Local sheriff discusses domestic violence, handling mental health inmates

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DOTHAN, Ala. (WDHN) — October is a week away and it’s the awareness month of Domestic Violence which Alabama is ranked within the top 30 for the crime against men and women, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

Houston County sheriff said the crime may not happen often here at home but it is no stranger.

“We had two recently within the last month and it was homicide-suicide where the spouse killed the other spouse and of course we get protection orders every day from domestic cases are rising,” Donald Valenza said.

According to Sheriff Valenza during the time period of 1996 to 2006, there were 17 homicides reported and 13 of them were domestic violence-related. Nationally, domestic violence cases increased during the pandemic but Houston County stayed away from the spike, fortunately.

“However one of our investigators works it and the last couple of years one year he had 400 reported and that’s a lot for one county,” Valenza said.

Valenza says often during domestic violence cases, it usually links back to an alcohol and drug problem or mental health issue. Speaking of mental health, that’s been a difficult battle in jails since the pandemic.

“We just don’t have the facility to continue to house those with mental illness,” Valenza said. “Once they are declared very seldom the judges will leave them they don’t get time in the county jail they may go to the state facility, Kilby or one of those who can deal with it.”

Valenza said they are interested in having modules for inmates with mental health issues but you must have the funds to make that happen.

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