Nine days after the state’s first mental health court opened in Pennington County, the state’s top judge is calling for one in Minnehaha County.
During his annual State of the Judiciary speech, Chief Justice of the South Dakota Supreme Court, David Gilbertson, says its time to consider a mental health court in the state’s most populous county.
Chief Justice Gilbertson says five hundred and fifteen prisoners screened at the Minnehaha County jail, during a five month period last year, suffered from mental illness.
That’s more than thirteen percent of those brought through intake.
Gilbertson says those eligible for mental health court are generally charged with a non-violent misdemeanor. He says those with mental illness need supervision and treatment, not jail time.
“Mentally ill people don’t make good prisoners because they don’t cope well in that setting,” Gilbertson says. “Especially if they don’t have their medications. So, they tend to be in jail longer because they’re disruptive. The reason they’re disruptive is because they’re mentally ill. So, if you can get them back on their meds they do much better.”
Lawmakers approved a mental health court for Pennington County in 2017, and funded it in 2018.
Gilbertson wants something similar east river.
“Ideally, I’d like it done,” Gilbertson says. “But it took two years to get the Pennington County one done. There’s only so many dollars in this state. I would certainly engage in a dialogue with the hope of either talking about it or, ideally, getting it funded.”
In addition to a mental health court in Minnehaha County, Gilbertson also calls for one new judge for the second judicial circuit.