Summit Examines Why Mentally Ill End Up in Nashville Jails

Posted at 7:38 PM, Mar 05, 2018
and last updated 2018-03-05 20:39:47-05

At a mental health summit, Sheriff Daron Hall brought together dozens of experts to examine why we criminalize those experiencing a crisis.

"A hundred people a day will go to jail in Nashville every day," Hall said. "And of those 100 people, somewhere between 30 and 35 will be diagnosed as mentally ill."

Nashville is close to opening a new jail, which will include more than 60 beds in a dedicated behavioral health center. Hall said the mentally ill shouldn't get be pushed into the criminal justice system in the first place.

"Our goal is to never have law enforcement involved, we need pre-arrest, pre-involvement intervention," Hall said. "When we see someone out on the streets seeing things that aren’t there, screaming and yelling, we need to not view that as a criminal justice matter, we need to view that as mental illness."

Hall understands resources that would make that possible will likely be expensive. Yet, he said he's willing to adjust his own budget if it means helping people receive the right kind of treatment.

"The taxpayers give me 80 million dollars a year," Hall said. "If I’m telling you 30 percent of those people don’t need to be here, take 30 percent of my money with them."

Hall said how society responds to and treats mental health will not change with a single solution, but he hopes bringing experts together to discuss solutions is a step in the right direction.

"This whole idea today is to get the information out and get someone’s attention out there; either the legislators, or the city or the taxpayers and say there’s a better way to do this, there’s a more humane way to do this," Hall said. "But quite frankly, it’s more costly to do it this way and in the end, we need a different conversation."