Frequently Asked Questions
Q. Do you have patrol programs to respond to individuals in mental health crisis?
Yes. Under the "Law Enforcement" tab on the homepage we have information (sub tabs) on our Homeless Outreach Team, Crisis Intervention Response Team, and Training. The Harris County Sheriff's Office (HCSO) is one of a few sheriff's offices in the nation to provide a 40-hour mental health class to ALL new deputies and corrections personnel. The HCSO is also one of a few nationwide to have a Crisis Intervention Response Team that pairs a deputy with a masters level licensed professional counselor from the Harris Center for Mental Health and IDD. The HCSO is also one of a few sheriff's offices to have a Homeless Outreach Team.
Q. Do you have programs in the jail to help inmates with mental illness?
Yes. The HCSO has some of the most progressive, innovative, and professional initiatives for caring for inmates with mental illnesses of any county jail in the nation. We have a Jail Mental Health Initiatives page where you can learn about these varied initiatives.
Q. Who do I contact regarding notification of medical and mental health issues?
We have an Inmate Care website for this purpose.
Q. How can I contact the jail chaplains to get word to an inmate about a death in the family, to notify the inmate they can call me now, or to ask an inmate to call home?
Q. Do you have educational programs for the inmates?
Yes. The Harris County Sheriff's Office, in partnership with Houston Community College, provides both academic and vocational training programs. You can go to our Inmate Education page on this website to learn more about our training programs.
Q. This is the Bureau of Mental Health and Jail Diversion. Could you explain jail diversion?
Yes. We are working hard to keep certain people out of the jail, especially those with serious mental illness. Some people with mental illness commit serious offenses and it is appropriate for those individuals to be placed in jail as they go through the criminal justice process. However, the majority of individuals with serious mental illness who are in jails and prisons are there on more petty, nuisance type offenses. It is believed these individuals are best served getting help for their mental illness rather than being incarcerated. The Harris County Sheriff's Office is working with several entities to divert the mentally ill from jail when appropriate. Some of these entities include: The Harris County District Attorney's Office, The Harris Center for Mental Health and IDD, Mental Health America of Greater Houston, The Houston Center for Sobriety, and Harris County Commissioner's Court. Our Homeless Outreach Team, Crisis Intervention Response Team, and Crisis Intervention Training initiatives are designed to divert people from being introduced into the criminal justice system. Our other diversion programs, which can be found on this website under "Diversion," are designed to help those incarcerated from returning to jail. We have made great strides in diverting and thus reducing the number of people in the Harris County Jail. We had over 11,000 inmates in 2009. That number is below 9,000 today. This has been done while the population of Harris County has significantly increased. You can see the graphs on population growth and inmate population on the homepage of this website.
For more information on the serious mentally ill in jails and prisons visit our Jail Mental Health Initiatives page on this website.