the jail more info to address their needs while in the jail,” says Theis.
It’s estimated 12-20 percent of county inmates have mental health issues, which lead to a cycle of crime and incarceration. Getting out of jail just leads to the next round. And it’s not just the grant that’s focusing on mental health. Jasper County officials have also signed up to be part of the Stepping Up Initiative, a nationwide effort to make sure resources are being used properly.
“This starts with the 911 call and ends with post release, back into the community and everything in between,” says Jasper County Sheriff Randee Kaiser. He also says that means doing things a little differently. For example, bringing together all sides of the county criminal justice system to make sure they understand the challenges and the best path forward.
“Everybody from the deputy on the street to the county sheriff in the county jail [to] the criminal justice and court system. It’s a burden on everybody when we continue in that cycle,” says Kaiser.