Province must build mental health center, not a new prison

Look no further than the tragedy of Michael Hogan to see the need to build a mental health/wellness center rather than a new prison in Santa Clara County. I fully agree with Supervisor Susan Ellenberg, who expressed doubts about the document recently presented to the Board of Supervisors.

The report, which called for a new 535-bed facility to replace the Main Jail South, is a slap in the face to community groups and civil rights advocates who met elected officials last year to establish a treatment center for people with mental health problems. promote. those who struggle with alcohol and drug use disorders.

Addressing the problem of recidivism is one of the key tenants in my sheriff’s campaign. Our prisons should be about more than housing people for a period of time and then send them back to the same situation. We need social workers and counseling for inmates, as well as educational and job placement opportunities. Mental health is an important part of this. We need to build and fund a program that connects law enforcement and social and medical services.

According to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, nearly one-third of California incarcerated residents have documented severe mental illness. Many agree that prisons and jails in our state have become standard mental health facilities.

There are hundreds and hundreds of residents in county jails across California waiting months or even years to be transferred to a state hospital.

According to the California Department of State Hospital, a large percentage of residents found incompetent to stand trial faced charges related to homelessness and untreated psychosis.

A new behavioral health facility in Santa Clara County is not only necessary, but should have been done much earlier. In addition, I think it should not be built near the main prison, but in our Elmwood facility. Once a normal baseline is reached, residents of this facility can become part of the job placement and training programs available to other residents.

In addition, every resident of Santa Clara County would benefit from a new wellness facility. A 2018 study found that providing greater access to mental health treatment programs makes entire communities better off and more cost-effective. More mental health care will reduce violence and property crime and in turn decrease the number of incarcerations.

As a sheriff, of course, I’d love to run a new prison. However, I promised to be honest with the public. Santa Clara County needs a new mental health facility much more than a new prison.

I urge our politicians to reject the new prison proposal and support the alternative proposal to support a mental health facility.

Christine Nagaye is a sergeant in the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office. She’s a candidate for sheriff.

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