ANDERSON, S.C. (WSPA)- Anderson County says over 400 people walk through the courthouse doors every year who struggle with mental illness and have committed a petty crime.
Soon they’ll go through a new system that’s aiming to get them help.
After years of planning, Anderson County is changing how justice is served for offenders with mental illness.
“The problems that we see is that you know, they’re not getting the treatment they need,” County Council Chairmen, Brett Sanders said.
The clerk of court, Richard Shirley says they noticed how many people with mental health issues were coming through the court system, for committing petty crimes.
“They’re not criminals at heart,” Shirley said. “It’s not that they’re committing felonies. It’s small-time drug use, and to support the drug use they’re having to do some shop lifting.”
Sanders says most are veterans with PTSD or people experiencing homelessness.
“A lot of times people just don’t know who to ask or where to get the help,” Sanders said.
However, using more than $300,000 in grant money, anew court system will help connect these people with long-term treatment instead of jail time.
Shirley said, “When all this gets put into place and it runs like we anticipate it running, it’s going to make a huge difference in the lives of men and women who need that help.”
County leaders say this will make space in the jail for violent criminals.
“We can’t use this for people who are charged with a felony or serious crime. You’re not going to see a murder suspect get sent to mental health court,” Shirley said.
The new mental health court system will start sometime in the next month.