Richmond to begin mental illness court docket in May

RICHMOND, VA. (WWBT) - The City of Richmond will begin a mental illness court docket at the Manchester Courthouse on May 10. Between now and then, we are learning more about the details surrounding this new program, that Richmond City Sheriff C.T. Woody has been pushing for since 2006.

It's no secret the Richmond City Jail is overcrowded, and that some of those in the jail right now face some serious mental illnesses, according to Woody. He puts it like this: "A jail is no place for those that are mentally ill. They should be in a mental health facility."

After years of lobbying, that change is here. Starting in May, the city will hold a separate court docket that would let some non-violent mentally ill defendants receive treatment instead of jail time, or go to a mental health facility.

Some non violent offenders may even go right back into the community, but be supervised.

Doing this will help with security and likely help stop the issues that deputies face everyday in the jail with the mentally ill. "Some are violent, cut their wrists, hurt themselves by butting their heads against the wall. They throw feces on our deputies," adds Sheriff Woody.

The sheriff also says this will help drop the jails' population. Right now,  an average of about 15 to 20 percent of the people in the city jail face some type of mental illness.

We're told doctors, lawyers, and others will all be involved in the evaluation process. "They are going to look at everybody here and those that are non-violent, such as trespassers," says Sheriff Woody.

This new program is funded from federal grants and city money through June and the plan is to fund it for at least another year.

"I'm elated. I'm excited and I can't wait for it to get started," says Sheriff Woody.

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