A new plan by the Davidson County Sheriff for mentally ill offenders would keep them out of jail and put them in a mental health center instead.
When William Walters climbed high above the street onto a sign over I-65 in early January Davidson County Sheriff Daron Hall said most people assumed he was suffering from some sort of mental illness.
"The guy on the sign I've said is a text book case," he said. "It's really what we see over and over again as a matter fact there are seven of him a day brought to us some 50 a month."
He clearly needed help. Sheriff Hall said the program he's proposing seeks to do just that.
"I believe it's time to say lets not do it the way we've always done it," he said. "Lets not treat people that are mentally ill like we've always done that." However, that's what happened. Walters was arrested and jailed for 20 days.
The idea behind Sheriff Hall's proposal was for the offender to avoid jail all together. "They could be diverted and never be booked in jail, never be charged officially with their crime and then be treated in a mental health center," said Sheriff Hall. "Then ultimately that person is released in their community with a mental health treatment plan."
According to the numbers, mental health assessments of CJC inmates over the past eight years has skyrocketed by 161%. Inmates placed on suicide watch has grown by 273%.
Sheriff Hall said the new center wouldn't cost taxpayers anything extra if they dedicate the $100 a day spent now to house an inmate toward the mental health program.
"If we can one day get the mental illness under control, hopefully we can reduce the mass shootings and violent crimes we're experiencing," he said.
A decision on this would be urgent because the new jail was currently being designed. Sheriff Hall just needed the approval of community stakeholders.