Psychotic break

Hastings, William D.



Psychotic Break by William D. Hastings Aaron paced the cell endlessly, all through the night, mumbling incessantly in vicious whispers and angry vehement curses. He had taken a razorblade from its casing and kept it pinched between thumb and forefinger, slashing at the air as he went. He was off his meds and hadn't slept in three days. He was unpredictable and utterly terrifying. Aaron had been diagnosed with his particular psychological malady and classified as severely mentally ill. In most circumstances, individuals such as him are housed in the psychiatric unit or special treatment center. However, in some instances, if the behavior of the inmate in question can be regulated with medicine then he is released into the prison's general population. As long as Aaron made his scheduled medline appearance every morning and evening he was fine. He slept for at least twelve hours straight, waking only to go to medline and then to work in the chow hall. When he was awake he was obviously and visibly in a dazed, drugged state. His eyelids were perpetually drooped, his speech was slowed but not quite slurred, and there was an overall impression that he was mentally moving through molasses as he reasoned, reacted, and interacted. This isn't the existence I would choose for myself or a loved one, but for Aaron it appeared to be what passed as closest to normalized or regulated. This was his version of being fine. Aaron was scheduled to go home. He had served the time the judge had sentenced him to, but he had no family or friend who would take him in. This is far more common than most might realize. Rather than the Department of Corrections doing its job and finding a suitable place for the individual they just violate the inmate which means he has to serve his scheduled parole time in prison and essentially extends his prison term by two to three years. The criminal justice system at its finest. However, since the powers that be have to give the appearance of trying to place the inmate in a halfway house or homeless shelter, they also go through the entire charade of processing the inmate for a release. Aaron had a new picture taken along with his fingerprints. He was made to sign several documents in anticipation of a release from custody which wasn't actually coming. His meds were discontinued and a two week supply of them were prepared to be given to him as he walked out of the prison. Instead he never left, and his meds were never restarted. It was a precipitous falloff in Aaron's behavior. Within days he was sleeping less and more visibly irritable. He began quietly mumbling or chuckling to himself. He would get in the bed, roll around for awhile, then get right back out again. By the end of the first week he was pacing and arguing with, presumably, whomever he was hearing or seeing. Besides Aaron and I there were four other men who shared the cell with us. When one of my cellies asked Aaron to please lay down or be quiet Aaron raised up physically like a cornered racoon and let loose with verbal threats of violence and promises to carry out these threats. Prior to this Aaron had been sedate (and sedated) and a complete milquetoast. At ten days in the ordeal his rants and arguments with invisible or imagined individuals was a constant and he hadn't slept in three days. It was also at this point when the razorblade became a component of his psychosis. While Aaron experienced a psychotic break from reality I lay beneath my blanket, wide awake and terrified that I'd have to somehow defend myself against this razor-wielding lunatic. I spoke to every security staff member that crossed my path. The correctional officers referred me to the sergeant, the sergeant referred me to the lieutenant. Every one was quick to pass responsibility on to the next person. Lieutenant Danish was pot-bellied and gave the impression of a clean-shaven, surly Santa Claus. He was skeptical as to the veracity of my claims. He listened out of a sense of politeness or duty. It wasn't until I confronted him for three consecutive mornings with tales of Aaron's abnormal behavior that he finally said the most he could do was report Aaron to a mental health professional so he could be evaluated. It was better than nothing. At this point I'd only been able to snatch snippets of sleep an hour or two at a time. At night my exhaustion eventually overcame my terror and I would lapse into slim unconsciousness only to be jolted awake by Aaron's increasingly loud ravings. I'd lay awake for long minutes and hours until I had to get up and go to work. Aaron was still working in the chow hall. They had discontinued his meds, not his job assignment. I could sleep some when he was gone. Aaron's erratic behavior was showing at work and his coworkers reported him to their supervisor. The supervisor was apathetic and paid no attention, took no action. Aaron was called out for an impromptu call pass. He saw the psych doctor and apparently was able to mask his mania enough so that he was sent back to the building. Lieutenant Danish had set up the meeting and he reported to me that since the mental health professional hadn't found cause to remove Aaron from the general population there was nothing he could do. Neither he nor the psych could force Aaron to take his meds. He also couldn't just take an inmate to segregation for no reason. I replied that I wasn't saying I wanted Aaron in seg, but that it was only a matter of time before he did something segworthy. That could mean attacking me and forcing me to defend myself, or antagonizing another individual to the point of violence. I told Lieutenant Danish that Aaron needed help. Lieutenant Danish said that the psychologist didn't see it that way so there was nothing he could do. He shrugged and simply stated; "That's the way it is." The next day at lunch Aaron's instability was on full display. Lieutenant Danish had to order him to sit down and eat several times. A C/O had to tell him to just be quiet and eat because he was ranting in a loud voice. Food flew from his mouth and across other men's trays. When some of the men at the table with him took offense at this disgusting intrusion Aaron threatened all of them. He called them all faggots, pussies, and bitches. That's pretty much the prison trifecta of "fighting words." By which I mean that, in most circles, to let such egregious insults stand would be tantamount to admitting that those statements were true. Aaron's compromised state of mental heath was a nonissue, and didn't make him exempt from reprisals. I was performing my duties as a housing unit porter (janitor) and was taking the garbage out to the dumpster so I had an ironclad alibi with multiple C/Os as witnesses. It turned out I would need it. As I eventually made my way back to my cell Aaron came rushing down the hall toward me. He was bleeding from a split lip and his left eye was already visibly swelling. Aaron walked straight into the officer's control bubble and started raving and yelling. That is a completely unauthorized area for an inmate, and a place where no one in their right mind would ever dream about going. Aaron was handcuffed and Lieutenant Danish was called to hear Aaron's grievance and deal with the situation. The announcement came over the speakers for everyone to return to their cell. A few minutes later Lieutenant Danish sauntered up to my cell with a cocky strut. "Okay guys, who did it?" My outrage over his indifference and incompetence up to this point got the better of me. "Are you serious? I've been telling you for days this guy was losing his mind. You saw him in the chow hall. The C/Os on the walk back from chow heard him going nuts and yelling nonsense and they just laughed about it." "So it was you then, was it?" Lieutenant Danish brimmed with confidence and grinned like the cat who ate the canary. "Nope. It wasn't any of us," I said. "We would've done it days ago. That's why we came to you in the first place, but you didn't do anything. I wasn't even in the building. I was taking out the garbage." Then I named the four officers who could attest to that fact. My reveal and my tone smeared the smirk from his face. At this point I didn't in fact yet now what happened, but I assumed my cellies were all innocent. "Show me your hands," Lieutenant Danish demanded. He was pissed and all business. He inspected my mitts for any signs that they had recently been used to assault Aaron. He repeated the ritual with my remaining four cellies, questioning them as to whether it was them, who did it, or if they had seen who did it. Each of the shrugged and mumbled in the negative. "No one knows anything huh? Big surprise." He scoffed at our convict behavior and left he cell in a huff, taking his entourage of three officers with him. Aaron was taken to seg for fighting and for unauthorized movement. His description of his attacker wasn't helpful in the least - black guy with a bald head. It didn't really narrow down the search very much. According to my cellies, that description was little more than a shot in the dark since Aaron hadn't ever actually seen his attacker. He was one of the offended men who sat at the chow hall table with Aaron. He had followed Aaron back to the cell and put a chokehold on him from behind until Aaron ceased struggling and lapsed into unconsciousness. A couple of sharp cracks of Aaron's face against the concrete floor accounted for the split lip and swollen eye. One of my cellies worked as a porter in seg, and for months he would bring back horror stories/reports of Aaron behaving more like a beast than a man and being treated as less than human. This is what often happens to the disenfranchised mentally ill in this "enlightened" society.

Author: Hastings, William D.

Author Location: Illinois

Date: August 20, 2018

Genre: Essay

Extent: 6 pages

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