Two state agencies are working to ensure inmates with mental health disorders and addiction problems don't cycle in and out of prison.
According to the Mississippi Department of Corrections about 3,200 of its more than 19,000 inmates have been diagnosed with a mental health disorder, many are substance users. Now the Mississippi Department of Mental Health is working with MDOC to combat the problems. DMH just received a $647,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice for a reentry program. It will assess the inmates and create individualized plans for them. Pamela Smith is with DMH.
"What this program is going to do is to go in and work with them 90 days prior to their release and at that time we're going to look at providing them with medical, looking at faith-based, looking at housing," said Smith.
They'll also look at mental health needs, education, employment and provide therapy. The project will focus on 90 non-violent offenders returning to Hinds county. Ex-offenders will continue to receive services for at least 10 weeks after their release. DMH will also train correction officers how to interact with inmates who have mental health disorders. MDOC Commissioner Marshall Fisher says they want to reduce recidivism. The rate is about 31.9 percent just shy of the national average of about 42 percent.
"All of them except for those on death row and those doing life without parole, all these people who are behind bars right now are going to return to our communities," said Fisher.
The goal is to turn the three-year pilot project into a statewide program.