More than half of inmates in Denver County Jail have signs of mental health issues

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DENVER -- The director of inmate programs at the Denver County Jail says more than half of its inmates have a mental health code of some kind.

Over the years, the jail has evolved into more than just a place that holds criminals.

“I feel like we’re helping a population that is very traditionally underserved,” said Director of Inmate Programs Carrie Stanley.

Because of people like Stanley working in the Denver Sheriff’s Department, the county jail is a place where more and more people are being treated for mental and behavioral health disorders.

Currently, there are around 2,000 inmates in the county jail. Stanley says more than half of them -- 51 percent -- have some sort of mental health code, which can range from mild to extreme.

Stanley oversees 25 programs for inmates at the jail, ranging from life skills to therapeutic yoga. She says half of their special units are dedicated to mental health treatment.

“We are meeting people where they’re at, really evaluating their level of care that is needed,” Stanley said.

The sheriff’s department has a partnership with Denver Health Medical Center. A spokesperson says doctors and nurses evaluate inmates, diagnose them and prescribe medication for behavioral health.

“Over the course of my time working with the offender population, I have seen a shift in focus for treatment,” Stanley said. “We truly do care about the people that are here with us. Every single person in our care has a future and a family that they’re trying to support and care about.”

Programs focus on creating transition plans based on inmate needs and pairing with community partners. On top of mental health services, the jail has programs to fight substance abuse and help inmates line up housing and jobs after they’re released.

Based on a 2018 DSD report, inmates with a mental health code stay more than three times longer, on average, than inmates without a code. 

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