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"Traumatic," How the Jackson County Jail's conditions are impacting the mental health of those inside

Posted at 6:16 PM, Jul 09, 2024
  • Video shows sergeants from the Jackson County Sheriff's Department sharing the mental health impacts the current jail is causing.
  • Sergeants say many inmates that come in the jail are dealing with preexisting mental illness.
  • The current facility, on Wesley Street, does not allow the space for those inmates to be separated from the general population, nor does it provide them a safe, padded cell.

(The following is a transcription of the full broadcast story)

According to the county website, it's been 20 years since the Jackson County Jail on Wesley Street has undergone renovations. Sergeant Eric Kennedy has been with the Sheriff's office for over 20 years. He says coming to work is a challenge physically and mentally, "You want to be the tough guy, but it really affects people."

Catch up on previous jail stories:

A walk through the 'inhumane conditions' at the Jackson County Jail

Sergeant Kennedy says the conditions at the jail are a safety issue for deputies and inmates. "We don't have any padded cells, and with our facility being so old, they can chip away at the tile and metal pieces from the doors. That's a constant battle."

According to the sheriff's department, many inmates suffer from mental health issues, from drug addiction to depression to schizophrenia, who require specific treatment when in crisis.

"We've actually run out of room to house those people that need to be by themselves, because they can harm themselves or others," says Kennedy. Sometimes leading to situations like assault and self-harm, which can be difficult to detect with the jail's outdated security camera system.

"One minute we're doing our average job, the next minute we're 100 miles per hour," says Kennedy.

What a new jail would mean:

What would a new jail mean for public safety?

Sergeant Colin Broadworth leads a peer support group for those working in the jail. He says, currently, deputies are split between the county's two facilities. Officials say a new jail would allow for better monitoring of all inmates and be able to address inmates' needs more easily, while supporting one another.

Broadworth says, "You try and block the things out that you see on a daily basis, from the fights, the people trying to kill themselves, the withdrawal people are going through... Just seeing it on a daily basis, it'd be hard for anybody."

"It's traumatic," adds Kennedy. "It's a traumatic situation."

"You have to look out for yourself," continues Broadworth. "You have to look out for your own mental wellness. If working in this environment isn't helping it, you have to go where it will."

Sheriff's Deputies weigh in:

"We can't arrest people that need to be arrested." Jackson County sheriff department weighs in on new jail proposal

Officials say a new jail will help alleviate some of these pain points. Voters will determine on August 6 if a new jail is in the cards for Jackson County, potentially solving some of these issues.

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