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Home > Press Page

Monday, October 21, 2013Dr. Nneka Jones has joined the Cook County Sheriff’s Office in a senior role overseeing mental health strategy at the Cook County Jail, Sheriff Thomas J. Dart announced today.

Dr. Jones will serve as a 1st Assistant Executive Director of the Cook County Department of Corrections. Her oversight will primarily extend over divisions housing the jail’s mentally ill population, and programs aimed at better managing and treating those with mental illness in the jail.

Sheriff Dart has long decried the criminalization of mental illness, a tragic byproduct of widespread mental health services cuts throughout the county and state over the past decade. As such, mentally ill individuals are routinely incarcerated for small offences such as petty theft, panhandling, trespassing, prostitution, disorderly conduct and substance abuse. On any given day, Cook County Jail is home to 2500-2800 mentally ill inmates, making it the largest mental health institution in the country.

“While I strongly feel that the mentally ill belong in treatment facilities rather than jail, I refuse to turn my back on the mentally ill inmates who come into my custody. That means bringing the best and brightest from the mental health community onto my senior leadership team,” said Sheriff Dart. “There is no one better equipped than Dr. Nneka Jones to help us slow the revolving door between the streets and jail for the mentally ill.”

Dr. Jones joins the Sheriff’s Office following three years as the Chief Psychologist at Cermak Health Services. At Cermak, Dr. Jones developed and chaired numerous mental health programs and committees and advised the Cook County DOC on mental health-related issues.

“My professional life has been dedicated to correctional mental health, and I can think of no better setting to make a positive impact than at the largest single-site jail in the country,” said Dr. Jones. “I am thankful to my friends and colleagues at Cermak Health Services and look forward to continuing my work with them in this new capacity.”

Dr. Jones has maintained a decorated academic career, earning her bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, her master’s in clinical psychology from East Carolina University and her PsyD from the Virginia Consortium Program in Clinical Psychology.

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