From the first day I stepped foot in a jail cell, I immediately got a good taste of what it’s liked to be housed around the mentally ill. These prisoners are nothing like your average prisoner, starting with how they live and smell. While it’s common to walk past a mentally ill prisoner’s cell and see him passively strutting in his own feces and chanting tribal war cries with shit smeared on his face like warpaint, it’s absurd and ridiculous to hear and see prison and medical staff sit around and use this experience as a daily past time.
The mentally ill normally get nicknames that fit their character, their smell, or the sounds they make. They also get abused, tortured and neglected. Their meals are often denied in response to their disruptive behavior. At night you can hear their cries and feel their pain once the lights go out and the stable prisoners go to sleep.
You can hear them kicking, throwing things, singing incomprehensible anthems, ranting and raving and, most importantly, being manipulated by prison guards. These experiences occurred daily for me. In order to gain some compliance, staff created undocumented policies that made it fun and much easier for them to control these prisoners.
My very first encounter with a documented mental health patient was in San Angelo, Texas. His name was Maurice Smith. At first you would never know this innocent looking youngster had an inner spirit that could be compared to a scene from the movie, The Exorcist, and this is not said lightly.
I was housed in a two-man cellblock with the cells adjacent to each other. Upon his arrival, I studied him and followed his schedule to find a good time to spark a conversation with him. Once I saw him standing in the door looking out, I hollered over at him and asked him his name. I soon found out that merely acknowledging his presence is one good way to conjure this evil side of him which lasts for several hours and, on a few occasions, several days. When it is discovered that the latter has gone into effect, you have three officers (one on each shift) who takes matters into their own hands.
One morning, a few hours before lunch, I was laying down reading. I heard the main door to the cellblock open and a guard holler out, “Wake up bitches!” That’s all it took to get Maurice worked up and into battle mode. He and the guard named TJ went back and forth with the verbal consistency of a political debate. That is, until Marie told TJ if he would rape and kill his family. TJ opened Maurice’s cell door and challenged him to a brawl. Maurice continued to curse and rain verbal assaults on TJ. This guard was twice his size and twice as dirty. Once TJ stepped into his cell, Maurice is all up and pleaded for his life.
TJ grabbed him, stripped off his clothes and dragged him outside the cellblock and into a holding cell that had a chair that was used to restrain overly aggressive prisoners. Maurice was held captive like this for over 12 hours and he missed lunch and dinner, and urinated on himself in the process. I thought due to this he had learned his lesson, but I soon found out this would go on until I was transferred to State prison.
Every shift felt the wrath of his mental illness and no man, woman or object was exempt from his. I once glanced into his cell and saw him choking a spoon against the wall, screaming at it like it was his wife. Immediately upon seeing me watch with puzzlement, he straightened up, kissed the spoon and swore to never hurt it again.
Maurice wasn’t easy. He urinated out the food slot, spit on an officer, threw feces on them, and sang songs about molesting children called Chester the Molester.
I tried talking to several medical staff about his instability, but they claimed nothing was wrong with him, as did just about every officer that worked around us. They actually accused me of being the one that was crazy and used all sorts of tactics to give me a psych jacket.
I later found out that everything he did got documented in my case file and a lot of this was done to take light away from reality and shed it on me in retaliation towards my effortless attempts to get them to leave Maurice alone. I can’t say what the final disposition for him was, but I can say he is one of the many victims of an epidemic of abuse towards the mentally ill.
Jason Walker is serving 18 years for Aggregated Robbery.
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Jason Walker #1532092
9601 Spur 591
Amarillo, TX 79107