Fulton County District Attorney’s Office Partners with Morehouse School of Medicine to Address Inmate Mental Health

Many people would agree with the assessment attributed to Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis that “mental health is a real problem” that influences all aspects of the criminal justice system—people who commit crimes; how convicts are treated in custody and how convicts are treated on probation or after they are released from custody. See 2 ½ minute video on the program commencing in Fulton County.

The district attorney’s office is “turning to professionals at the Morehouse School of Medicine to help inmates transition to life outside, so they do not end up back behind bars.” Fani Willis offered her perspective on incarceration and its relationship to mental health. Willis is quoted as saying “I am tired of seeing that we are using our prisons and our jail systems as mental health wards.”

The partnership with the Morehouse School of Medicine was announced on Wednesday. The program is available for a uniquely defined population: “those who have been exonerated of a crime or who have been convicted but are eligible for a sentence reduction.”

Saying these classes of people within the criminal justice system have been a focus of her office “since she was elected,” Willis now asserts this program “will also let her help prisoners with mental health issues.”

Willis offered her perspective on the overall role of such a program. As reported, Willis is alleged to have stated: “This is yet another program to say, hey, we want to release you early from prison, we want to restore you.” Willis elaborated on the context of the program, as she envisions it. “We want you to be a productive member of society, but we realize you have some struggles.”

Background information regarding mental health cites The Prison Policy Initiative, which is reported to state: “more than 40% of those in prisons have been diagnosed with a mental health disorder.” The federal government is the source of the money for the program. The program “hopes to help at least 120 people in the next year and a half.”

Dr. Sarah Vinson, Chair of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science at the Morehouse School of Medicine, declared that “What we’ve talked about is having a comprehensive mental health evaluation while they’re still incarcerated.” Ideally, the funded program will “help reduce the chance of someone getting arrested again.”

Framing her perspectives in terms of faith in institutions, Willis claims the program will have extensive and successful consequences. “We do think this is a very unique program and that it is a great way to restore some faith in the justice system, some faith in the medical profession.” The program is expected to officially start in January. Willis is quoted as saying the program “can do some real good.”

D & B Staff

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Episode 133