Mental Health Facilities Closing Across Illinois; Forcing Jails to House Inmates Battling Disorders

WTVO/WQRF - According to recent data, one in four of all Illinois inmates are receiving mental health care.  Illinois taxpayers will be paying for changes to the state's prison system to accommodate the rising need for treatment, to the tune of 18 million dollars.

The rising tide in prisoners diagnosed with disorders is linked to the closure of state mental health facilities. Officials say jails generally aren't equipped structurally or financially to house those inmates.

Now, the Department of Corrections says Illinois taxpayers will be billed more than $17.8 million to turn existing prison space into mental health care facilities.  

The money will be funded towards facilities in Joliet and Pontiac, which will pay for revamping the buildings and hiring additional staff.

The Pontiac Correctional Center is scheduled to be finished by next Spring.  Bidding for the project in Joliet will begin in December.

Police say some inmates with mental illnesses are better served in a mental health facility instead of jail, because correctional officers are not properly training in dealing with them. It also causes potential dangers. Stephenson County Sheriff David Snyders says “if these individuals chose to fight an officer for whatever reason, (then) the officer is at risk (and) the inmate is at risk.”

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