The Mentally Ill
There is a large percentage of mentally ill filling our jails and prisons. When I tell people that they say, “Oh I know it,” and then they are surprised when I mention an incident involving a mentally ill inmate. In essence, they really didn’t “know it.”
A larger percentage of drugs and alcohol plays an even bigger role in crimes committed. Many of these people would not be locked up if it were not for their recreational drug and alcohol use, especially the mentally ill. When they are on their meds and off the street meds they get at the corner store, they’re pretty decent human beings just trying to eke out an existence like everyone else.
I’m reminded of Donald: a mentally ill patient/inmate. Every day for about two weeks, he’d come to the medicine cart and tell me, “I’m not supposed to be here. Can you talk to the warden and ask him to get me out of here?” (They’re actually called jail administrators now, but Donald apparently did not know that) He freely admitted he did the crime; he just didn’t want to do the time. “I don’t have time for all that mess,” he’d say, waving his hands around.
The officers usually stepped up and instructed him to take his medicine and go on back to his cell. Except for one day … Donald approached and again asked if I would go talk to the warden about his release. I remember I was somewhat distracted and just answered off-handedly. Honestly, I cannot even be sure about what I said. However, Donald knew what I said and the next morning when he came to the cart he asked, “Did you talk to him?”
Completely bewildered, I asked, “Talk to who?”
“Talk to the warden,” he answered exasperated. And why wouldn’t he be exasperated? He’d been telling me for two weeks that he needed to get out of there and wanted me to talk to the warden.
“About what, Donald?”
Donald rolled his eyes at me, brazen that he was, and snapped, “You said you would speak to him about my release. Have you done that yet?”
I couldn’t help but laugh at the ridiculousness of it but he was serious: dead serious. He hated me after that because I wouldn’t speak up on his behalf. Someone who was not mentally ill would not have expected let alone, request medical personnel to speak to a jail administrator about their release when they knew they were guilty of the crime they were being accused.
Another mental patient/inmate, actually one of my more favorite ones, used to crack me up all the time. I hated to see him incarcerated but on the same token, I was always glad he was off the streets. He could be very dangerous if provoked while off his medication. Tyrone was six-foot-eight and 305 lbs. of solid muscle. He could bench press ME!
I had read in the paper where someone and a cohort had robbed a business. After striking the owner and knocking him unconscious with the register, the assailants ran away. I remember the police had caught one of the perpetrators as he was running down the street carrying the register.
The following morning, when I got to A-block, Tyrone came to the medicine cart. After taking his meds he smiled (down) at me and said, “Michelle, you know I didn’t do what they be saying I did, right?”
“You never do, Tyrone,” I answered. “You’re a true Shawshank inmate.”
“No! I be serious,” he exclaimed. “You read the paper where they say someone beat up that guy and stole his money machine?” When I nodded (dumbfounded) Tyrone said, “That was me they be talking about!”
This admission in itself told me he was guilty as sin. Somewhat taken aback by the news, as no names were given at the time of the newspaper article, I asked, “Who was your cohort? Is he here too?”
“Yeah! Todd is over in H-block right now. They be holding him as an accessory but it be him who hit that man and dun stoled his adding machine! I don’t evenknow him, Michelle.”
“If you don’t know him, Tyrone, then how do you know his name and why are the police putting you two together in the crime?”
“I dunno. You hafta axe them,” he answered shaking his head in denial. Even the officers, at this point, were laughing almost to hysterics. Apparently it was important to Tyrone, this six-foot-eight and 305 lb. man, that I believed him and his big fish story. He finished up saying, “I was just there when it all went down and now the po-lice be saying I was involved and all.”
I couldn’t WAIT to get to H-block! I still had B through G-blocks to finish with before I could find “Todd.” The officers were laughing at me because I kept hurrying them up and I told them why I was hurrying too. I was snapping at them, “Come on! Let’s do this … bust a move, fellas!”
Finally, at long last, I got to H-block and Todd came down for the medications that were set up by the previous nurse. I introduced myself as one of the nurses and let him take his pills then I said to him, “So Todd, Tyrone was just telling me about that guy who got robbed.”
“Man! That was some f**ked up shit, you feel me!” Todd answered while shaking his head as he spoke. I really thought for sure he, too, was going to deny his involvement as well as his relationship with Tyrone. Instead, he went on, “Tyrone and I be hanging out all day getting high. Den, we got hungry and went to get sum-thin’ to eat. Next thing I know, Tyrone wanted to rob the man. He be talking about taking his money and his little money machine he had on the counter.”
“Then you do know Tyrone,” I said more for clarification than anything else.
“Yeah, man, we be cuzs – his mama is my auntie.” Using his hands as he spoke, he continued on, “Anyway, Tyrone ripped that machine up from the counter and when the man came around the way, Tyrone knocked the shit out of him with it and took off out the doe! Five-O caught him running down the street with the adding machine in his hands still full of money.”
Did I mention that Todd was five-two and about 130 lbs.?