Having been on “R” block in the CCHOC for a couple months, I have had a front row seat to observe the failure of the jail to address or even make a serious effort to address the plight of the mentally ill within its walls. The HOC is rife with mental illness. Many of its prisoners are here because they are mentally ill. Those who are mildly mentally ill on the outside frequently become dangerously so on the inside. The jail seems to be designed to take people who are a little crazy and drive them completely out of their minds.
There is no apparent therapy provided for mentally ill people here, except for a couple of meetings a week for the chemically dependent. There is, as far as I can tell, no psychiatrist. A psychologist, Barnes Peterson, who lacks the training to prescribe, makes the decisions about medication and passes them on to a Physician’s Assistant, who prescribes. These two frequently change people’s medication, then have the medication ground and dissolved in apple sauce. . . even though some of them are time release medications. This is completely irresponsible, as grinding many medications destroys the time release mechanism.
Then there are the “suicide cells”. These are cells where self-harming prisoners are kept. The cells do not have padded walls or any safety features, except two large windows in the doors, and security cameras. They contain a solid steel bunk, bolted to the wall, and a sharp steel shelf. The cells are on “R” block, which houses 30 other men, and are right under the TV sets. Male and female prisoners are placed in these cells, where they must use the toilet in full view of those who watch TV 16 hours a day. Humiliation is just part of the “therapy” for suicidal females.
Prisoners in these cells receive almost no attention from the mental health professionals at the jail. Last night, August 8th, a prisoner in R-108 was banging his head on his bunk for about an hour. The C.O. on duty called his supervisor, and looked shaken as he got off the phone, and told another C.O. what the orders from on high had been: “let him”. A half hour later, the prisoner in question had opened a large gash on his forehead. He was dragged out, stitched and bandaged, and returned to the cell, from which the blood had been mopped. That is the level of “care” provided here. As I write, there is blood splattered on the windows of R-108. Other prisoners tell me that they heard yells of “Stop resisting!” all night from this cell.
The lesson here is simple: If you are mentally ill, don’t fall into the clutches of the CCHOC. You will be subject to neglect, humiliation and abuse. Nobody will help, and nobody will care.