I have complained here before that too many inmates leave the State prison system without much hope of living productive lives. Some are mentally ill. Others have serious drug or alcohol problems. Some become homeless. Too many commit more crimes and disrupt our neighborhoods. Then, they go back to prison.
I have said many times that we have to stop the revolving door in our criminal justice system. That means serious prison time for serious offenders. But, it also means alternatives when appropriate.
Jails in Missouri have become places where large numbers of nonviolent offenders who suffer from mental illnesses, made worse by substance abuse and other problems, are treated badly or not at all. When they get out, the results are inevitable. Unable to cope, they commit more crimes, often nuisance offenses that reduce the quality of life in a neighborhood.
To help people who are mentally ill and may also be addicted to drugs or alcohol, the City’s Department of Human Services sought and has been awarded a $1.2 million federal grant to try a different way of doing things.
Working with local judges, parole offices, hospitals, and community groups, a new three-year program will identify non-violent offenders with mental illnesses and move them from jail cells to social service programs that identify and treat their illnesses and addictions, and train them to be better and more productive citizens.
It is my hope that the program will give a hand up to people in need. But, in doing so, we will also make our City a safer place.