New signs in front of former prisons illustrate Georgia’s transition from costly tough on crime policies to more effectivemental health and addiction treatment centers. While housed in former prisons and transition centers, these facilities have a new directive – treatment and rehabilitation. The newest of such facilities is the Appling Integrated Treatment Facility which will serve non-violent men who are mentally ill or have addiction issues. The purpose of this center is to treat the underlying issues so that the men can successfully reintegrate into society upon release and not re-offend.
A new sign and new name goes with the new mission of a former prison in Baxley.
The head of Georgia’s corrections system says the Appling Integrated Treatement Facility will house non-violent inmates with addiction issues and mental illness.
“Often, the judge has no other option than to send them to the state system to get their illness treated. What we’re trying to do is give judges options on the non-violent offenders,” said Commissioner Brian Owens of the Georgia Dept. of Corrections.
Owens said that nearly 10,000 current inmates fit that description. But others commit petty crimes and go in and out of county jails.
Right now, it’s all falling on us. Unless programs like this get started, our jails are going to be our mental hospitals and our drug hospitals,” said Appling County Sheriff Benny DeLoach.
Owens told the crowd gathered Wednesday this kind of treatment helps inmates recover and not commit more crimes and is cheaper than locking them up over and over. Prosecutors agree.
“We want people punished for their crime, but we also don’t want to see them again. We want them to learn a lesson and go back into society,” said District Attorney Jackie Johnson.
The center also saves money using a former detention center that was supposed to close earlier this year.
Transition center also saves 50 jobs that would have been lost in the community, something no one wanted to see.
The commissioner hopes one stay in this center is the first and only prison these inmates ever see.
In addition to the staff of 50 who were already there, eight specialized counselors join the Appling staff.
Georgia started moving inmates there in June from prisons statewide.