Committee discusses adding mental health services to Washington County jail

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FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) – The Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee works to bring mental health services to the Washington County Jail.

The members are discussing adding several services to the jail, like a mental health court and a mental health wing inside the facility- hoping this will be one step to addressing overcrowding in the future.

“The last statistic I’ve seen was of 90% people coming out of jail go back, so the current population is averaging 12 times being in jail,” said Nick Robbins, co-chair of the Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee and C.E.O of Returning Home Inc.

Robbins said one of the first ways to address the revolving door inside the jail could be adding a mental health court.

“What we’re seeing more and more pop up is more specialized courts, so somewhat diversionary but they still are meeting the expectation of the judicial system,” he said.

Another resource could be a mental health wing inside the jail.

“Putting it in more of a therapeutic setting instead of a punitive setting can lead to better results and stability prior to release,” Robbins said.

Washington County Prosecuting Attorney Matt Durrett said- mental health aside- finding ways to keep people out of jail in the first place has become a priority in the county, specifically when dealing with overcrowding.

“The alternative is adding space to the jail, and I think everyone has come to the conclusion that that is the last resort,” Durrett said.

Robbins said investing in the mental health of inmates and detainees not only sets them up to stay out of jail, but also build a better future.

We’ve been just really surprised with how amazing these folks have been doing and holding down jobs and paying rent, and doing all the things that they’ve been told their whole lives they couldn’t do.”

Nick Robbins, Co-chair, Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee; C.E.O, Returning Home Inc.

Robbins said the committee is discussing these plans and planning to present them before the Quorum Court by the end of the year.

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