Sheriff's Office may add Mental Health Wing to Benton Jail - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Sheriff's Office Working to add Mental Health Wing to Benton County Jail

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KENNEWICK, WA - Benton County Commissioners approved a motion Tuesday morning to start looking into a project that would add a mental health wing to the jail.

Steve Keane, Benton County Sheriff, said the jail has had more than 25 suicide attempts this year, all of which have been prevented.

On average the jail houses 600 inmates and about 10 to 14 of those are very unstable or suicidal and cannot be housed in the general population.

These people are kept in the booking area but it is not designed for that. It is designed for 48 hour stays.

"As the state cuts back in funding and things like that we're finding that more mentally ill people are ending up in the jail which is not the best environment for them. We're not really equipped to properly take care of them," said Sheriff Keane.

The jail is required to provide all inmates some essential rights like access to natural lighting, facilities and a commissary but that is hard to do for unstable inmates who need to be watched at all times.

So far, commissioners have approved hiring an architect to design and configure the new space.

The funding for this project comes from a one-tenth of 1 percent sales tax increase approved by voters back in 1995.