The state of Alabama’s correctional system is facing serious accusations. A lawsuit claims that the prison system is neglecting the needs of inmates with mental illnesses. It comes after a 24-year-old Bullock County prison inmate hanged himself.
Lee County Sheriff Jay Jones says the problem stems from the state cutting funding to mental health facilities. With few community resources, criminals with mental issues often end up behind bars. Sheriff Jones does not advocate for the feeder system. He believes neither jails nor prisons were designed to handle the number of inmates in poor mental health.
“These individuals were formally being addressed with those facilities,” Jones said. “But now they’re not there anymore. Unfortunately, the case is that a jail is a convenient place for these people to be placed when they cause a problem out in society.”
Sheriff Jones says Lee County is working to prevent a growing statewide issue by working with East Alabama Medical Center. He adds that the sheriff’s office is actively hiring people trained in treating inmates and patients with mental illnesses. Russell County Sheriff Heath Taylor has also championed mental health awareness in the wake of last year’s movie theater shooting in Lafayette, La.