For years, frustrations mounted for mental health case workers at the Macomb County, Mi., Jail as they watched people who didn’t belong there land in overcrowded cellblocks, says the Detroit News. Thanks to a $291,000 grant from the state, case workers are able to move inmates suffering from mental illness out of jail cells and into residential treatment centers and outpatient programs. Macomb’s Mental Health Jail Reduction Program, a one-year project that’s saving the county money and freeing up jail space, is one of several of new jail diversion programs rolled out in the tri-county area within the past year.
The goal, which some say risks public safety, is to free up jail space for violent offenders and provide treatment for criminals suffering from drug and alcohol addictions and mental illnesses. Since receiving the grant eight weeks ago from the Michigan Department of Corrections, Macomb’s jail has moved 10 mentally ill inmates from jail to treatment. A reduction of 10 inmates would save $56,000 over three months. Over the next 10 months, 90 additional inmates are expected to be placed in similar programs. “We need to figure out how to be smart on crime,” said Macomb County Sheriff Mark Hackel. “It’s no longer good enough to just be tough on crime. We can’t just warehouse people in jails. There’s not enough room.”