Scott County Board considers an alternative to jail time for the mentally ill

DAVENPORT, Iowa (KWQC) - At its Committee of the Whole meeting on Tuesday, Seventh Judicial Court Judge Mark Smith and Courtney Stenzel, with Transitions Mental Health Services, will talk about why they think throwing those with mental health disorders behind bars, is not the answer.

Supervisor of the Scott County Board, Ken Croken told us the Mental Health Court Pilot Program is one way we can reduce the number of people suffering from a mental disease in the Scott County jails. The pilot program is funded by Genesis and it's a court diversion program.

People are interviewed and it's determined whether they could benefit from incarceration or treatment. Nearly 1/3 to half of all people in jails suffer from mental disease and in the past, mental health treatment (rather than incarceration) has shown to be very beneficial for these people.

Judge Smith and Stenzel will present the program and illustrate the success they've had in the past. What they've seen is that people with mental health issues get worse with time behind bars rather than better. Additionally, Scott county jails are overpopulated and rather than hiring more correction officers, they can reduce the number of people in jails.

Croken says the court-supervised mental health program will get them the help they need rather than the punishment, which accomplishes no real purpose. The mentally ill are less likely to benefit from incarceration and in most cases, the people who would benefit from this program are not violent criminals.

Finally, Croken says this will be beneficial for you, the taxpayer, also. It costs about $86 per day to incarcerate one person. This program, funded by Genesis would cut back on the number of inmates you're paying for. This is a more cost-effective way to help people and restore them back to productive lives, back to family and back to society again. Croken says this is a "win-win-win."

The Scott County Board is interested in learning more about alternatives to incarceration. The meeting is Tuesday at 8:00 a.m. at the Scott County Administrative Center, 600 w 4th St, Davenport, IA. 52801.