(CBS) – It’s giving new hope to a select group of inmates at Cook County Jail.
CBS 2’s Mike Puccinelli reports on a unique program that is all about making inmates with mental illness ready for life outside the jailhouse walls.
A mentally ill inmate climbs on top of the duct work in the jail. He was more than 20 feet off the ground before correctional officers got him down, after about an hour.
“They were able to talk him down and de-escalate it and make sure it was something where no one ended up getting hurt,” Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart says.
Dart says in the past that kind of insubordination would have been met with tremendous force.
But great force is not the greatest way to handle mentally ill inmates, Dart says. It’s something he and other officials in the country’s second largest jail have had to learn, because on any given day Dart says 25 percent of the inmates are mentally ill.
Now, the jail is running a transition center to help those inmates readjust to the outside world when they are released. Dart says it’s the first of its kind in the nation.
Jimmie Haynes is one of about 200 non-violent inmates allowed into the transition program. Haynes believes it will help him beat back drug addiction and successfully rejoin society.
“What I love about it is the connection to the outside. A lot of programs help you but then they throw you out to the wolves,” he says.
Christy Webber Landscapes is one of more than a dozen organizations taking part in a recent job fair.
“We just believe that people if they’re willing to work hard and they’re very teachable, we’re going to give them a chance,” a company representative says.
The mental health transition center doesn’t have enough space to keep up with demand, Sheriff Dart says. He estimates that 500 to 800 more inmates want to get in the program but can’t due to lack of space.