Judaea Spent Five Days Going From Jail To Hospital To Jail, Mother Complains. What Did It Accomplish Besides Nightmares?

Sandra, Judaea, and Eugene Jones.

(07-19-2022) “Your son is in our jail.”

It’s been a year since Sandra Jones received that alarming phone call last July, and the Chesapeake, Virginia mother is still seeking answers about why her son, Judaea, then 18-years-old, ended up being arrested and jailed.

“This whole thing still bothers me,” Jones told me during a telephone interview.

What happened to Judaea is an example of how easily someone who is mentally impaired can become entangled in our mental health and criminal justice systems, and the trauma it causes families.

Sandra and her husband, Eugene, adopted Judaea shortly after they both retired from civil service jobs. The child was her husband’s great nephew and Judaea arrived with an assortment of diagnoses including Autism, Intellectual Disability-Moderate, ADHD, Anxiety Disorder, Conduct Disorder (impulse control), Shaken Baby Syndrome and Tardive Dyskinesia.

His new parents loved him and nurtured him, but by the time Judaea turned 18, he was becoming more than the couple could handle. “We wanted him to live independently, to have friends, and have a life outside our home,” Sandra Jones said. “We weren’t getting any younger and needed help.”

An incident with a TV remote

The couple found a nearby group home for Judaea where he received services from the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services (DBHDS) and its statewide program, REACH, which supports the needs of individuals who have a developmental disability and are experiencing crises which put them at risk for homelessness, incarceration, hospitalization, and/or danger to self or others. In addition, Judaea had a private behavioral specialist, Whitney K. Aulston, from LEAF Behavior Support, watching over him.

A psychiatrist monitored Judaea’s medications and during a weekly check, she noted that Judaea had begun “acting out and (becoming) threatening.” He was upset because he’d not been given a TV remote. Judaea began destroying property, refused to take his prescribed medication, threatened staff and went without sleep for two days. When calming techniques didn’t work, the psychiatrist, behavioral therapist, and the group home provider all agreed Judaea was in crisis and needed to be hospitalized. They discussed calling the police. But the group home provider balked. She explained that Judaea had become “explosive” a few days earlier during a car ride and when the police were called, they’d been “useless.” During that episode, the police noticed that Judaea had not been diagnosed with a mental illness. Without it, the Virginia Beach police officer, who responded, said he was unable to take Judaea to a hospital under what is known as an Emergency Custody Order (ECO.) An ECO permits police to detain an individual who is in crisis.

Autism Spectrum Disorder is neurological and developmental disorder that is listed in Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). People with ASD often have: Difficulty with communication and interaction with other people, restricted interests and repetitive behaviors, symptoms that affect their ability to function in school, work, and other areas of life. Generally, it is not considered a mental illness.

The police respond

Despite this previous unsatisfactory episode, the provider agreed to call the police and an officer was dispatched. Behavioral Specialist Whitney K. Aulston later wrote about what happened next.

“I spoke to an officer who didn’t give me his name and asked him what can be done when the young man threatened to harm himself, his peers, and staff. Judaea was currently lying on the floor with injuries from head banging (against a wall.) The officer said there was nothing he could do because it wasn’t actively happening. I told the officer that the young man was aware of the police and he’d stopped because they were present, but that he would engage in it again once they left..The officer suggested I call the magistrate. I shared with the officer that the magistrate will recommend a clinician (evaluation) and since the police are one of the people who can make a call for an ECO, why do I need to go to a magistrate when the officer can visually see what is taking place. The officer stated he won’t be making an ECO request and then hung up on me.”

Local mental health services in Virginia are administered by Community Service Boards and one of its licensed clinical social workers agreed to petition a magistrate for an ECO so Judaea could be taken to a hospital. The social worker noted that Judaea did not have a mental illness diagnosis.

“He is receiving services for Intellectual Disabilities only. Magistrate in agreement that client may not benefit from hospitalization…(but) the magistrate issued an ECO for Judaea’s own safety.”

The police returned to the group home and enforced the ECO, taking Judaea to an emergency room at a Virginia Beach hospital.

How did Judaea end up in jail?

While the ECO was sufficient to get the police to escort Judaea to an emergency room, a second step in the legal process was required to keep him there. In Virginia, this is called a TDO – Temporary Detention Order – which allows a person to be hospitalized for 1–3 days against his/her will if they meet certain criteria, such as being a danger to self or others. If an individual is hospitalized under a TDO, a hearing must take place to determine whether continued hospitalization is warranted. (Often called a 72 hour hold.)

When Judaea reached the hospital, a magistrate decided that Judaea no longer met criterial and refused to issue a TDO. The police left Judaea in the emergency room.

Sandra Jones would later be told that her son had agreed to remain voluntarily in the ER while the hospital looked for a crisis bed for him. While this was happening, he was given a safety plan in case he left the hospital on his own. “When I heard that,” Jones said, ” I asked, ‘Who gave him a safety plan? My son has the mental capacity of an eight year old boy.'”

At this point, Sandra Jones didn’t know Judaea had been taken by the police to the hospital. No one had notified her.

It appears Judaea waited at the hospital for emergency services to find him a crisis bed for 12 hours. Judaea eventually began yelling that he was being held as a slave (he is black.) He began spitting on windows and announced he was leaving.

Judaea was now more agitated so the hospital contacted the CSB (local mental health services) and asked it to persuade a magistrate to issue a TDO so the hospital could keep Judaea until a crisis care bed became available.

While a hospital security guard was escorting Judaea to a psychiatric pod, Judaea bit the guard’s finger. “It’s foggy what happened,” Sandra Jones said later, because the hospital refused to release any of its records about the incident, citing privacy concerns.

An arrest and more confusion

The police were called and the arriving officer stated contract security officer wanted to press charges and have Judaea arrested. The CSB urged the police not to arrest Judaea, saying that he needed treatment, not jail. It was searching for a bed. The police arrested him for misdemeanor assault and drove him to jail.

“I’m not minimizing what my son did,” Sandra Jones said. “He did what he did. It was wrong. But his two upper front teeth were missing at the time because he was getting a dental implant and he was in crisis. I thought the hospital would have known how to better handle this.” According to a police report, the security guard had scratches and was bitten hard enough to break through the plastic glove that he was wearing, although the bite apparently didn’t break the skin.

As soon as Sandra Jones learned her son was in jail, she called the Virginia Beach jail staff . “They were fantastic,” Jones told me. “I was worried about what might happen to my son but they assured me that they would keep him safe. I asked a nurse in the jail if my son knew what was happening and she said, ‘No. He doesn’t belong here.’ My son would later ask me why I didn’t come get him but I tried. I asked if I could bond him out, but I was told by a magistrate there would be no bond. ‘No bond?’ I said, ‘on misdemeanors?’ But the magistrate said ‘No Bond.'”

Beds Found, But Judaea Is In Jail

By now two potential beds had become available, but Jones had been told those beds would be filled quickly. Because of COVID, five of the state’s eight mental hospitals had stopped accepting admissions on July 9th due to staffing shortages. Despite this, on July 10th, a bed was found at Eastern State Hospital and Judaea was sent there from the jail.

The next day, Jones got a call from the jail. Her son had been returned to jail from the hospital after one day. “I was told Eastern State wouldn’t keep him because he didn’t have a mental illness. There was no treatment for his autism and intellectual disabilities.”

Sandra Jones called her state legislator and a Virginia Beach city council member. Judaea’s behavioral therapist was so frustrated that she posted a blog on her personal Facebook page seeking help. It was noticed by Teresa Champion from Virginia Autism Project, who is a nationally recognized advocate for individuals with autism. Champion began making calls.

Judaea appears before a judge for arraignment.

“I told the judge we had an acceptance letter to a REACH crisis home,” Sandra Jones said. The home was willing to take Judaea. The judge noticed the paperwork before him indicated that there was no bond, meaning Judaea couldn’t leave jail.

At that point in the hearing, an advocate from Virginia Beach Adult Correctional Services, who had been called by the CSB/DMHDS Services, approached the bench and persuaded the judge to release Judaea without bond to the group home.

He still faced criminal charges.  The court assigned a psychologist to determine if Judaea was “competent” enough to understand the charges or whether he needed to be sent to Eastern State Hospital to have his “competency restored” so he could stand trial.

“When I heard that,” Sandra Jones recalled, “I thought, ”Good luck with that. He has intellectual disabilities’ and has no idea what is happening.”

The psychologist told the court that Judaea’s competency could not be restored and the local prosecutor agreed to nolle prosequi – not process – the charges.

Unanswered Questions: Answers Needed To Prevent A Repeat

Sandra Jones wants to know why the Virginia Beach Police officers who had Crisis Intervention Team training didn’t do more when they were first called to defuse the situation. She wants to know exactly what happened at the hospital, which continues to prevent her from seeing its records. She wants to know why the magistrate’s order said NO BOND when Judaea could have been released from jail to his parents or sent back to the group home. She wants to know why the magistrate, REACH, the police, the hospital, the courts, CSB/DBHDS and state hospital didn’t do a better job communicating and dealing with her son’s crisis?

“This started on July 8th. My son endured five days of law enforcement interaction,” she told me in an email. “It included an ECO by police from the group home to the hospital, then hospital to jail, jail back to hospital, hospital back to jail, jail to Eastern State Hospital, Eastern State Hospital back to jail, court arraignment and final release on July 13. This was totally crazy and should be reviewed as unacceptable.”

She says her son was sedated and handcuffed while at the hospital and now is traumatized. “He has nightmares.” Judaea was recently diagnosed with Bipolar One. So much time, energy and money spent – so much pain – without anything being accomplished.

Judaea is now living at home where he receives medication management from his psychiatrist. He is participating in a community engagement program, receives intensive in-home support, behavior support and REACH mobile support through his Virginia Medicaid waiver.

A final question. What did any of this five day ordeal accomplish?

In the year since his crisis, Judaea has earned an applied studies high school diploma.


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.