Jails fail to accommodate people with mental illness. In some cases, it’s a civil rights violation.

©WITF: Martha Stringer, at left, talks with her daughter Kimberly Stringer, at right. The Stringers have filed a lawsuit against Bucks County Correctional Facility employees after Kimberly was pepper-sprayed and restrained while detained there while suffering from a mental health condition.

Healing Through Culture: Increasing access to Native American practices to treat mental health

Wayne Wilson, standing in a hogan at the Native American Baha’i Institute in Houck, holds eagle feathers he uses in traditional healing ceremonies. © Laura Bargfeld/Cronkite News

California is trying to house the homeless through a health insurance program. It worked for this man.

Donald Winston adjusts the blinds moments after moving into his new apartment — the first-ever home of his own. ©Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times

With few other resources, people with behavioral health issues find treatment in jails and prisons

Nova Jaswan lost the tip of her middle finger when a cell door at Fulton County Jail closed on her hand.
Credit: Ellen Eldridge/GPB News
Nova Jaswan lost the tip of her middle finger when a cell door at Fulton County Jail closed on her hand. Credit: Ellen Eldridge/GPB News

Georgia Public Broadcasting (GPB), July 8, 2022, by Ellen Eldridge: Nova Jaswan would like to stop using cocaine. And she’d like help with some of the other issues that feed into why she uses cocaine.

I’m schizoaffective; I have PTSD and I have mood disorder NOS — not otherwise specified,” she said. “And I have autism nonverbal learning ….”

But she has no health insurance, income, or transportation. Not even a state ID. The only place she has been able to get any psychiatric care is in jail or prison.

She said she was so embarrassed about her situation that she left her son with family rather than have him find out how his mother was struggling.

“I said, ‘Well, I’d rather be a jailbird than a street rat, and I’d rather be in prison than doing drugs on the street,’” Jaswan said.

Unable to find adequate resources elsewhere, Jaswan, now 29, cycled through Georgia’s criminal justice system from 2015 through her last release from jail in May 2021.

Despite settling her court case in February 2020, she waited until earlier this year for transfer to a behavioral health program where she could access a psychiatrist, get help with housing, and find employment.

She’s not alone in her cyclical situation.

Read more from Georgia Public Broadcasting here.

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