New plans will be made to address a housing issue where mentally ill inmates are currently being held at the McLean County Jail.
Sheriff Mike Emery said building decisions may be made by the end of the year by the McLean County Board using results from a report done by the National Institute of Corrections this July.
As of now, mentally ill inmates are being held in the booking portion of the jail due to the growing population of inmates. The report assessed that the booking portion of the jail is in violation of the Civil Rights for Institutionalized Persons Act.
The National Institute of Corrections proposed several options to create a better housing situation, but the best proposal seems to be a two-tier addition to the two existing pods at the jail which were completed in 1990, Emery said.
This addition will add about 100 beds to each pod and will provide housing for both mentally ill inmates and the general population of inmates, who would be separated by floors. The addition would also provide space for program and support services, according to the report.
The budget for the project will be determined after the building plans are approved.
Sheriff Emery projected that this addition could accommodate the jail for 10 to 15 years.
“There are a lot of variables that play into the population of the jail and that will play into how the jail will grow; it’s all based on projections,” Sheriff Emery said.
The jail has seen an increase in mentally ill inmates since 2008, with the average inmate staying about 15 days longer.
In addition to the new building plans, the board will work on how the money from the county mental health tax levy is spent.
The county mental health tax levy is a fund that collects more than $1 million each year. The funds are turned over to agencies that provide mental health services to the community.
A portion of this fund goes to the McLean County Mental Health Services. The McLean County Jail and the McLean County Health Services are not conjoined; however, patients who are released from the jail may go to Health Services to continue their medication.
“It’s not just about building our unit, it’s also about taking the levy and creating other mental health services that can help these people,” Sheriff Emery said.
There is a gap between the time inmates are released from the jail after fulfilling a sentence and from the time that they are able to get medication from a mental health organization due to such a high demand for attention, Emery explained.
By examining how money is spent from the levy, the board hopes to find a way to spend the money in a way that best benefits all the organizations it affects.
If the organizations can get proper funding, they may be able to work together to keep the mentally ill healthy and out of jail, Emery added.
The board will continue looking into the county mental health tax levy, and in the meantime construction plans for the jail will be made within the next couple of months.