Behind the bars: A sneak peak at the El Paso County Sheriff's Jail Annex renovation


POSTED: Thursday, July 18, 2013 - 5:16pm

UPDATED: Thursday, July 18, 2013 - 7:53pm

According to the national sheriff's association -- Texas has nearly eight times as many people with serious mental illness in prison as it does in psychiatric hospitals. Here in El Paso - the sheriff's office is throwing down some serious cash in order to renovate the far east side jail annex and those staggering numbers are part of the motivation behind the renovations.

Sheriff Richard Wiles said these major renovations, which total a little more than $3 million will provide more space for more inmates. Plus a program to help those incarcerated who may be suffering from mental illness.
No one wants to go to behind bars but on Thursday our cameras went inside El Paso County’s jail annex to get a closer look at some of the major renovations that are taking place.

"We've added additional isolation beds, we've added additional space in the laundry room,” Sheriff Richard Wiles explained.

But that's not the only change that's happening. They're adding a special needs pod in a few months which will secure inmates with mental illness from the rest. "We deal with a large population of mentally ill prisoners, unfortunately,” Wiles asid.

Sheriff Wiles said they are not only providing the space for this population,"It's far more efficient and effective to provide care for their mental illness than it is deal with the criminal charges,” he said.

Rene Hurtado, a spokesperson with Emergence Health Network said their staff is working with the sheriff's office.

"Additionally, provide training to not just the staff of the sheriff, but anyone who comes in and interacts with folks who have a mental illness,” Hurtado told us.

Both groups are also working to secure a $600,000 grant from the Department of Justice to help offset the costs to treat these inmates.

"We'll be able to come in bring qualified mental health professionals to both treat individuals, provide a comprehensive wraparound treatment for individuals who are incarcerated,” Hurtado added.

With a new mental health pod, combined with treatment - both groups are hoping to continue the care mentally ill inmates require so they don't end up back in the system.

Rene Hurtado with the Emergence Health Network also said they're hoping to bring in psychiatric nurses that will work with the inmates every day.

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