- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 21, 2015

TULSA, Okla. (AP) - The Tulsa jail has broken ground for new additions to the facility including some specially designed pods for people with mental illness.

The Tulsa World (https://bit.ly/1yME6oo ) reports that county commissioners, sheriff’s officials and other dignitaries watched the groundbreaking on Monday. Voters approved a 15-year tax increase in 2014 to fund the construction and operation of four pods, one of which will be used for mentally ill inmates and another for juveniles.

“Nationally, jails have become the largest facilities for mental health institutions,” County Commissioner Ron Peters said. “We are dedicated to helping those with mental health issues improve.”

Construction of the pods will begin immediately, and is expected to last for about 16 months. The general population pods will hold no more than 94 inmates, while the juvenile pods will hold no more than 50 inmates.

Tulsa County Sheriff Stanley Glanz says that about 40 percent of inmates have a mental illness and about 2 percent of inmates have a serious mental illness. In a prior story, the paper reported that according to Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office governmental affairs director Terry Simonson, previous estimates by jailers 600 inmates in the jail at any given time are on some type of psychotropic drug. The numbers have dropped since a new medical provider took over in 2014, but they are still said to be in the hundreds.

“We are working on how to improve the whole system, not just building pods, for people who have mental illness,” Glanz said. “We want to help people before they ever get to the jail.”

County Commissioner Karen Kieth says that it is preferable for people with mental illnesses to be kept out of jail.

“Just sticking people in with the general population does not work. Even the medical pods do not have an ideal setup for mental health needs. That is why we have been working with consultants to find the best possible design to help people. I’m glad to see we are now moving on this.”

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Information from: Tulsa World, https://www.tulsaworld.com

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