The Problems of Managing Mental Illness While Incarcerated Are Given the Spotlight in “Jailhouse Stories”

Despite how many times you've seen the "holding cell" trope in sitcoms, nothing really prepares you for the experience of jail. 



I'm just saying you probably won't be wearing shoulder pads and pastels.


The Texas Jail Project exists to improve conditions for the nearly 65,000 incarcerated individuals in Texas country jails, especially when it comes to the issues of poor medical and prenatal care, inhuman conditions, extended pre-trail detention, and insufficient treatment of mental illness. And estimated 20-40% of Texas inmates are battling mental illness within a system that is entirely unequipped to properly care for them. Medication is often substituted with solitary confinement, and with disastrous results. During 2014 and 2015, 47 people committed suicide within the Texan county jail system — 80% of whom were awaiting trail and had not been convicted of any charges. The Texas Jail Project is hoping to bring this severe problem to light with its Jailhouse Stories initiative, which outlines the experience of several individuals who have struggled within the existing system — some of whom are no longer with us.



The stories include those of Adan, a 25-year-old Iraqi war veteran with severe PTSD, schizophrenia, and depression, who is routinely kept in isolation and mistreated whenever he experiences an outburst. His mother chronicles Adan's decline over the years, how he seemed to lose all essence of himself while institutionalized by a system that currently diagnoses him with "psychosis not otherwise specified."


Even more tragic is the story of Victoria Gray, who–in the grips of schizophrenia–continuously begged the staff for her necessary medication. When her repeated requests were denied, Victoria hung herself. Her father, John Gray, later testified about Victoria's death and what he claimed was the jail system's lack of accountability:


Jailhouse Stories is made possible by a grant by the Public Welfare Foundation, and has been online since March 2014. You can learn more about the program here.


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