Jailers trained to handle inmates with mental health issues in Limestone Co.

WAAY 31 spoke with folks in the jail who handle these inmates every day and found out what kind of changes they’re hoping to see.

Posted: Feb 14, 2019 6:38 PM
Updated: Feb 14, 2019 6:56 PM

The Limestone County Sheriff’s Office is putting their jailers through training on how to deal with inmates with mental health issues.

They say it’s crucial that their staff knows what to do as the jail is seeing more mental illness than ever before.

WAAY 31 spoke with folks in the jail who handle these inmates every day and found out what kind of changes they’re hoping to see.

“‘Have you ever tried to intentionally hurt yourself? Do you hear or see things that other people cannot see or hear?’”

Those are some of the questions asked in a screening inmates must go through at the Limestone County Jail to determine their mental state; and nurses at the jail tell WAAY 31 they are seeing the answer, “yes,” more than ever before, which tends to imply mental instability.

“The inmate count today is 239," Medical Team Administrator Hollye Moss said. "I have 46 on some sort of anti-depressant or anti-psychotic drug.”

Those who work in the jail believe they know the reason why.

“Compliments of the state shutting down all of their facilities, we’ve become a dumping ground for the mentally ill," Assistant Jail Administrator Tammy Waddell said.

Unfortunately, because of this, jailers say they’ve had to deal with things they never imagined on a daily basis.

“They throw feces, they throw urine at you," Waddell said. "You can’t feed them on a tray, because they try to throw food back at you or they’ll throw their trays at you.”

"You feel bad for these people, because they end up here, but they don't belong here," Moss said.

And that’s why jailers have been going through training to learn how to deal with these inmates.

“This is an adult daycare. Some of the problem children would be the mentally ill, so, sometimes, you have to use tactics you would use with children," Waddell said.

But the worst part is that every inmate and every mental illness is different, so what works for one may not work for another.

Jailers and jail nurses are getting overwhelmed quickly, and they say they're afraid some inmates are not getting the help they need. They agree that something needs to be done and soon.

“We need more mental health outpatient clinics, and we need a facility with a staff that’s fully trained to recognize those things," Moss said.

Officials with the Limestone County Sheriff’s Office say the mental state of jailers and jail nurses is just as important as the inmates’ and so they’re also working with them on how to decompress and not take the things they witness inside the jail home with them.

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