Decriminalizing Mental Health

HCSO’s Jail Is NOT A Psychiatric Hospital

2020 Candidate for Harris County District Attorney

Houston native Carvana Cloud, 2020 candidate for office of the Harris County District Attorney, supports crisis intervention training for our officers & medical treatment for arrestees with mental illness.

Decriminalizing Mental Health

One of the main issues for 2020 Candidate for Harris County District Attorney Carvana Cloud.

Everyone knows someone who struggles with a mental illness. Whether a family member, neighbor, or close friend, mental illness affects people across all races and socioeconomic classes. When left untreated, many people who struggle with mental illness end up in the criminal justice system.

The Harris County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) operates the nation’s fourth-largest jail, with an inmate population approximately 9,000. One-quarter of these inmates suffer from some form of mental illness; approximately 25% of the average daily population receives psychotropic medication in jail from booking to release. Jail should not be our county’s largest psychiatric facility especially when many of those struggling with mental illness are veterans and/or homeless. This is unacceptable and we must do better as a community.

To address this issue, prosecutors must support crisis-intervention training of law enforcement to de-escalate situations involving individuals with mental illness to reduce the likelihood of use of force or arrest as a response. I also support diverting more people struggling with mental illness to our county’s mental health center for treatment instead of being jailed, leaving taxpayers with the financial burden of housing and caring for inmates.

Finally, in those instances where criminal charges are filed, prosecutors should work with experienced mental health advisors, trainers, and peer support professionals to support those who struggle with mental illness so they can be released from the criminal justice system with a clear exit strategy that will empower them to be successful as they re-enter society and return to their communities.

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