Legally Speaking: Allen Jones

Legally Speaking: Allen Jones

ALLEN JONES, chief deputy at the Champaign County Sheriff's Office, has become his office's point man for improving mental-health services for inmates at the Champaign County Jail. He's also working on a related initiative to expand mental-health services to families in crisis, so police don't have to get involved in matters that aren't criminal.

Here's a sample of his interview with longtime cops and courts reporter Mary Schenk:

What's the idea behind Stepping Up, the 2015 national collaboration between justice and mental-health officials?

(It's) to try to reduce the prevalence of the mentally ill in jail and reduce the length of time they are there.

We received a federal grant at the same time. The Champaign County Board and the Mental Health Board signed on. Since 2015, I've received training and had opportunities to go to the White House on data-driven justice analysis, looking for ways to divert the mentally ill (from the justice system), sharing information, looking at the best diversionary practices.

Champaign County has been recognized as an innovator county, one of 10 counties across the country that have actually started implementing these changes and are being recognized for these changes.

So what have you achieved?

When we received the federal grant, we had a local group of people from Rosecrance, the Mental Health Board, the hospitals, probation, the state's attorney, and citizens from the community who went about trying to determine what services we have in the community. (It's called) system-intercept mapping: Identifying what's there and what's not there. We've completed that process.

What did you learn?

We realized we're missing in a couple places. We really need to have some stronger or more proficient services prior to or at the point of police contact in the community, and having any and all services available where families don't have to call the police is really the desired outcome.