Reaction to Mental Health Meetings - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Reaction to Mental Health Meetings

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KENNEWICK, Wash. - Plans are underway to solve inmate overcrowding in the Benton County Justice Center. Officials said some inmates with mental health issues may not even belong behind bars.  

The problem in Benton County is some inmates may not have the mental capacity to be held accountable. They slipped through the cracks of the justice system. And now county officials want to clean up the system's gaps.

For two days county officials have discussed how to handle the inmates with mental health issues. They brought in an acclaimed research team to teach them where the gaps are. And several representatives from the county's mental heath agencies feel they're making progress.

"What we're not doing is increasing the risk. This will be better for the community in the short and long run and this will actually make our community safer," said John Simpkin, Sunderland Family Treatment Services.    

Officials are discussing different ways to meet inmates needs and properly detain inmates with mental health issues. But for some talk is cheap. They said working on a solution is long over due.

"Actions before bureaucracy. The need is now. These people are not going to go away," said Barbara Cronk, mother of a mentally ill son. 

Cronk said her son suffers from a mental illness and police officers discriminate against him because she said they're afraid of his condition.

"Their first response to a person who is mentally ill is - Let's use a taser," said Cronk.   

Cronk said that's exactly what happened to her son. She said police responded to a dispute between him and his girlfriend, and officers tased him when he wouldn't comply.

Agency representatives will met again next month to whittle down possible solutions. But to Cronk that's one month too long.