Richmond is preparing to launch a mental health court that will allow some mentally ill defendants to receive treatment instead of jail time.

Similar courts have been established in Norfolk and Petersburg.

Richmond’s mental health court will begin May 10 in General District Court. A judge will determine whether a defendant should be released under supervision, placed in a mental hospital or jailed.

Sheriff C.T. Woody Jr. tells The Richmond Times-Dispatch that about 15 to 19 percent of inmates in the city’s jail on average have some form of mental illness.

He says the goal is to get people into treatment at the earliest stage and make sure they go where they can get proper treatment.