Frustrated Mother Describes Her Psychotic Son’s First Day In Prison

Photo by Jenn Ackerman

Photo by Jenn Ackerman

This email arrived over the weekend.
Dear Pete, 
 I remember my son’s first day of kindergarten like it was yesterday. The angst I felt when dropping him off and watching that timid little boy walk to the front door. Tears from the realization that my “baby” was growing up and would eventually have to face this harsh world without me. Worrying about whether or not he would be treated with kindness by the other children in his morning kindergarten class.

There have been many “first days” through the years, but none like Tuesday.

Tuesday was my mentally ill son’s first day in the prison unit he’s been assigned to. What a horrible week this has been. The intensity of this particular angst, the depth of the sorrow in my tears, and the heart-wrenching worry over how he will be treated by the guards and inmates is unlike anything I’ve ever felt in my life.
 There is a pain piercing my heart every moment of every day. This is a “first” that no parent should ever have to face – especially the parent of a mentally ill child.
My son should be in a mental hospital – not in a prison cell, but the laws in this country and the “dangerous” criteria for involuntary hospitalization have precluded my ability to get him meaningful treatment for thirteen long years. Even the few times when I was able to get him into a hospital, he was released within 72 hours, either due to insurance kicking him out and/or due to the fact that he was not a “danger” to anyone. He has never been hospitalized long enough to receive the treatment he needs and get stabilized on medication.
I would never have believed a parent could live a nightmare like this. We were an affluent family in Texas and my son was a fun-loving intelligent kid who loved life — until his illness struck at age 18. Never could I have imagined this horror. 
Through the years, his mental illness has created one disaster after another in his life, in our lives. Living with ongoing fixed delusions and psychosis, he is unable to make sound decisions and there was no way he could keep up with all the meetings, payments and the stringent requirements of probation. He tried to and wanted to keep probation, but his mind wouldn’t let him. He ended up homeless and trapped by delusional thinking.
Our ridiculous laws protect the mentally ill adult’s right to be psychotic and allow them to remain untreated. Even his public defender recently emailed me and admitted that she agreed with me, but the laws kept her from doing anything to help him get treatment.  Laws that must be changed. Because of this, my son is now in a prison cell, and most likely dealing with strange and scary delusions of why he was placed there, not understanding it at all.
Tuesday was his “first full day.” There will be many more for him and us to face. 
Please keep him and us in your thoughts and prayers. I sometimes wonder how much more heartache we can bear. I’ve heard it said, “A mother is only as happy as her least happy child.” As long as my child is suffering, I honestly never feel happy, truly happy, anymore.  And I certainly don’t know how my son keeps going through all this, especially in light of how little he really understands the “why” of it all.
The state of Texas literally owns him right now. To be honest, I can’t understand the “why” of it all or make sense of the injustice – how can a mentally ill person process it?
I know most people can’t possibly relate to this strange journey we are on, but I do know you care. And that gives us strength. Thank you for loving my son.
M- A Frustrated Mother.
*Jenn Ackerman’s photo at the top of this blog was taken when she spent months inside Correctional Psychiatric Treatment Unit (CPTU) of the Kentucky State Reformatory (KSR). She is a courageous and talented photographer. You can read more about her work here.
About the author:

Pete Earley is the bestselling author of such books as The Hot House and Crazy. When he is not spending time with his family, he tours the globe advocating for mental health reform.

Learn more about Pete.