Ohio Jail No Longer Accepting Mentally Ill Inmates

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AKRON, Ohio -- The Summit County sheriff has notified local police departments that the county jail will no longer accept certain prisoners who show outward signs of mental illness.

Sheriff Drew Alexander said the new policy is in response to incidents at the jail, including the August 2006 death of Mark McCullaugh.

The 28-year-old Akron man, who according to doctors was bi-polar, died in a confrontation with a team of deputies who were trying to remove him from his cell in the jail's psychiatric unit.

"The indigent mentally ill in Summit County, the treatment of them is barbaric, we are putting them in cells,” said Sheriff Alexander. “If they are out of line, we strap them in four point restraints and we leave them in there. It's barbaric, that's the way they treated them 400 years ago, and yet we're still treating them that way."

The sheriff said that once an inmate is turned away from the jail, it will be up to the arresting officer to find a psychiatric facility that will accept them, and if they can't, it will be the responsibility of the individual police departments to take care of that inmate.

The sheriff said he knows the directive is controversial, but he hopes it will lead to reforms in the treatment of those who have fallen between the cracks of the mental health system.

“We are stockpiling these people, we are not fixing them, it's a revolving door, they go out, they get off their meds, they come back," said Sheriff Alexander. “It's just going round and round."