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National Alliance on Mental Illness
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A NAMI Voice: The Ultimate Cost of Criminal Mistreatment

My son Chuck was 46 years old when he died in October of 2000. His story is one of neglect—no outright, cruel mistreatment by the criminal justice system, from which I was shut out, forbidden from coming to his aid. Chuck had a long history of health and mental health problems and was under the care of a psychiatrist and receiving several medications for years. He also had a history of drug abuse, which he battled formany years, and ultimately led to his last arrest.

That’s when Chuck’s final journey started. After I bailed him out of jail, and he hired an attorney, Chuck was found asleep in his car in possession of "a controlled substance" and was jailed in the county jail on October 18th, 2000. His brother, his friends, and I had been trying to find him for several days when I received a letter from the police addressed to him, advising him that they were in possession of his personal items. We frantically began calling the police department. They did not admit that an arrest had occurred, but referred us to the county jail. I called his attorney to see if he had heard from Chuck and he had not. We called the jail repeatedly and they had no record of his being there. After several days, they finally admitted that he had been there all along. When I went to visit my son on visiting day, I waited all day but was never called. At the end of the visiting period, I asked why. I was told that Chuck was subject to discipline and could not have visitors.

The next day we learned that Chuck was in the hospital and was not expected to survive. The cause of death was determined by the autopsy to be neuroleptic malignant syndrome due to medication given Chuck while he was in jail. We later learned that when he was initially screened in the jail, he told them about his medications, but none of these drugs were given to Chuck. After several days of trying to get attention to his needs, Chuck attempted to hang himself. When he was discovered, they moved him to the part of the jail used to house the mentally ill. He was never given any of his prescribed drugs. Instead he was put on various other medications. He became more and more irrational, was strapped to a chair. Although Chuck had the classic symptoms of neuroleptic malignant syndrome, he was not given any medical treatment to combat or treat the syndrome nor was he taken off the medicine that caused it. He died because of total neglect and cruelty with no one to turn to for help.

Excerpt of comments presented by Jo, NAMI member and family advocate, at the NAMI national convention, Minneapolis, MN, June 29, 2003.

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