We were misguided to think Arabella would receive mental health treatment while incarcerated. Everything was happening so slowly with the courts and before we knew it a month slipped away. Last Monday Paul started the process of calling around to see what inpatient programs would accept an inmate. She had to meet the criteria of being suicidal or homicidal to be admitted.
Tuesday Arabella called collect from jail. Paul and I connected our phones together so Arabella could talk to the intake person at the treatment center. She was in this inpatient program three times before and they said they would be willing to take her again.
Wednesday we had a phone conference scheduled with the lawyer. We told him Arabella would be accepted into a mental health inpatient program. He moved up her bond hearing and arraignment for Friday morning.
Thursday we followed up with the treatment center. They said they still had an opening since they were releasing several patients that very day. But they also said they weren’t sure if they would accept Arabella because even though she met the criteria several days ago she might not meet it when she came in. We really weren’t sure what was going to happen. What if they didn’t accept her? Would she come back home? Being delusional and self-harm didn’t meet criteria for admittance. They were worried she might be seeking treatment just to get out of jail.
Late Friday morning, Paul and I headed to court. I was so anxious I literally felt sick. My stomach burned. I felt like I was going to throw up and/or pass out. I saw my daughter for the first time in over a month in handcuffs and an orange jumpsuit. She was making small talk with the bailiff. He was asking her what she learned from her experience. After the lawyer came in, the judge was called in. My daughter pled not guilty to her criminal counts. Then the judge said he would release her to an inpatient treatment program. We were to be agents of the court and provide transportation to the clinic. If she was not accepted, she needed to go back to jail. Upon completion, she is also supposed to report to jail. I felt more secure in the fact she was not going to be coming home.
Paul and I decided to go to a buffet for a quick lunch and then head to the jail to pick Arabella up. We thought we could just walk in and she would be ready to go shortly. Again, we were misguided. The receptionist said she did not receive paperwork from the court to release our daughter to us for treatment. She told us to take a seat and we ended up sitting there for 4 hours. Thankfully I brought a book with me because it was not my first rodeo at the mental hospital. At least I knew that would take a lot of time and was prepared to hurry up and wait.
Because of COVID, they no longer have in person visitation at the jail. Instead in the lobby they have kiosks set up where you can do visits on a computer screen. We sat in a row of chairs with our backs to the kiosks. People came and went. It was hard to focus on my book.
There was a mom with two toddlers running around the lobby. She kept screaming at them. Before she left she told the kids to say good-bye to daddy. It was a little quieter for awhile. Then there was a woman who came in that screamed and hysterically cried the whole time. She kept asking what the inmate wanted her to do with their shit. There was a lot of swearing and yelling so it was hard to sit with my back to her and read my book. At the end of the visit the woman was crying and telling the other person not to leave her. It was intensely personal and uncomfortable.
Then a mom and grandma came in to talk to a guy. Grandma said her cancer screen came back with good results. Their conversation was just an every day conversation about life. Another guy told someone to hang in there and that he was always there for her. There were multiple heartrending conversations going on at the same time. I never heard the inmates response because the conversations were over the phone.
Then people started coming in. One lady came in to get an electronic monitoring system. The receptionist said the person who does that was not in today and she would have to go back to jail. The woman said she could not be incarcerated because her lungs were too bad. She sat with us for awhile too along with another woman who was with her while waiting for the courts. Several guys came in for DNA samples. They received notification they had to come in Monday through Friday but when they got there they were told samples were collected on the weekends only.
There were signs on the wall telling people to report suicidal inmates which I thought was a joke. It is virtually next to impossible to get your suicidal inmate treatment. At 4 PM, the receptionist said the lobby was closing and we would have to wait in the night lobby which was unmanned. They still did not receive documents from the court and the courthouse was closing in a half an hour. We didn’t know what to do. We left a message for the lawyer and tried calling the courthouse with no luck. We thought about leaving. What if no one gets back to us because it is Friday night? And not just any Friday night, but the Cinco de Mayo night of a full moon.
People started being released. A young woman desperate and not sure what to do. Did we have a couple bucks for a bus pass? From everything I learned over the course of the last couple hours and months was that inmates are people too needing kindness and compassion. Then two men were released. They were a lot rougher looking. There was a big angry man swearing about not getting his Oxy back and an unkempt guy with a teardrop tattoo. I reminded myself they are people too. I was getting a little nervous but I didn’t want to show fear. I’m glad my husband was there. But they didn’t pay any attention to me at all. Then another man came out who walked close and stared at me. Finally Arabella came through the doors and we were on our way to the mental health center.
Arabella said she was in medium security at jail. Her cellmate was in and out of jail for manufacturing and delivering heroin, neglecting a child, prostitution, and stealing someone’s identity. She will be heading to prison for several years. It makes me nervous to think about the things she is learning in jail and the friends she is making there. And to think I thought the friendships she made in the mental hospitals were bad.
We arrived at the mental hospital and they were ready for Arabella with minimal wait. I again was misguided to think it wouldn’t take long since it took another 4 hours. Arabella arrived disheveled looking with a stained sweatshirt and granny undies that hung out of her short shorts exposing her cutting wounds. They took her back for the assessment which they said would take 45 minutes to an hour. Once again, I pulled out my book. Another couple came in with a teenage daughter. I guessed they were newbies since they didn’t bring anything to keep them occupied and spoke to each other in hushed worried tones. They wore the expressions of parents of the newly mentally ill. It’s so incredibly stressful. After awhile it wears on you and becomes just another part of who you are. You get used to it.
Two hours later, we ask if Arabella was still getting her assessment. We reminded the receptionist that although our daughter is an adult we need to be notified if they were going to take her because if not we needed to transport her back to jail. The receptionist assured us they would notify us. A psychologist on her way out stopped to talk with us. She told us they would know if our daughter was having delusions and be able to get her the proper treatment. She thought the system failed us and offered suggestions for support and resources we weren’t aware of yet.
Awhile later we were notified Arabella was going to be admitted. They said we could sit with her since it would be awhile before she could be admitted. She was in the back room singing. That is another odd behavior lately, randomly singing in public. The intake person let us visit for awhile locking us in with Arabella.
By the time we got home that night and ate supper it was close to 10 PM. We accomplished what we set out to do which was getting our daughter treatment. It took a lot out of us, though, and we feel totally exhausted. But sometimes being a parent is doing everything you can do to help your child.