Exclusive: Handcuffed by Mental Illness

Mike Mickle goes behind bars for in-depth look at mental illness left untreated

Inmates out of control.

"This is happening on a daily basis in the Scott County Jail," Sheriff Tim Lane said. 

A danger, to themselves, and others. Many waging a war with inner demons that torment them. 

"This is the Rock Island County Jail," Sheriff Gerry Bustos said. "We are not a mental health facility."

Behind bars and with each passing day slipping farther into a world that's far from reality. Leaving the inmate and the guards feeling handcuffed by mental illness.

Scott County Sheriff Tim Lane is taking us to a unit inside his jail that few are allowed to see.

"There's red suits in here," Lane said. "You don't see a lot of red suits in here today, there's red suits in here that require any kind of movement any time they are removed from the sub day room, there's a minimum officers. So, no doubt about it, we have to put more manpower into this part of the jail in order to handle this. Even though there are fewer inmates in here than there is in general population."

A red suit indicates the inmate has attacked a guard or another inmate. He's listed as dangerous to the general jail population and heavily guarded.

While others in the special management unit may not have attacked a guard or other inmates, they are still considered a danger to themselves. We witnessed that danger firsthand, as one prisoner banged his head against the wall and a guard asked him to stop.

The situation with the inmate escalates quickly. Guards must calm him or they will need to further restrain him.

While his behavior is alarming, it's not unusual. 

"Now this particular inmate it looks like, as the correctional officers talk to him it's calmed him down a little bit," Lane said. "So, he may be an inmate that is seeking some attention from the correctional officers. He may be wanting something in particular and wants to speed up the process so he gets it quicker so he's trying to get their attention." 

But just as that inmate begins to calm down, an outburst involving another inmate erupts.

"If you break that window, that's a criminal charge, just stop," a guard warned. "If you break that window, that's a criminal charge so please stop." 

"I ain't breaking no window," the inmate responded, as more kicking sounds came from the cell. 

Another inmate called out with, "He's a looney tune," as the kicking and yelling continued. 

"Some of them are personality disorders," Lane said. "They may be a defiance or anger management issue. Some of them are a lot more severe. We have inmates in there that we know have schizophrenia, paranoid schizophrenia, paranoia problems; some of them are bi-polar disease." 

All must be dealt with, but too many times, the guards are left to face the danger, while trying to save the inmate's life all while feeling themselves, handcuffed by mental illness.

We'll have part two of this story tonight on Local 4 News at 10. Mike Mickle heads back behind bars with more examples of extremely disturbing behavior, taking you inside the Rock Island County Jail on a search for answers to the growing problem of tackling mental health illness behind bars.


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