Benton County Crime Tax Could Help Create Mental Health Court - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

New Benton County Crime Tax Could Help Create Mental Health Court

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Benton County commissioners voted in support Tuesday morning to put a criminal justice sales tax up for a vote this summer. Benton County commissioners voted in support Tuesday morning to put a criminal justice sales tax up for a vote this summer.

BENTON COUNTY - Benton County commissioners voted in support Tuesday morning to put a criminal justice sales tax up for a vote this summer.

The 3/10 of one percent increase would help pay for another 12 police officers in Kennewick and could help create a mental health court in Benton County. The commissioners reasoning is that there are a number of inmates at the county jail that might need mental care, rather than being lumped together with other criminals.

The sheriff told NBC Right Now Tuesday that he would like to see the right people going into his jail. He says having a separate system to deal with criminals who need mental help would save taxpayers money in the long run. If they can address the mental issues these criminals have on their first offense, they might prevent repeat offenders and in the end keep them out of jail and from costing you more money to house them.

"Really the bottom line is to have a jail that's for people who deserve to be there. A lot of time when you are dealing with people with mental illness they can't manage their illness. They commit crimes. A lot of times they're minor crimes," explained Sheriff Steve Keane.

County commissioners we spoke with say putting more officers in the field and making improvements to the jail are things the county needs at this time.

Mental health support might also help suicide rates in the jail. Last year we reported the jail was averaging about one suicide attempt each week.

The sales tax increase will be on the ballot in August. The tax does have a sunset clause that will expire after a decade.

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