April 3, 2018

Honorable Judge Hicks
c/o Attorney Jason Kolkema
40 Concord
Muskegon Michigan 49442

RE: Tyler West – upcoming trial

Dear Judge Hicks,

I write on behalf of an ill brother in this world, Tyler West, requesting that you extend mercy in your judgment at his upcoming trial. You have all the facts. I do not, since I have never met Tyler West or his family. I do know that he has been diagnosed with autism and schizophrenia and has suffered greatly because of his neurological disorders. He has and continues to suffer terribly at the hands of a correctional system that cannot and does not provide adequate treatment for his illnesses. 

I’m fairly certain that every judge across our nation has been confronted with the horrific problem that the U.S. failed mental health care system has produced. The Tyler Wests of this world have been stuck between the revolving doors of treatment and incarceration, a situation that worsens the problem rather than providing healthy solutions. Tyler needs and deserves humane care in a setting that promotes health and healing, not punishment for symptoms of an illness.

I speak from personal experience. My son was incarcerated for symptoms of bipolar and schizoaffective disorders. He was never violent, never hurt anyone. Yet, he also got caught between the revolving doors of treatment and jail and prison. Four months after he entered prison (for a nonviolent crime while untreated in a state mental hospital, and because there were no other sources of help for him in the state of Missouri), he took his own life while correctional officers went about their business. He had lost all hope that anyone cared about him. His death has been devastating to us, and to all who know his story, even the judge and court system. We must change the way we treat those with neurological disorders in this country. We must quit looking the other way while others suffer.

Please do not sentence Tyler West to the same fate as my son — prison, helplessness, hopelessness. 

Very respectfully,
Anne Francisco

NOTE: If you would like to send a letter to Judge Hicks on Tyler's behalf, please send it, as above, c/o Attorney Jason Kolkema. Tyler's family goes to court with him today for his plea. In May, he'll be sentenced. The judge can sentence him from 20 months to 15 years.

Read more of Tyler's story on this blog:
Walk a Mile in Our Shoes by Kimberlee Cooper West - August 22, 2017
The Failure of Kevin's Law by Kimberlee Cooper West - Jan 10, 2018