Candidates for three of Houston’s top elected offices promised yesterday to reduce the number of mentally ill or drug addicted jail inmates by providing more community services through partnerships with advocacy groups, says the Houston Chronicle. Houston’s Harris County spends an estimated $87 million a year to incarcerate and treat mentally ill inmates. Speaking at a forum Republican and Democratic candidates for county judge, sheriff and district attorney offered ideas meant to divert the mentally ill from jail to treatment. Republican Sheriff Tommy Thomas said he would be willing to provide any legitimate community group with access to mentally ill inmates and their records if they want to provide services to them after they are released. Adrian Garcia, his Democratic challenger, said several recent cases of in-custody deaths should have been a wakeup call that more needs to be done. He said programs he’s developed to identify people with mental illness and get them help should be implemented in the county.
County Judge Ed Emmett and his Democratic opponent, David Mincberg, said they would work to increase housing options and community-based services for people fighting mental illness or substance abuse. Emmett touted the county’s effort to reform the juvenile justice system through a partnership with the Annie E. Casey Foundation. The foundation is working with juvenile court judges, prosecutors, and the Juvenile Probation Department to reduce the number of youth detainees without putting the public at risk.