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Should the Mentally Handicapped Stay in Jail?


It's been one week since 69-year-old Carolyn Miller was assaulted in her home. But the arrest of a suspect in the case has opened the door to even more questions about medical care for special needs inmates.

One of the issues that has arisen in the aftermath of the assault revolves around the suspect's incarceration.

Philip Hampton remains in Brazos County Jail. According to his grandparents, he is a patient at the Mental Health Mental Retardation facility, which is next door to Miller's home.

Hampton's grandparents say they'd like to see their son moved to a hospital where he can receive better care. And while they can't talk specifically about Hampton's case, it's a sentiment law enforcement agrees with, except for a major catch.

"I would rather see a person with those kind of mental problems in a hospital," said Brazos County Sheriff Chris Kirk. "The jail is not the setting for them. Unfortunately, those resources are slim. There are hard to find hospital beds, secure hospital beds that we can use."

St. Joseph and the The Med are not equipped to handle inmates with mental problems because of security, among other reasons. That leaves state facilities like Austin State Hospital, the closest to the Brazos Valley. But like all other facilities, Austin's beds are filled to capacity, leaving jails to handle the burden.

In fact, the biggest expenditure for the Brazos County jail is medication for inmates. Psychological medication alone costs them over $100,000 annually.

And then there is the issue of housing mentally disabled suspects in the jail, which includes determining their risk to themselves and others.

"We take into account other factors, and those factors include whether the person is going to be passive in the prison population or agressive , or if they might become a victim," said Wayne Dicky, the Brazos County Jail administrator. "Their age is a consideration."

According to his grandparents, 18-year-old Philip Hampton is in isolation in the jail. Also pertaining to the case, the Hampton family has been appointed an attorney for Philip's defence.


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