Ongoing criminal justice reforms and efforts were a focus of discussions at Thursday’s Potter County commissioners meeting.
Jessica Giebel, Potter County Criminal Justice resource coordinator and Bryonna Swede-Mann, Potter County Human Services mental health specialist, visited the meeting to present information on two initiatives the county has pledged to support.
“We recognize that tough justice just isn’t working for a lot of these people. Recidivism is on the rise,” Giebel said. “This will help us deliver better results — save money, identify people frequently in contact with the criminal justice system, and deal with issues that people are having — addiction, mental illness, co-occurring disorders, employability, and other things barring them from being productive citizens.”
The Stepping Up Initiative is a national move to reduce the number of incarcerated individuals who suffer from mental health issues.
According to data released through the initiative, prevalence rates of serious mental illnesses are three to six times higher in incarcerated populations than within the general public. County jails also spend two to three times more on adults with mental illnesses that require interventions compared to individuals without those issues. Offenders with underlying mental health issues are much more likely to re-offend and wind up back in jail within a short period of time.