Fulton County DA Fani Willis Partners with MSM to Help Inmate's Mental Health

The new program will help certain people convicted of a crime not only get out of prison early but also get them the mental health services they need.

Fani WillisFani Willis
Fulton County District Attorney

By Tyler Fingert, Fox 5 Atlanta
ATLANTA - Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis says mental health is a real problem that she cannot prosecute her way out of. Instead, she is turning to professionals at Morehouse School of Medicine to help inmates transition to life outside, so they do not end up back behind bars.
"I am tired of seeing that we are using our prisons and our jail systems as mental health wards," she said.
Willis announced a new partnership with Morehouse School of Medicine. The program is for those who have been exonerated of a crime or who have been convicted but are eligible for a sentence reduction. She says both of those situations are something her office has focused on since she was elected, and now this program will also let her help prisoners with mental health issues.
"This is yet another program to say, ‘Hey, we want to release you early from prison, we want to restore you,’" Willis said. "’We want you to be a productive member of society, but we realize you have some struggles.’"
The Prison Policy Initiative says more than 40 percent of people in prisons have been diagnosed with a mental health disorder.
The program is made possible by a federal grant, and it hopes to help at least 120 people in the next year and a half. 
"What we’ve talked about is having a comprehensive mental health evaluation while they’re still incarcerated," said Dr. Sarah Vinson, Chair of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science at Morehouse School of Medicine.
The program is expected to help reduce the chance of someone getting arrested again.
Willis said this is about getting services to those who need it and making sure they have support once they get out of prison.
"We do think this is a very unique program and that it is a great way to restore some faith in the justice system, some faith in the medical profession," she said. "To really put health services around people."
The program is expected to officially start in January.
Willis said this is a dream come true and believes it can do some real good.

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