Sunday, November 30, 2008

Williamson Sheriff honored for mental health unit

One of the keys to diverting mentally ill offenders from jail into treatment on the front end is training law enforcement to handle mental health calls without making the problem worse and directing people to services on the front end instead of waiting for the court to order it later. At many agencies such specialized mental health units are called Crisis Intervention Teams, and I was pleased to see the Williamson County Sheriff won a national award for work by their CIT unit, the Austin Statesman reported ("Williamson County Sheriff wins national honor," Nov. 27):

For coordinating services with crisis intervention specialists aimed at helping mentally ill people, instead of just putting them in jail, Williamson County Sheriff James Wilson was selected Sheriff of the Year by the 2008 National Crisis Intervention Team Conference Committee at a gathering in Atlanta earlier this month .

"Frankly, I feel a little guilty about getting this award because the work we do is a united effort on the part of the Williamson County Mental Health Task Force and a lot of other folks," Wilson said. The award is sponsored by the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Wilson's mental health unit, a group of deputies who deal with emotionally disturbed people, includes 10 officers and two clerical workers and is headed by Lt. Mike Sorenson.

Williamson County saved $2.3 million cumulatively from 2006 to 2008 because of the unit's work in sending 1,088 mentally ill individuals to programs to help them solve their problems instead of to jail, according to county statistics ...

"In almost every instance, we can resolve situations with little or no force," Wilson said. "We have been doing this for three years and have had only a few minor instances of using force — I'd estimate fewer than five such instances. This year, we will answer about 3,000 mental health calls."



Anonymous said...

Good for them.
Check out Abilene, Tx Jail

In Sad Recognition of the

.....which fails to provide a safe and humane environment for the fathers, mothers, wives, husbands, sons and daughters of Abilene who are incarcerated there. Awarded by Diane Wilson and Diana Claitor co-founders of the Texas Jail Project in Abilene, Texas, October 15, 2008

Abilene, Tx is also the focus of a Study of Small Town Justice continued:

It seems several people may not agree that Abilene,
Taylor County, Texas is a "Friendly Frontier".

They essentially credit the city's law enforcement with systematic or consistent victimization of residents lacking political influence. Anecdotal evidence suggests minorities and poor Caucasians are prime targets. Reportedly every component of Taylor County's legal system contributes to the problem (i.e. the police and sheriff departments, state and federal prosecutors, state and federal courts, public defenders, and private attorneys). Woeful tales of injustice shared by some current and former Taylor County, Texas residents, have a common theme. Many attest to retaining or being appointed an attorney who promises, but ultimately fails to zealously challenge for them the apparent wrongs of area government and/or big business. Watch the National Press Conference held last week in Washington. Read more at

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Although I am a staunch Democrat, Sheriff Wilson is a rare Republican that I did and will vote for, even against a Democratic opponent. He is a well-respected Sheriff especially when compared against his predecessor, Sheriff Maspero. He was a fantastic head to DPS and while I was sad to see him retire from the state, I was thrilled to see him re-emerge in Williamson County.