Tuesday, June 25, 2024

New Tuscaloosa County jail addition will be fortified with mental health component

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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (WBRC) – Work is well underway at the Tuscaloosa County Jail to not only build a new jail, but usher in a new era of mental and psychiatric care.

The new jail annex has been built. Inmates have been transferred to the annex for now. The new jail should be ready by 2026.

Tuscaloosa County Sheriff Ron Abernathy says there is no doubt having a jail with a medical and mental health component will make a difference in recidivism based on sheer data alone.

″At any given time may have 35% of our inmates on some type of psycho drugs. If you do the math with that, that means we got 180 people in the facility that’s got some type of mental health condition and this allows us to better treat them,” said Sheriff Abernathy.

In the county jail annex, those inmates suffering from mental health challenges are getting mental care now, but it’s more through telemedicine. Once the new jail is built, the facility will be in place to enhance that care.

“The emphasis is on mental health, increasing our capabilities there. It will have 24 one man cells that will have the capability of telemedicine within those cells, and it’s also going to have various areas where our mental health providers can assess and treat the inmates within the facility,” said Sheriff Abernathy.

The price tag for it all is around $20 million, worth every penny, according to Abernathy, if it means making a difference in reducing crime and changing criminal behavior.

“When Bryce shut down the major facility and it flooded communities across the state of Alabama, then we saw a dramatic increase in the number of inmates that had mental health issues,” said Abernathy.

As for the future of the jail annex once the new jail is constructed, the sheriff says they’re undecided on that part for now.

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