Concurrent Grand Jury Recommends Setting Up A Mental Health Court

Sunday, December 15, 2013


The Concurrent Grand Jury is recommending establishment of a Mental Health Court.

Deanna Anderson said in the final report, "Many of our cases involve defendants that have some degree of mental heath issues. We see this as something that is not going to go away and feel it is imperative to work toward having a Mental Health Court in our community.

"It is difficult to provide humane and just treatment to persons with mental health issues in our jails and prisons. We believe that combining judicial supervision with community mental health treatment would in turn curtail criminal activity while improving the participants quality of life."

The report said increased training is needed for law enforcement officers in how to deal with those with mental health issues.

It said such a court could:

•    reduce recidivism among participants

•    improve mental health outcomes

•    reduce the length of incarceration for participants

Here is the full report:

The Honorable Don Poole

Judge, Criminal Court, Division III

Hamilton County, Tennessee

Judge Poole:

The Concurrent Grand Jury for the Sept.-Dec. 2013 term presents the following report:

As the members of this Grand Jury went through their term, the word “wow” was often heard. They were amazed at what they learned about their community and those who serve it in this capacity. They feel it has been an honor and privilege to have served their community in this manner.

They finish their term grateful for the education into our Criminal Justice system. They feel this service can help the average citizen gain an invaluable understanding into our legal system.

They were “wowed” by the high degree of professionalism shown by Law Enforcement Officers as they testified before them, always showing patience and knowledge in answering their questions as they pertained to the cases we heard. They wish to thank Law Enforcement for taking on the daily task of protecting our streets. They each leave with a greater respect for them.

The experience of hearing from our three Criminal Court Judges, as well as a Sessions Court Judge left them wondering why the media and television dramas often portray them in such a negative light. They were able to see them as caring individuals who each have great respect for the legal system and take very serious the oath they have taken to serve the courts.

To aid them in the process they received an “education” from a Sessions Court Judge who explained why cases are bound over to the Grand Jury. To further aid them they were shown how a Field Sobriety Test is administered by a DUI Officer, as well as receiving an overview of all the drugs they heard about by a City Narcotics Investigator.

This Grand Jury is made up of employees of Joseph Decosimo & Co., US Xpress, Simplex Grinnell, The Chattanooga Auto Auction, as well as a mechanic, a medical office administrator, a family advocate for the Chattanooga Head Start Program, a dog trainer, an antiques dealer, two retired or semi-retired educators, our sweet Pastor and last but not least, our young college student that is studying Criminal Justice. This diverse group will tell you their time serving was worth every minute!

Due to the holiday season, this term was shortened by two weeks bringing our case number down a bit. This Grand Jury heard 522 cases in which they took the charge they were given and having respect for each other made the necessary decisions concerning these cases.

It was part of their duty to tour Silverdale CCA, Juvenile Detention Court, the County Jail and listen to a presentation on Community Corrections. They were charged with reporting on Silverdale CCA and Community Corrections.

In putting together the reports on these facilities, we often focus on many of the same positives and variations of the same things we would like to see changed or done differently. I have chosen to take a break from that and just give the positive thoughts about the facilities straight from the Grand Juror notes as they were given to me. As always, it is with great respect that we submit this report:

SILVERDALE CCA

A unexpected surprise; clean and orderly; organized; extraordinary facility; a professional and caring staff; smoothly run facility; staff with a thorough knowledge of their job and the individual needs of the inmates; facility in which inmate rights, health, safety and welfare are adequately safeguarded.

COMMUNITY CORRECTIONS 

Impressive program that seeks to rehabilitate offenders rather than locking them up; successful in turning lives around, giving them a chance to change their life style with a low recidivism rate; cost effective intense program that keeps non-violent offenders out of penal facilities, which in turn is a much appreciated savings to the tax-payer; program that puts responsibility on the offender to help them turn their lives around. 

GENERAL OBSERVATIONS 

As every Grand Jury before us has learned, many of our cases involve defendants that have some degree of mental heath issues. We see this as something that is not going to go away and feel it is imperative to work toward having a Mental Health Court in our community. It is difficult to provide humane and just treatment to persons with mental health issues in our jails and prisons. We believe that combining judicial supervision with community mental health treatment would in turn curtail criminal activity while improving the participants quality of life.

We feel it necessary in conjunction with this for there to be increased training in Law Enforcement and perhaps even law enforcement-mental health liaison programs. Research shows that a well-designed mental health court may:

•    reduce recidivism among participants

•    improve mental health outcomes

•    reduce the length of incarceration for participants

We realize that such a thing will require funding but we feel the money spent will far outweigh the money saved.

The media shines light on the criminal activity in our community, and well they should, but we feel they should also put forth an effort to shine a more positive light on the men and women who serve to protect us from that criminal activity. If the one or two “bad apples” in the bunch show their true selves we are sure to hear about it at great lengths. We think the same should be done for those that get into law enforcement for the right reasons. Perhaps to have a regular on-going local news series that shows a day in the life of an officer, what they see and do, and perhaps what they have to do to protect themselves and others on our streets, would open some eyes. This would perhaps give the average citizen more respect and appreciation for our officers.

As we continue to see defendants in their early twenties and many juveniles that get transferred from that court to criminal court, we believe that it is of utmost importance to have our youth tour the County Jail or Silverdale.  We feel that seeing where they could end up and perhaps a glimpse at what their life would be like while in that facility would hopefully help some of them seek to make better life choices. We feel the professionals in the school system could decide the proper age at which this should happen.

A FINAL THOUGHT

As part of our service as Grand Jurors we are asked to put our thoughts into a report on the facilities and what we see as problems in the system. We take our service, as well as this charge, very serious and we know that largely due to funding, a lot of the issues stay the same. We feel in order to keep it “fresh” for those that are asked to read it, the report should go out once a year as a compilation of all three terms rather then at the end of each.


ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS 

We wish to thank the following people:


·         Judges Poole, Stern and Steelman for sharing their knowledge and passion, as well as, compassion in upholding the law. They give so much to the Criminal Court.

·         Sessions Court Judge Christie Sell, for sharing with us information pertaining to the inner workings of Sessions Court.

·         Assistant D.A. Bill West for his legal assistance. Your knowledge of the law and how it applies to each case was imperative to our service. You went above and beyond to answer our questions.

·         Court Liaison Officer SGT. Kevin Akin and SGT. Jeff Reardon of the Chattanooga Police Department and  Sheriff’s Deputy Jerry Dagnon for getting our witnesses in and organized.

·         Sheriff’s Deputy D.J. Sentell for escorting us on our facility tours.

·         Paula Thompson and staff of the Circuit Court Clerk’s Office; Aaliyah Hakeem of the Criminal Court Clerk’s Office and Jury Clerk Stormi Rogers. We appreciate everything you do for us.

·         The administration and staff who conducted our tours through Silverdale, County Jail and Juvenile Detention Center.

·         Mr. Chris Jackson from Community Corrections for sharing information about his programs.

·         Narcotics Investigator Lee Wolff for educating us on the many drugs that we hear about in our cases. We were given a great deal of information. We appreciate all the investigators for the work they do to fight what sometimes must seem like a losing battle.

·         Lt. Coppinger for his interesting class on safety in the jail.

·         Jim Hughes and his staff for the lunch served to us in the County Jail. As always it was tasty and much appreciated.

·         Paula Thompson for providing in her budget, our lunch at Cracker Barrel while touring the facilities. This is much appreciated and not taken for granted.

·         Gabrielle Cook for doing an awesome job as our official note taker.

·         Our sub Patrick Komisky










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