TOO MANY FAMILIES LIVE THIS PAIN by Jacque Cowger Mckinney

I have struggled with this post, but my husband, Steve, and I discussed it last night and decided we want to help educate, to the best of our ability, and to help make sense of some of the madness that surrounds us.

For a while, we knew that, in Illinois, a person has the right for a jury to determine their continued treatment in an inpatient psychiatric setting. We faced a six-person jury with an alternate to determine continued treatment for our child. We worried and dreaded the situation for weeks. How could six people, who had no experience or comprehension of this illness, determine our loved one's care? It seemed to me that a qualified physician should make that determination.

Well, yesterday, we arrived at the courtroom at 9:30 A.M. and left around 5:30 P.M. The decision was for continued treatment. I admit, after being sequestered ourselves, for five-and-a-half hours, we were frustrated and angry. But, after all was said and done, we realized that the world view of seven more individuals was changed forever. They were educated on the illness as well as the insufficiency of services in our state. One juror looked at us and said, “My heart breaks for you.”

I post this to say that, sometimes, we must be vulnerable and transparent for others to comprehend the nature of the beast we deal with, and for changes to be made. We’re not alone. Too many families live this pain. Please pray for change in our country for the care of some of our most vulnerable.

Jacque & Steve

Jacque & Steve

A DIFFERENT BACK TO SCHOOL by Elizabeth

This has been the longest summer I’ve ever had. Not the good kind of long summer. A bittersweet one. I should be getting ready to send off four little and not so little girls to school tomorrow. Instead, I’m sending three. I’ve never missed her first day of school. I’ve spent a summer I should have thoroughly enjoyed driving four hours round trip every other weekend just to see and hold her for not even two hours some visits. 

I know she’s getting help, and she’s doing really well, but she should be here. Excited to start her last year in elementary school. Excited to see the patient staff who saw past her illness and saw the little girl struggling to remain here instead of a shell. Excited to come home and tell me all about her first day. 

But instead, she’ll have to do that over the phone at 7:30 tomorrow night. 

If you’re sending your kids to school tomorrow, enjoy it. Despite the fact I still have three going tomorrow, nothing quite feels so painful and heartbreaking as knowing you’re not doing the first day of school with your child, especially a milestone one. 

I’m glad I’ll be home and mostly by myself tomorrow. I don’t think I could leave my house and go to work.

Elizabeth and her daughter, Eva

Elizabeth and her daughter, Eva

A POEM FROM SALINAS VALLEY STATE PRISON by Jorge Fajardo, Jr.

Dear Ms. Dede Ranahan,

I would like to express my appreciation for you response to my letter. Also the card. It really reached me at a good time. Thank you. I'm sorry you lost your son. I couldn't begin to understand how you feel. I'm sorry. The blog is a very good thing.

I'm at the mental hospital now and a lot of way out things happen here and it's like no one cares for anyone here and a lot of people here don't even belong in prison because they're so far gone. It's sad they even got convicted when you can clearly see they weren't ever stable.

I find myself trying to help them and get yelled at by the cops to mind my own business like they thrive on their suffering. It's disgusting. My toilet was broken for two weeks with piles of feces in it. I asked if I could eat my lunch in the dayroom cause the smells made me nauseous and they said, "No, I got to eat in my cell."

I felt dehumanized like I was some kind of animal. Prison disgusts me. I'm tired of it. Receiving mail is my way out. So I appreciate that. I would never ask for anything else. Mail is a blessing.

Much respect,
Jorge

Lonely ways, depressing days,
How much time will I have to pay?
Pain in my chest, it gives no rest.
On lonely days.

Click, click, clack the door goes smack.
When the day begins.
Click, click, clack the door goes back,
When the day ends.

Over and over as the days go on.
When will this time end?
Only time can tell...

Till then, depressing days
Cause my lonely ways.

By Jorge Fajardo, Jr.

Read more correspondence from Jorge on this blog: April 25, 2018. Click on it in the Archives on the right side of the page.

Jorge has no family. You can write to him at this address:
Jorge Fajardo
#AN9115
Salinas Valley State Prison
(PIP) C-5-131-L
P.O. Box 1050
Soledad, CA 93960

Salinas Valley State Prison

Salinas Valley State Prison

A LETTER FROM CALIFORNIA STATE PRISON by Travis Christian

Dede,

I haven't been reading your book lately. I borrowed some books from someone at my church so I've been concentrating on finishing them. I want to do the exercises in your book. I cherish your book. I read it slow. I'm going to start reading it again. So now that you think I never read the book you got me jlk :-)

I still haven't heard if your visitor's app has been cleared. I'm looking forward to your visit.

The Carr fire has affected the air quality a little bit here, not too bad. We have been praying for the firefighters and families affected.

I'm getting along good with my new cellie. I play less guitar. We get tired of each other sometimes. But overall, I feel blessed to have my cellie. I like him a lot. We're building a friendship. He's like family. 

I still battle my mental illness. I've had some obtrusive thoughts that plagued me and made me fearful but I recognized they were just thoughts. I talk to my clinician about them.

Thank you for the birthday card. We don't get anything for birthdays. I'll probably work out and make something to eat. Thanks for the virtual cupcake :-)

Well, I'm glad you got to visit your daughters. I love Tahoe. I used to drive there to grocery shop sometimes when I lived in Mono County. I went to Carlsbad with my family one time. It's a nice area. What is the Retreat Center like in Encinitas? I mean what is a retreat center? Do you do something every year for the anniversary of Pat's passing?

I think of my dad all the time. I'm sorry for your loss. When I think about my dad, I smile. His memory is so fond to me, it's like a treasure I'll always keep. I can't wait to talk about Pat and him.

That's good your back to working on your blog. I know you helped my mom and myself. You helped my mom a lot. Thank you for doing what you do. I pray you continue to be a blessing to many more moms, dads, inmates, and mentally ill people. I pray God gives you the endurance to get your book published, the perseverance to see your dream come true, and the patience that produces character, and character that produces hope.

I am in contact with Jorge. My mom has been sending him cards and drawing material. He wrote me a poem so I wrote one back to him. He's my buddy. I write to him.

I'm sending good thoughts to you now. I look forward to meeting you. I'm going to seal this letter with love.

Love, Travis

See more correspondence with Travis on this blog: Feb 3, Feb 10, Feb 27, March 14, April 18, May 16, June 6, 2018. Click on the stories in the Archive on the right.

Travis's Mailing Address:
Travis Christian
BB8099
B1-2-11
California State Prison - Sacramento
P.O. Box 290066
Represa, CA 95671

California State Prison   

California State Prison

 

UPDATE ON TYLER by Kimberlee West

Our 19-year-old son is autistic with a serious mental illness but never mind that. Those facts are not factors within the Department of Justice. Tyler was sentenced to 20 months to 15 years. The judge checked 20 months — the minimum. Ty has already served 544 days. He will be transferred from jail to Jackson, Michigan prison. Once there, he'll meet with a parole board who will decide if he serves five months or 13 months or more.

Ty plead guilty to the home invasion (sleeping on our neighbors sofa) and a CS3 (third degree criminal sexual conduct in Michigan). There were no victim impact statements. None of the victims ever came to court. He will have five years of probation. He could come home in five months to one year and one month. He could be placed in a halfway house. There's no circuit court for mental health. There's no real treatment or help. There's lots of money involved and fines. Tyler had every reason to fight but dragging this out  could have added an extra year onto his sentence. It's exhausting when, as parents, we do our very best and it still isn't enough. We hope to God Ty survives prison. He's not a fighter. He's a sweet kid. 

The court gave us one hour notice, today, for Ty's plea. The prosecutor tried every trick including trying to renege on our deal of no more than 20 months for both cases. He tried giving Ty three more years. He tried to put Ty on the sex offender list. He was unsuccessful. We're thankful for our private attorney who stopped that with a statue and case law.  Even though the girl involved told the hospital nothing happened, our chances with the jury were slim. Juries usually don't vote "not guilty" for mentally ill people.

We need a law that says it's illegal to take advantage of a disabled, handicapped person. People used to understand what handicapped meant. Now it's politically incorrect and we call it an intellectual disability. Legally, this means someone knows better after 17 and can be charged like everyone else. Our attorney had a downs syndrome person sentenced to 10 years. This is what we've become. It's shameful. I've worked with kids with disabilities for over 35 years. They were born that way. Yet, for reasons beyond my understanding, the court doesn't recognize that. The burden should be on the prosecution to prove that disability was not a factor in committing a crime before the disabled person is charged with a crime. 

If my son were on drugs or alcohol, he'd get a break. If he were a vet, he'd get a break. 
If he were a violent offender, he'd most likely be released. The inmate, who beat Tyler up and knocked him out cold and then fired a gun at someone, was released from jail. Yet Ty's still there. 
He's simply seriously mentally ill. 

We haven't spoken to Ty since he left Muskegon. He's quarantined for 30 days. It's standard for entering Michigan prison. We have no way to contact him except by mail. We tried to put money on his phone and commissary accounts but were not allowed to do so.

Thank you from the bottom of our hearts to many of you. Thank you for writing letters, supporting us, and praying through Tyler's trial. We'd love to give bear hugs to every one of you who supported us. Your kindness is overwhelming. Please continue to pray for his safety and release.

Tyler

Tyler

See more stories about Tyler by Kimberlee West. Click in the Archives on the right hand side of the blog.

August 22, 2017 - Walk A Mile In Our Shoes
November 15, 2017 - Hope One Day We'll Have Real Choices
January 12, 2018 - The Failure of Kevin's Law