The following article will give you an inside look at how rural Tennessee approaches the mentally ill flowing through the criminal justice system. Being admittedly more editorial than academic, this article will, however, look at some nationwide and statewide statistics to frame the problem. Next, this article will paint a picture of a perfect storm, which has decimated families, communities, and entire counties. This article will also describe the incarceration sales pitch given to rural counties from the prospective of an uninformed county commissioner at twenty-four years of age. Lastly, this article will conclude with some parting thoughts and suggestions from the front lines of the mess created by ignorance, complicity, and greed.
The purpose behind this article is to deliver some insight into areas where non-critical academics rarely venture, to give a voice to the silent, and hopefully, inspire more people to take an interest in transforming how mental illness is treated in rural Tennessee, and across the United States. Rural Tennesseans lack some of the education and resources that are available in urban communities. Changing how we treat people afflicted with mental illness will take leadership from within those communities. Legal professionals living and working in rural Tennessee must be the catalyst for this most needed change.