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Sheriff Dart: Cook County Jail Forced To Serve As Mental Institution

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Tom Dart

Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart. (Credit: CBS)

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CHICAGO (CBS) — It seems that the Cook County Jail is unintentionally taking on a new role as a mental health facility.

As WBBM Newsradio’s Brandis Friedman reports, Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart thinks the city government has made the wrong decision in its plans to cut six of its 12 mental health centers as a cost-cutting move.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Brandis Friedman reports


“Sit there and try to explain to the victim of a crime, when the crime was committed by somebody who, with treatment, would not be committing that crime – try explaining that to that victim that, ‘Oh well, we’re trying to save a couple dollars here,’ ” he said.

He says the state and local government budget cuts that impact mental health facilities are also impacting his jail, as more inmates enter with mental illness.

“People who should be being treated in the community with, in some cases, mild mental health issues, are not getting any treatment whatsoever, and as a result, they’re ending up in our jail, which I can’t conceive of anybody saying that that is the best place to treat someone with a mental illness,” Dart said.

Dart says in order to meet the demands on his staff, he has already begun training some of them to handle inmates with mental illness.

In addition to the city cuts, Gov. Pat Quinn announced in January that he plans to close the Tinley Park Mental Health Center this July, and transition all residents into less expensive community settings within three years.

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