AKRON, Ohio - The Summit County Sheriff says his county jail will stop housing mentally ill people who are violent and mentally disabled people arrested by local police.
Summit County Sheriff Drew Alexander has said that such people would receive more appropriate treatment in a mental hospital and that jailing them is inhumane.
Video taken from inside the jail shows deputies dealing with ranting, raving and out of control behavior from inmates. One video shows deputies in riot gear trying to subdue a man who destroyed a sink in his cell.
"I'm not going to subject my deputies to this any further," Alexander said.
In past interviews, Alexander has complained that the jail has become "a dumping ground" for the mentally ill. In May 2011, Alexander told NewsChannel5 that 40 percent of the inmates have mental health issues.
Alexander said the violent, mentally ill criminal suspects would be allowed into the jail once they receive appropriate treatment and take their medications.
"We know the ones we can handle and we know the ones we can't and the ones that we can't are the ones that are going to go to the hospitals and have to be treated," Alexander said.
Alexander discussed the change in policy on Monday. The decision follows a federally funded review of the jail's mental health programming.
"It's time we got our head out of the sand. This is a serious problem locally and nationally," Alexander said.
A consultant working through the National Institute of Corrections has recommended that violent people with mental problems be referred for evaluation by a hospital or psychiatric crisis center before the jail accepts them.
Alexander said he doesn't know of another county in the nation that has that policy.
Jerry Craig, Executive Director of The Summit County Alcohol Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services Board, said he supports the idea of getting better treatment for people with serious mental illnesses. However, he wants to work with the jail on appropriate screening based on mental illness, not anti-social behavior.
"I think the devil is in the details on this and making sure that there's appropriate screening and that's something the sheriff and I, and our system need to work together towards," Craig said.
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