Tag Archives: social work

What do you mean, you want me to speak in Open Court?!

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.

You Can’t Adopt Inmates?

I mean, obviously you can’t adopt an inmate. You can’t adopt grown-ups. I know about boundaries with my clients, not being “too invested”, having good self-care, blah blah blah. Doesn’t change that every so often there are several inmates that I would gladly take home if I could.

I think movies like The Blind Side make it seem right to take in grownups/or close to being a grown up seem like such a nobel idea. The entire adoption process of children is much more complicated. Once you turn 18 it’s like good luck, try to have a good life with no support system. I see more grown ups that are emotionally stunted because they had horrible childhoods and minimal to no support system.

As a human, you will come in contact with a variety of people who touch your heart in various ways. Some leave lasting impressions. Some you never want to see again. Then, there are some that if it were allowed, I would take home in an instant! I’m pretty vocal at the jail that I want to take some of the inmates home. People joke around with me and ask frequently who I want to bring home today. We laugh it off. I am mostly joking….mostly. I won’t take anyone home. This doesn’t stop me from wanting to.

Part of the reason I became a social worker is because I wanted to fix the world. I want to leave it a better place than I found it. Some of my supervisors over the years have said I have a “bleeding heart” and that my goals are unrealistic. Who cares if they are unrealistic? First, this pisses me off because who the hell is anyone to tell me that wanting to change the world is unrealistic. Change starts with one person, that’s it! I’m not saying that I will save the world, but wanting to save the world, why would anyone try to stop someone from attempting to do so?

Second, when did we all get so comfortable with the bystander effect? I’m a little disgusted that even among other social workers, there is this idea that some of my clients issues aren’t my problem and someone else with deal with them. Who is this magic someone else? Why is there always a someone else to deal with that specific issue? We try to make almost everything someone else’s issue. It’s not our job. It’s not our responsibility. People don’t want to take on other people’s problems. No wonder it is so hard for people to get mental health treatment. They have to go through many people, several agencies, countless pages of paperwork, then wait several weeks to months before even seeing a therapist or prescriber. People we consider high-functioning wouldn’t think this process is acceptable. For someone who is labeled with a mental illness, labeled a criminal, is homeless, whatever; this process becomes incredibly more difficult; if not almost impossible.

No system is perfect. I see countless issues within the system I work and don’t know where to even begin to start a conversation for implementing positive change. People are also uncomfortable with change. Not the point, with a flawed system it makes it seem more realistic in my mind to just take these people home. I know I can’t fix people. I know I’m not this amazing person that brings happiness wherever I go. I do know that change starts with the person who wants to change. But, I do have tools and skills to offer to these people. I do also have a warm heart that can give comfort and empathetic support.

There are things in this world I will never understand. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely LOVE my job. I love the population I work with. There are days that are challenging. There are people who are challenging. The system gets me fired up at times. I am passionate about what I do, which people might mistake for weakness or being “too invested” (clearly I hear this term used often). As I have said before, I don’t think that being invested in a negative. Even if other people view that as a flaw, I will not change that. I will not apologise for that. I just wish there was better collaboration between agencies to help these inmates. I wish there wasn’t so much stigma attached to people who have committed a crime. Truly, anyone could easily get caught up in the judicial system, this does not mean this person no longer has value.

I just hope for a better world. I hate having conversations that focus on the limitations of what we can do as therapists/social workers. I don’t like being told that my ambitions are too high. That’s the problem with our society. Even if I don’t come close to my goals, I would rather attempt to get there and accomplish something than set my standards lower and accept things as they are. I may never see the changes in this world I wish to see, but I am sure as hell going to try.

Social Work Struggles

I returned to work on Monday. One week post-op. No real issues in that department. What I am sad about is that some people at my job tell me I’m too invested. This really irritates the living daylights out of me! We live in a culture that is very self-centered. Everyone’s main focus is on themselves.

I think if people spend a little more time being selfless instead of selfish, our society would function just a little better. I am all about self-care and being self full, but there has to be a balance. I hate when another social worker tells me I’m too invested in my clients, because that doesn’t seem like a very social worky thing to say. I thought that was the whole point of my job, to actually give a crap.

I think every therapist or in any line of work people have their favorite clients/patients/whatever. I definitely have mine, but I’ve also been told by my peers that while they know I have my favorite inmates they do not see me give them any special favoritism. I appreciate that feedback, I try to treat everyone equally and work equally as hard for all my clients. As a social worker, and more importantly, as a human we form attachments to people.

Forming bonds are so rare and special. People share things with me that I’m sure they have never shared with another person in their lives. I’m also positive that people flat-out lie to my face. Everyone has a story. Everyone has trauma. Everyone is a human. In my job specifically, I think the inmates are frequently seen as just that: an inmate, a criminal. It’s not always so black and white.

It surprises me that in 2015, we are still thinking with such rigid judgments on people, myself included. There are several inmates I would gladly take home. I tell the majority of my co-workers I want to take inmates home. However, I do have good boundaries and haven’t and won’t do that. But there are people in there that are funny, charming, smart, kind-hearted and absolutely worthwhile. There are some that I think exactly the opposite of. Regardless of my opinions or anyone else’s we are all people. We are all searching for the same things in life: love and acceptance.

There are several people at the jail, that if it weren’t for the guidelines of my job, if I would have met them outside of jail I probably would have been friends with them. We forget how easily any one of us could be inside a jail for making a mistake. Some choose to make worse mistakes than others, but some people are stuck in a system that is difficult to get out of.

Basically, I’m irritated that people tell me I care too much. What does that even mean? Why is that a bad thing? I can tell you I will NEVER change that. That doesn’t mean I have poor boundaries. That doesn’t mean I’m not good at my job. That doesn’t mean I coddle inmates. That doesn’t mean that I need to work on my self-care or be involved in my own therapy to sort it out. I care because in my heart I feel that it’s the right thing to do. I care because too many people don’t give a s**t about anyone or anything. I care because I believe it in my heart and soul to be a positive thing. It gives me hope to care, because the world can be a cruel place. I also know I am not alone in my thinking and am so saddened that we live in a society where caring is viewed as a flaw that needs to be fixed. I refuse to accept that. I refuse to change my heart. I refuse to give up on people that everyone else wants to throw away.

At the end of my life, I want to know I gave every ounce of my soul to helping and loving others. Showing emotions is a strength. We need to be more open and accepting of that. I have always had a tender heart and used to feel that I needed to change that. As I got older I have learned to embrace it and am so proud that in a society where it isn’t easy to be sensitive, I am not afraid to be me. I can be a henious b***h, don’t get me wrong. I will always stand up for what is right. Maybe if we took an extra moment each day to be a little kinder, to be less judgmental, to embrace our own emotions we could really make some major positive changes. Just maybe we could each give a little bit more…