Mentally ill in solitary: ‘We’re not addressing the problem, we’re making it worse’
After her son tore off his penis with his bare hands in his cell, Gemma Pena thought Florida’s prison authorities might see his illness. They’d see he needed a hospital, instead of solitary confinement.
“No,” she said. “That’s when the nightmare really started.”
Gemma Pena is in a hell that few can imagine.
She not only knows what has happened to her son in Florida prisons, she knows about the premature deaths of far too many mentally ill Florida inmates, including one recently deceased inmate the Miami Herald reported on who also suffered from schizophrenia, and whose name is too similar to Gemma’s son’s not to deepen her desperation:
One day after an officer was stabbed during a melee at Columbia Correctional Institution, an inmate who suffered from mental illness was found dead in a protective custody cell at the facility’s annex Tuesday morning, the Miami Herald has learned …… On Tuesday morning, well after 7 a.m. checks, inmate Jason Rodriguez, 46, was found unresponsive. He was in confinement because his mother had called the prison within the last week, worried that her son’s life had been threatened. The death is under investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, and an autopsy is scheduled.
Underpaid, overworked corrections officers are no substitute for mental health professionals, and underpaid, contracted mental health workers can accomplish little or nothing in prison settings. It’s proven destructive at best and deadly at worst – over and over again – to place the severely mentally ill in prison, but prosecutors and judges either don’t read newspapers or just don’t give a damn.
Please take the time to read and share the Guardian story about Gemma and Kristopher from the link above. Thank you.