While I was at the jail today I was trying to get an inmate to a hospital on a 72-hour (M-1) mental health hold. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for people with severe mental health issues to be arrested and taken to jail instead of to a psychiatric facility. This is one of the things that makes me frustrated with the justice system as a whole.
This particular inmate had some minor misdemeanor charges. He also has a long history of mental illness. I met with him as he was on suicide protocol and he was non-sensical and definitely responding to internal stimuli (audio and visual hallucinations). Cases like his make me sad, because you just want these people to get the treatment they need and could really benefit from.
I knew he wouldn’t be getting stable in our care. This is just part of the territory of working in a county jail. I went to the bond commissioner and asked if there was any way we could get him out on a PR (personal recognizance) bond. The bond commissioner told me that I needed to speak with the judge. I’ve never done this before. I spoke with the sergeant and passed along that I needed to speak with the judge. He said we could go and ask for the PR bond before court today.
I went back to the mental health office and asked my co-workers what I say to the judge. I’ve never spoken to a judge before, and was nervous as to how I should address him. Do I still call him your honor since we are all working together? Do I call him, your majesty? Do I curtsy? Can I make eye contact? Can I shake his hand? They all laughed. I was only partially kidding. Seriously, do I call him your highness? That could be applicable.
I went with the sergeant to the judge’s chambers. We were waiting for a while and the clerk told me that I could ask the judge for a PR bond when the inmate is seen by the judge. In open court. In front of people. Mostly inmates, but still people. In front of deputies, attorneys and the judge. But, but, but….I don’t wanna do that. I hate public speaking. I’ve never done this and don’t want to look stupid. I know the judge is a person, like the rest of us. Not really, he’s a judge. He has authority and power. It’s intimidating. One of the deputies that I know fairly well was chatting with me and telling me what I needed to do. I was shaking. Like, I can not even begin to explain how much I hate speaking in public. I told the deputy that I was about to cry and throw up.
I’m so grateful this deputy and I are on friendly terms. He told me to come with him and speak with the judge in his chambers. Still intimidating, but I could at least ask for what I needed without passing out. Best of all, he granted my request!!! The inmate was getting a PR bond and would be placed on a M-1 hold and transported to the ER.
Holy cow, that was terrifying. I went back to the mental health office and only teared up. No full on crying here! Yes, I am fully aware that I am not a real grown up. I have no issues speaking with the chronically mental ill and being screamed and cussed at. You want me to speak with a judge in front of other humans and I will run far far away.
My sister is an attorney. I have so much respect for her. I don’t know how she can handle going to work. I’m at home playing with my daughter, decompressing and eating cupcakes and I’m still slightly rattled because I had to speak to a judge. I’m guessing next time won’t be as awful. I hope that next time isn’t for a very VERY long time.
My inmate buddy is on his way to the hospital to get some treatment. I hope it works. I hope he gets back on meds and stabilizes. I hope that in the future, people who have major mental illnesses are treated as humans and get the care they need. I also hope that someday we as a society don’t throw our mentally ill in jails because we don’t know what else to do with them.