Would move jail expense to mental health

COURTESY TO THE BELLINGHAM HERALDSeptember 7, 2013 

I keep reading about the proposed jail that is going to cost our county millions of dollars to build and I wonder, what would happen if we peeled off just a few million for mental health facilities in our community? What if we built a slightly smaller jail and instead spent those resources providing inpatient treatment for mental health patients? What if we changed the way we viewed our jail so that instead of warehousing the mentally ill, we only locked up the dangerous criminals and treated the sick in hospital beds?

What is the cost of a few medications and mental health evaluations versus the cost of incarceration? How much safer would our streets be? How many more productive people would we have, able to contribute to society rather than decorate a jail cell? What would that show about our values, that we believe we should help those that are sick rather than punish them for their illness?

These are questions our county should be able to answer. I hope that these vital questions do not get lost in the rush to build a new facility.

Bradford Stewart

Bellingham

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