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Smith County Diversion Coordinator Provides Inmate Diversion Program Update

TYLER, Texas (KLTV) – Sandra Brazil-Hamilton is Smith County’s diversion coordinator and has been busy for the past seven months coordinating the diversion program. The Texas Judicial Commission on Mental Health developed this project to help coordinate between courts and behavioral health providers to help inmates.

The program is the result of the Smith County Court Commissioners’ acceptance of a $171,000 grant from the Texas Judicial Commission on Mental Health in August 2021. The purpose of the grant is to help people in prison who face mental health problems.

“I go through the process with the judge in the morning to see who has mental health issues, I look to see if the local mental health authority has any, which is Andrew’s Centre. They may be their clients, so I contact them and let them know they are incarcerated and might need to be seen by them,” she said.

The program focuses on defendants with mental illness who have been charged with non-violent offenses and then diverts them from the criminal justice system. Brazil-Hamilton says she talks to about 15 people a day facing mental health issues.

“I tell you, I spend all my days, every day, Monday through Friday, seeing new people. See people, help them, if they have a court date, I stop and go to court with them and work on that,” Brazil-Hamilton said.

Not only does she work with inmates, but she coordinates plans and resources for the courts and everyone involved on the legal side.

“I’ve met with the probation officers, I’ve met with the district attorney’s office, the courts, the judges, so they understand what I’m doing,” Brazil-Hamilton said. “And we’re all working together and it’s getting better and better as we go along.”

Brazil-Hamilton is able to help these people find housing, employment and treatment.

“When they go to court, in court, I come up with these treatment plans, and then they build that into their probation terms, instead of just staying in jail and decompensating,” she said.

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