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Infamous Chicago Jail So Overwhelmed with Mentally Ill Prisoners, Sheriff Appoints Psychologist to Lead It

May 20, 2015 in Blogs

By Zaid Jilani, AlterNet

Sadly, prison has become one of the biggest mental health providers.

Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart has long been frustrated at the lack of adequate mental health care options in his Chicago-area district. He estimates that 25 to 35 percent of the inmates in the Cook County Jail he oversees suffer from mental illness, a situation that has been exacerbated as the recession took its toll on funding for mental health care. He has even gone as far as to say that the jail he oversees is the largest mental health facility in the area, a sad commentary.

So Dart took a radical step. He appointed a clinical psychologist – Dr. Nneka Jones Tapia – to be the jail's executive director, the first time a major jail in the United States has been led by someone from that profession.

“Most of the individuals here if not all of them are still battling social ills. While they may not be identified as mentally ill they have a wealth of issues that continue to need the support of people of my background,” said Jones Tapia. She has been at the Cook Countil Jail for 9 years, when she first arrived as an intern at the psych ward; she also met her future husband, who works as a correctional officer at the facility.

Watch the WGN-TV report on the appointment here.

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