Sheriff Mike Emery said in October that the 14 cell booking area of the jail is housing people with mental health problems who can't go into general population. (Ryan Denham/WJBC)
By Stephanie Pawlowski
BLOOMINGTON - A national expert on corrections is in Bloomington this week to help McLean County officials identify what could be done to help solve the overflow of mental health needs in the county jail.
McLean County jail officials, the sheriff's department, state's attorney, judges, lawyers and more are working together. Sheriff Mike Emery has brought in National Institute of Corrections Technical Specialist from the U.S. Department of Justice Ken Ray. He said the county's problem is something that's happening all over the nation.
"There's a population that the jails have to care for that in the past the community was able to intervene (with), or there were state facilities where they could be sent for care," Ray said. "That is changing, and they are losing money and as a result the jails are filling up with this population, in part because of what we call nuisance crimes."
The same institute helped the county with jail overcrowding in 2008. Ray is in town all week holding meetings with officials on what the community needs to do next.
"I'm collecting data to compare the jail's incarceration care and treatment of the mentally ill against constitutional standards," Ray said. "I'm also a mental health clinician so I'm also looking at a clinical side to it."
Ray said a recent study found 20 to 25 percent of the general population experiences mental illness in a 12 month period. He said that same study found jail populations usually have five times that rate.
He said McLean County's justice community agrees there is a problem, which he said is rare. Ray said it will take the community as a whole to fix the problem.
Sheriff Mike Emery said NIC is helping pay for the study.