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Jail needs to treat mentall ill better
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Editor, My name is Tina Watson. I was an inmate at Liberty County Regional Jail from June 17, 2010 to July 7, 2010. I suffer from mental illness and am considered mentally disabled. I was placed in a “suicide room” twice during my time in jail. While in this room, my treatment by jail staff was tortuous, degrading and inhumane. It was a direct violation of the United States Constitution, amendment 8.
This suicide room has nothing in it but a toilet and a sink. It is considered “padded,” but the floor and walls are quite hard and the room is kept very cold. I was dressed in a paper gown and placed in this room upon my arrival at LCRJ. I was kept in this room for five days my first visit and four days the second time.
It is procedure that no blankets or mats are given. I was told only a doctor could approve clothing, blankets and mats. So I slept on the floor. I was allowed a thin blanket my first time in the suicide room. I was told if I “gave them any trouble” the blanket would be taken.
The floor in this room is similar to a tile or cement floor, in that the floor would not warm under my body. It instead pulls heat from the body, which left me shivering, with my joints and bones aching.
The floor is dirty. I had open cuts on my arms when I entered this room. They were left open, untreated and became infected.
I had a sink but was refused soap, a toothbrush or toothpaste. I was denied even the right to wash up. I had no basic hygiene products the five days I spent in this room. Again, I was told only a doctor could approve these items. During my second time in the suicide room, I was allowed to wash up after three days.
This room is on a main hallway in the jail and has a floor-to-ceiling window. I had to sleep and sit in the paper gown, which was in shreds after day two. I also had to use the toilet in plain view of all. Everyone passing down the hallway could see into the room, including all jail staff and other inmates, both male and female. Staff and inmates would pass and make comments about me. Many people passed by and laughed. Male inmates made sexual comments to me and asked me to reveal myself to them.
I was given no utensils to eat my meals with and when I complained I was told “to use my hands and fingers,” which were filthy.
During my second visit to the suicide room, I was denied a blanket. I was very unhappy with this decision and was placed in a restraint chair. This chair elevated my legs and I was in the paper gown, so my private area was visible. Even though two female officers were present, a male officer shackled me to this chair and while doing so, he forced me to open my legs. I was then placed in the window, facing the main hallway. I begged for some covering but was refused.
I never saw or talked to a psychiatric doctor or other psychiatric professional during my entire stay at LCRJ. It was at the staff’s discretion that I was placed in and taken out of the suicide room. The staff was insensitive and unknowledgeable about mental illness. There was no accountability and procedures were altered depending on staff.
People placed under arrest and taken to jail give up their freedom and many of their rights. However, every person has certain human rights that cannot be taken away, and mentally ill or disabled people have special needs that they deserve to have met.
If the Liberty County Regional Jail is unable to care for mentally ill inmates in a manner that does not violate their basic human rights, then these inmates need to be housed elsewhere.

Tina Watson
— Anniston, Ala
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