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.

Loudoun County Sheriff Responds To Father’s Complaints About How His Son Was Treated During Mental Health Crisis

(4-19-18) I posted a letter Tuesday (17th) from a father in Loudoun County, Virginia who called the Sheriff’s Office for help when his son’s mental illness became difficult for the family to handle. The father complained about how Crisis Intervention Team trained deputies and the overall department handled the situation. 

This father’s son was released from the detention center yesterday (18th). By that time, he had spent seven days in a hospital receiving care and 30 days in jail, including five days in the Riverside Regional Jail two hours away from his home on suicide watch naked in a single cell.

He has been charged with seven misdemeanors and the father questioned in his letter why his son ended up being charged, arrested and held for a month without bond when his family called seeking help.

I forwarded his complaint to Loudoun County Sheriff Mike Chapman.   I am posting his version of events in its entirety unedited and without comment. I feel it is important for him to have an opportunity to respond and appreciate him doing so.

Given that this young man already has spent 30 days in jail, I hope the charges against him will be dismissed when he appears in court next month and he is able to get meaningful community mental health care. 

Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office

Dear Mr. Earley,

I am in receipt of the article you published entitled, “I Called Loudoun County Deputies for Help. Instead My Son Was Jailed. Hospital: 7 days. Jail:29 days and Counting.” As the facts and circumstances contained in your posting on behalf of the complainant are inaccurate, please allow me to address them factually, step by step. I think this is important as this response will serve to educate the general public regarding the intersection of mental health and criminal justice, mandated processes within the Commonwealth of Virginia, and the paramount importance of safety as it pertains to citizens suffering a mental health crisis, family members surrounding these individuals, and the safety of responding law enforcement officers.

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I Called Loudoun County Deputies For Help. Instead My Son Was Jailed. Hospital: 7 days. Jail: 29 days & Counting.

(4-17-18) (Update: Sheriff’s response posted on the 19th. Also, this is a letter to me. It is not about my son. Sorry for any confusion.)

Dear Pete,

My son was violent and damaging our home and threatening to kill himself.  He said he wanted the police to shoot him in front of me so it would be on my conscience.

Let me back-up for a moment.

My 20 year-old son has struggled with mental illness most of his life, early on he was diagnosed with ADHD, ODD, and bipolar. We have taken him to numerous therapists, psychiatrists, as well as trying multiple medications to regulate his mood and behavior over the years.

Recently, we noticed red flags signaling his mood was darkening. His behavior in our home was so unsettling that we felt we had no choice but to call the Sheriff’s office in Loudoun County. I specifically requested crisis intervention team trained deputies and I met with one of the first deputies on the scene to insure law enforcement was provided with  as much background information on my son as possible. I also described why I had called and specifically asked them not to hurt my son during intake.

We never expected what happened next.

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How Many Times Must We Say This? We Need To Stop Using Jails And Prisons As Mental Asylums

(4-6-18) In 2007, my book: CRAZY: A Father’s Search Through America’s Mental Health Madness, called attention to the inappropriate incarceration of individuals with mental illnesses. Several others have been published since mine, including No One Cares About Crazy People by Ron Powers. Now there is yet another new alarm being sounded.  INSANE: America’s Criminal Treatment of Mental Illness by Alisa Roth.

I always welcome books, articles, and other media stories that call attention to the number of individuals with mental illnesses who are incarcerated. Whenever I am asked, I always stress that providing better mental care for prisoners is desirable, but creating a better mental care system in jails and prisons must never become our nation’s goal.

What should our goal be?

Ending the practice of warehousing individuals in our jails and prisons who are clearly sick. I am talking about Super Utilizers. (Read Judge Steven Liefman’s House testimony here.)

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Americans With Mental Illnesses: A Different Standard Of Justice? No Charges Filed In Alleged Scalding Death

Prisoner dies in shower, but no evidence of foul play. Huh?

(4-9-18) Who is telling the truth about the alleged scalding death of a Florida inmate with schizophrenia – a state prosecutor or two investigative reporters?

On June 23, 2012, Darren Rainey, who was serving time for cocaine possession, was placed in a prison shower at the Dade Correctional Institution. According to news reports, the water was turned up to 180 degrees — hot enough to steep tea or cook ramen noodles. He was allegedly being punished by four correctional officers who kept him in the shower two full hours. Rainey was heard screaming, “Please take me out! I can’t take it anymore!” and kicking the shower door.

Inmates said prison guards laughed at Rainey and shouted, “Is it hot enough?”

Rainey died inside that shower. He was found crumpled on the floor. When his body was pulled out, nurses said burns covered 90 percent of his body. A nurse said his body temperature was too high to register with a thermometer. And his skin fell off at the touch.

That how the horrific event was first described by the Miami Herald‘s Julie K. Brown, who won a George Polk Award, one of journalism’s most prestigious prizes, for her investigative work. Her account was collaborated by Eyal Press in a lengthy piece published in The New Yorker. Florida Department of Corrections emails discussing how to describe the death were discovered later, according to The Miami New Times. And prison counselor Harriet Krzykowski gave the New Yorker other damning evidence that seemed to confirm that Rainey had been brutally murdered — and that she had been pressured to cover up evidence.

Late last month, Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle announced on a Friday afternoon that no charges would be filed because “the shower was itself neither dangerous nor unsafe…and the evidence does not show that Rainey’s well-being was grossly disregarded by the correctional staff.’’

News reports quoted Rundle saying, “Nobody can condone someone being thrown into a hot shower and killed. We read the same thing everyone else did, but it wasn’t until we really investigated that we learned that is not what happened.”

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THIS IS MY BRAVE: Northern Va. Performance Inspires As Non-Profit Group Flourishes. 20 Shows Planned In 2018

NAMI Northern Virginia President Jeanne Comeau, Fairfax Police Chief Edwin C. Roessler Jr., and This Is My Brave originator Jennifer Marshall after performance.

“One day we will live in a world where we won’t have to call it “brave” when talking about mental illness. We’ll just call it talking.”

(4-6-18) NAMI Northern Virginia teamed up with This Is My Brave to stage a powerful performance yesterday (Thursday) evening in Sterling, Virginia.

If you haven’t heard about This Is My Brave – The Show, you soon will.

Thanks to the boundless enthusiasm and smarts of its co-founder, Jennifer Marshall, and her leadership team, the grass-roots non-profit is flourishing.

Last night’s performance was its 38th since its founders, Jennifer and Anne Marie Marklin Ames, decided in 2013 to launch a Kickstarter campaign to rent a theater and produce  a professional-quality, stigma-fighting show about mental illness. Each performance is different because cast members are area residents who use a variety of their talents – personal essays, poems, music – to tell their recovery stories and the “brave” moment when they made public their mental illnesses.

This Is My Brave will produce 20 shows – that’s right 20 shows – this year alone in the U.S.

(It already has done two in Australia and is considering requests from other foreign nations.) In addition, This Is My Brave is the subject of a coming documentary, has been featured in Oprah Winfrey’s Magazine, and has its own Youtube channel where you can watch previous shows.  (This weekend, a This Is My Brave production will be performed in Fort Lauderdale.)

Jennifer explained that last night’s performance was especially poignant because today would have been her co-founder’s 60th birthday. Ms. Ames died unexpectedly last fall. Her passing caused Jennifer, who has bipolar disorder, to suffer a mental break, which she “bravely” described before the performance – a reminder that many mental illnesses never go away even though their symptoms can be treated and controlled.

The 250 seat Waddell Theater was filled near capacity when Jeanne Comeau, the president and CEO of the National Alliance on Mental Illness Northern Virginia chapter, welcomed everyone. Comeau has done an outstanding job building our local NAMI chapter into one of the nation’s best.

My son, Kevin, an original cast member of This Is My Brave, and I found ourselves sitting next to Fairfax Police Chief Colonel Edwin C. Roessler Jr, who has been a strong supporter of mental health reforms in the county, especially Crisis Intervention Team police training. I wish the entire Fairfax County Board of Supervisors and county officials engaged in implementing Diversion First  would watch a This Is My Brave performance. If they did, they would see proof of why jail diversion and strong community supports help change and save lives.

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Her Son Said She Was Homeless, Mentally Ill, Living In A Car. The Response: “Technically, She Has A Roof Over Her Head.”

 (4-2-18) For some time, Mike Gaeta, has been chronicling his attempts to help his mother, who was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder. He informed me his mother died recently, becoming yet another victim of untreated mental illness and our failed system. 

Tribute: My Beautiful Mom Showed Me What Strength and Courage Are

By Mike Gaeta  first published on his blog: Benevolent Neglect.

The real political task in a society such as ours is to criticize the workings of institutions that appear to be both neutral and independent, to criticize and attack them in such a manner that the political violence that has always exercised itself obscurely through them will be unmasked, so that one can fight against them.” –Michel Foucault

Despite my family’s best efforts to care for her and make sure she received adequate medical and mental health treatment, my beautiful mama passed away prematurely  at the age of 66.

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My mom at around eleven years old

My mom was the daughter of Mexican immigrant farm workers and the youngest of eight children. She graduated from high-school and received her Associate’s Degree from Fresno City College, despite having to work in the fields with her family starting from a young age. She would marry her high-school sweetheart, my father, shortly after his return from the Vietnam War.

My mom was a devoted wife, mom, sister and aunt and would defend her family fiercely from all injustices and dangers. One of my earliest memories of her protecting me involves her confronting an older boy who was bullying me when I was in first grade. In talking with him, she convinced the older boy to act as a bodyguard for me against any further bullying from anybody.

When she was not busy working or advocating for us in our schools, my mom enjoyed hosting and feeding extended family and our friends. Whether with her lasagna or albondigas soup, my mom would regularly showcase her excellent cooking skills. Her menudo was particularly good. To this day, my dad adamantly says he has never had menudo as good as my mom’s. In recent weeks, my cousins have reminded me how central my mom’s love, charisma and generosity were to our larger family’s closeness and happiness.

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