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What’s it like for a parent when your child goes to jail?
The first time my son went to jail, I was angry. He had assaulted his mother. I was in denial he was mentally ill. The last time he went to jail, I was thrilled. He could be off the streets, he’d be forced to take his medications. By now, I had accepted his mental illness.
There is no room in my state for long term treatment for the mentally ill. There is a waiting list to get in, unless the person has murdered. Even then, the ill offender is kept in county jail until there is an open bed.
Jails and prisons are our nation’s mental health hospitals. Entire sections of the jails are set aside for a prisoner who needs extra monitoring.
A jail’s waiting room is full of rich and poor citizens. Those of us not rich talk with one another. Top income folks sit by themselves. They’re unwilling to make eye contact with anyone. They’re embarrassed to be seen there.
When you walk into the room to see your child, you see long rows of chairs and screens. You sit and pick up the phone. Your child is on the other side of the screen. You talk by phone. Conversation is hard. In time, my son seemed like a son I once knew. He was drug-free and talked with clarity. I always made sure he had money on his “books” so he could buy candy and shampoo.
Jails are safer than the streets for mentally ill homeless people. They eat, they are out of the rain. As a parent, I had long since given up hope of “normalcy” for him. I was happy he was alive.
Until our states spend money for long term treatment hospitals, parents can only hope their child is in jail for non-violent offenses. I know my son won’t hurt someone walking down the street and will be watched by trained staff.
Embrace your child for becoming a productive member of society. This is only a fantasy for parents like me.
Michael Fitzjohn is a 100 percent service connected disabled veteran, abuse survivor. PTSD, life survivor. Read more from Quora below:
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