I am the mom of a 34-year-old son whose difficulties at birth introduced us to an ongoing struggle with the education system in SLO County. Once he was18, his mental illness became apparent and new symptoms crept in. Needing medication but not following through, his run-ins with law enforcement became routine.
During the past 13 years, my son has been arrested many times and given short-term stays in jail — never for violent offenses, mostly for being drunk in public. He would sometimes act out in jail, so they would keep him much longer.
The jail had a routine for these longer stays: My son sat in a solitary cell and waited for his court date. The judge ruled him incompetent to stand trial and ordered his psych medication. From court he went back to a solitary jail cell. This is an empty room with no contact with people until meals came. He was not allowed commissary, just an empty room with jail noise.
Waiting for his court-ordered bed at Atascadero State Hospital could take months. When he was finally taken to ASH, he was force medicated until deemed “competent to stand trial.” Then he was released back to the solitary jail cell to await a court date.
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This treatment and jail time have proven to be more debilitating after each long-term stay.
Tribune reporter Matt Fountain has made it possible for me to reach out to other families in the fight to save our children from a broken system. Thank you, Matt, for helping us.
Dawn Marie Anderson, Los Osos