Treatment, not jail, for mentally ill people

NATASHA McKENNA, the schizophrenic woman who died in February after Fairfax County jail guards shot her four times with a Taser, should not have been behind bars. She should have been in treatment at a facility staffed with mental health professionals.

Some county officials have acknowledged that; they include Sheriff Stacey A. Kincaid, who runs the jail, where some 40 percent of the 1,100 inmates suffer from mental illness or substance addiction. Now it’s time for Fairfax, whose 1.1 million people make it more populous than all but nine U.S. cities, to make reforms to ensure that senseless tragedies like Ms. McKenna’s death do not recur.

The question is whether county officials — not just Ms. Kincaid, but also prosecutors, public defenders, judges, police and others — have the political will to shake up an entrenched system and whether they will find the dollars to do it. It won’t be easy, and it won’t be quick, but failing to act would be a disgrace.

– The Washington Post

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