Concurrent Grand Jury Says Mental Health Court Is On The Way

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Members of the Concurrent Grand Jury said in a final report they have been advised that a Mental Health Court is on the way.

The report says: "We were pleased to hear from some of our Judges that a mental health court is in the works. As stated in past reports, the need to have such a court is very clear.

"We feel it would serve to break the cycle of arrest to those who are suffering with such an illness, as well as being a savings to the taxpayer."

The panel also praised the work of the Drug Court.

Here is the full report from the panel headed by DeAnna Anderson:

The Honorable Barry Steelman

Judge, Criminal Court, Division I

Hamilton County, Tennessee

Judge Steelman:

For the members of this Concurrent Grand jury the experience was far different from what they ever expected. They feel that they learned so much about their community through this process.

Many of them will admit that they came with “limited knowledge” of the system and are grateful for the education they received. Just as others before them, they see it as an honor and a privilege to have been given the opportunity to play a role in the legal system.

They leave this term with a new found respect for our law enforcement officers. They found it sobering to hear the day in and day out experiences of our officers. The professionalism the officers displayed while testifying before them is to be applauded. They wish to thank them for their dedication and service.

During their term, they were given the opportunity to hear from all three Criminal Court Judges, as well as a Sessions Court Judge. After hearing from them, their preconceived notions of what a Judge must be like were quickly squelched. They found them to be dedicated to rendering justice impartially, and to genuinely care about the long term affects of the decisions they make. They could see the concern each of them had for the purpose of their position.

To aid them in their decisions, they were shown how a Field Sobriety Test is administered by a DUI officer and spent one of their lunch hours receiving an “education” on drugs by two city investigators.

This Grand Jury is made up of employes of Volkswagon, Mckee Foods, Southern Management and Unum. We also have a physical therapist, a blood donor recruiter with Blood Assurance, customer service staff with Walmart and Publix and a federal agent with the IRS. We are also blessed to have several retirees.

This Grand Jury came together from many walks of life and heard 566 cases. Under the guidance they were given, they feel they made the right decisions regarding these cases.

It was part of their duty to tour Silverdale CCA, the Hamilton County Jail, and  Juvenile Detention Court and listen to a presentation on Community Corrections. They were given the charge to report on Silverdale CCA and Community Corrections. They submit their report with great respect:

SILVERDALE CCA

Touring this facility was a real “eye opener”. The professionalism shown by those who are involved in the day to day operations was impressive.

We found the facility to be clean and well maintained. It was clear to us that ALL members of the staff were dedicated to keeping the facility running effectively and had the inmates best interest in mind. Considering the fact that on the date of our tour (July 21) they were housing over 900 inmates, we cannot begin to imagine what it takes to run such a facility.

We believe the newly implemented color coded badges assigned to inmates is a positive thing. The accountability factor that goes along with them, such as a five dollar fee for a lost badge, is a good tool for teaching responsibility.

During our tour, we learned that good medical care is the “right” of someone who is incarcerated. After hearing the dollar figure the county reimburses Silverdale CCA each month for prescription costs, we think a small fee should be charged to the inmates for medical visits and prescriptions. We know this would not take care of the cost, but as tax-payers we think every dollar counts.

Community Corrections

We received an oral presentation by the Superintendent of Community Corrections and believe it was a good overall view of the program. We commend the employees of this program and feel they do a good job with the resources they have.

We feel this program is an excellent alternative for non-violent offenders and has been successful in turning some lives around.

After learning the cost to house an inmate, we see these alternative sentences as a welcome savings to taxpayers.

 We see the need for funding to stay current with the latest in technology as it pertains to the electronic monitoring program.

 GENERAL OBSERVATIONS

 After completing four months of testimony in which most cases involved drugs and/or alcohol, we were pleased to see some positive things happening in Judge Stern's Drug Court. We wish to commend Drug Court Coordinator, Elaine Kelly, and all other staff members for the hard work they do to help change peoples' lives for the better.

In order to keep up with the needs and concerns of the facilities, we feel all County Commissioners should be required to take the same tours we do. We feel their participation would be a show of support to the employees that serve this part of our society, and would certainly be a boost in moral.

 We were pleased to hear from some of our Judges that a mental health court is in the works. As stated in past reports, the need to have such a court is very clear. We feel it would serve to break the cycle of arrest to those who are suffering with such an illness, as well as being a savings to the taxpayer.

A FINAL THOUGHT

In AMERICA, those who are incarcerated, often as repeat offenders, are afforded good medical care and are guaranteed three well balanced meals a day. With this in mind, we are left to wonder why in AMERICA, do hard working, law abiding citizens struggle to feed their families and why do seniors have to choose between their medication or paying their bills?
 

 


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