Louisiana shouldn't jail people because they're addicted or mentally ill: Opinion

Opinion by Sheriff Craig Webre

I have grown frustrated and weary of having people come into my jail and serve a life sentence six months or 30 days at a time.

In my 25 years as sheriff of Lafourche Parish and 35 total years in law enforcement, I've never had an ambulance or a police car pull up to the jail, present someone who's having a heart attack or who broke their leg and say, "He's your problem."  But every day our jails are full of people who are bipolar, people who suffer from schizophrenia, and people who suffer from other mental health disorders.  In jail, they're in the worst environment they can be in -- sapping precious resources -- rather than having their needs addressed in a community-based or inpatient treatment facility.

We shouldn't incarcerate people just because they're poor. Or just because they're addicted. Or just because they don't have a home. But we've done that for way too long.

Now we have an opportunity to reverse that trend.