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State Funds Mental Health Services in Jails


The state has awarded $3.5 million in grants to six regional jails to provide mental health services.  Officials hope to address the underlying cause of crimes -- to keep inmates from coming back after they’re released. 

Experts estimate one in four people locked up in a local or regional jail has some sort of mental illness. Virginia’s Secretary of Public Safety, Brian Moran, says six new pilot projects will address that problem through anger management and other forms of behavior modification.

“Many of these individuals have suffered some traumatic experience – either mental or physical abuse, and so a lot of it has to deal with their underlying causes.”

He added that treating mental problems will make Virginia safer in the long run, by keeping people from committing new crimes.

“If we look at the recidivism rate for those who have mental illness and those who do not, there’s about an 8% difference, so you’re more likely to commit another crime, thus creating yet another victim, if you have mental illness.  If we can address that mental illness, we’ll make our communities safer.”

And, Moran argues, investing in mental health services will save the state money, since it costs – on average -- $28,000 a year to keep someone in a state prison.  The grants will go to Chesterfield County, Richmond City, Prince William-Manassas, Hampton Roads, Middle River and Western Virginia Regional Jails. 

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