Inmate in mental health story released from jail

cjarvis@newsobserver.comMay 7, 2013 

  • The story so far

    North Carolina has struggled with mental health reform since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1999 that states had to treat people in less-restrictive settings. The state has reduced institutional beds, but it has largely failed at building a network of community treatment options, wasting hundreds of millions of dollars in the process, a News & Observer series showed in 2008.

    In 2007, two UNC studies looked at the mentally ill in North Carolina’s county jails and found broad problems with recognizing mental health problems in inmates, a failure to provide proper medication, and a lack of communication between jails and community treatment centers.

    As a result, the General Assembly enacted a law in 2008 requiring all county jails to screen inmates with a standardized mental health assessment, allow local mental health management entities to review the daily booking logs for patients they might know, and work with the local entities to make sure mentally ill inmates receive the right medications.

  • Read our 2008 series (PDF)

— James Taylor Jr., the man featured in a Sunday story in The News & Observer about the plight of mentally ill prisoners stuck in county jails, is free after three months in limbo. But whether he will receive the psychiatric help he needs remains uncertain.

Assault charges against him were dismissed in Wake County District Court on Monday, and later that day he was released from the county detention center. He has returned home to live with his parents in Raleigh while they try to have him evaluated and treated, according to his mother, Juanita Taylor.

James Taylor, 46, is an example of thousands of prison and jail inmates in North Carolina who languish for weeks behind bars while awaiting psychiatric evaluation or treatment. Often their conditions deteriorate because they are not given the proper medication. Many are arrested on minor charges.

Some of them are stuck in a no-man’s land when they are judged mentally incapable of proceeding with the criminal charges against them, but they are not determined to be a danger to themselves or others and so cannot be involuntarily committed. That drags out their wait for a bed to open somewhere in a treatment center; there aren’t enough beds in communities.

Taylor’s parents called Raleigh police in January to commit their son to a crisis center. Instead, they took him to jail and booked him on charges of assaulting his father and a police officer.

He has been waiting for an evaluation from Central Regional Hospital in Butner, which finally arrived in time for Monday’s court hearing. The report recommended Taylor be committed for psychiatric evaluation. But that recommendation is no longer in effect because the charges were dismissed.

The Butner report recommends Taylor continue to receive psychiatric treatment after his case is resolved, his mother, Juanita Taylor, said Tuesday. She said a therapist at Wake County Forensic Services told her that her son had been receiving shots at the jail and had stabilized.

Juanita Taylor said the local crisis center wouldn’t admit him on Monday night because he had stabilized. The family is now waiting to see a therapist to determine what his options are.

Juanita Taylor, who has been granted legal guardianship over her son, said he is willing to seek treatment. The episode began over the winter, when he refused to take his medications for bipolar disorder.

Researcher Peggy Neal contributed to this report.

Jarvis: 919-829-4576

News & Observer is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service