“We Don’t Want You Here” The Judge Told Her Psychotic, Homeless Son

Shaylon homeless on the street. Photo taken by a friend who later lost track of Shaylon.
Shaylon homeless on the street. Photo taken by a friend who later lost track of Shaylon.

(1-22-18) Dear Pete: We are a family with not a lot of means. We have tried in many ways to help my grandson. Please publicize his case. His mother (my daughter) Laural Fawcett recently wrote this account.*

Thank you. Janet Capella. 

Here We Go Again On The Merry-Go-Round Of Horrors, written by Laural Fawcett

Shaylon, my son, has had a number of psychotic episodes which led him to harm himself and others.

Severe visual and auditory hallucinations caused him to leave home and end up on the street. He recently spent a year-and-a-half in jail (he was released in June 2017) because he thought a pedestrian passerby was attacking him and trying to set his feet on fire. This occurred in San Francisco where he often ends up when he is hallucinating. For some reason he, and many others like him, are drawn to San Francisco.

I just finished my training as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT). In the last couple of weeks, I showed up at Shaylon’s two court hearings. (He was picked up for failing a probation check-in.) What a total, farcical, miscarriage of justice and waste of my time except for the precious opportunity to get a glimpse my son. He was medicated but obviously in psychosis and not well.

The judge repeatedly said, “We don’t want you here. You don’t belong here and you need to stay away from San Francisco.”

He didn’t speak to other criminal defendants, prior to my son, in such a condescending manner. In fact, other defendants were offered programs and assistance.

My son was told, “We can’t keep monitoring you.”

My son’s probation officer was reassigned and his new probation officer wrote up a travesty of a report asking him to be extradited to Fresno. The courtroom erupted in laughter when the judge said, “Contrary to popular belief, Fresno is not a foreign country so we cannot extradite him.” Neither treatment nor acknowledgement of my son’s medical diagnosis were offered. Compassion was in short supply but immature snickering and cruel comments were plentiful.

The court told Shaylon to leave the city — permanently — and ordered him to be released to the streets, again, at an unknown time. I was ignored and marginalized even though the public defender tried to alert the court that I was present on my son’s behalf as advocate and caregiver. I wasn’t allowed to speak.

I had to travel to Fresno that day to finish my old apartment walk-through to end tenancy and get my much needed deposit back. But my needs and my son’s needs were not considered.

Now, once again, Shaylon’s whereabouts are unknown.

The public defender’s department is saying that the probation department is responsible for providing access to treatment and housing services.The probation department is saying that the public defender’s department is responsible for providing treatment and housing services. Meanwhile, no treatment or housing services are being provided by either.  Behind the scenes I discuss how to implement said services with my son’s prior assigned probation officer. It remains to be seen.

Why are people with neurological brain disorders being incarcerated? Why isn’t my son getting treatment for his psychosis?

Medical professionals and others should be asking, “What is the purpose of the health care and mental health care systems?” In my opinion, the purpose of the healthcare system, and this weird, dangling, anomalous part of it called the “mental health care system,” is to bring a person to optimal health. That can’t be done in the criminal justice system.

Some of the scariest, most dangerous patients I deal with, as an EMT, have dementia or Alzheimer’s. They’re medically fragile, confused, and unpredictable. They require tremendous amounts of care and resources, and can wreak havoc on the healthcare system and those who try to work with them. We don’t let them wander the streets in misery. We don’t discriminate against this population the way we do the seriously mentally ill.

I stand alone. I’m indignant about the injustice against a person, with a grave disability, who happens to be my son. The court forces me to abandon him to street-life hell and homelessness. The court is telling Shaylon to disappear.

He’s being stripped of his humanity.

*A slightly edited version of this letter was first published on the website SOONER THAN TOMORROW: A Safe Place To Talk About Mental Illness In Our Families.

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.