OKLAHOMA CITY - A man who was arrested twice in two weeks, is still in jail for crimes his family said he only committed because he’s schizophrenic.
Terrance McDonald was diagnosed a bipolar schizophrenic a year ago. He got it under control with medication, but or the first time since then, he’s been in relapse.
“I just need somebody to help us,” said his mother, Nicon Thomas. She’s desperate, trying to find a way to protect her son, but has only run into dead ends.
Then near the end of April, McDonald was tased and arrested by Nichols Hills Police after they found him walking down Pennsylvania Avenue naked. Police initially charged him with public intoxication among other charges, but those have since been dropped.
“You see somebody who`s presenting the signs of PCP, or methamphetamine, or whatever the drug may be, you kind of go with, well that`s what they`re going with,” said Nichols Hills Police Off. Brandon Edwards, “and if they`re not going to talk to you, you can`t make a further call if it was a mental health issue."
McDonald spent more than a week in the county jail. Because he's an adult without guardianship, there was little his family could do to get him treated.
"He's not getting the medication so it`s making him stay at a child`s mind where he`s confused," said Thomas, adding that he doesn't know who he is, let alone his family or the world around him.
So when he was released in the middle of the night Thursday, he was arrested less than an hour later for stealing and eating food from Local 7/11.
"They just let him go," Thomas said, "him not having no type of understanding of where he was, who he is, where he was going."
It's frustration shared by many with incarcerated loved ones, but at the Oklahoma County Jail, Cpl. Tara Hardin said there's only so much they can do.
"If they are not a danger to themselves or an immediate danger to others, and that`s not just saying that, you know, long term we think they might be, I`m talking about an immediate danger to others," Cpl. Hardin said. "It`s against the law, we have to respect their rights. They still have rights as adults to live a free life, and we cannot hold them against their will for that."
Treatment is provided to inmates with mental illness, but with continued state budget cuts to mental health treatment, the system doesn't move quickly. Also, treatment is rarely forced on a patient.
"It is a revolving door, and particularly with those that are mentally ill," Cpl. Hardin said. "We see them quite a bit."
She said 50-percent of inmates suffer from mental illness. It's a cycle of incarceration the case managers at TEEM, or The Education and Employment Ministry, work to tackle everyday with through various advocacy programs.
"We`re not really addressing it the way that we could to lead those people from returning to the criminal justice system," said case manager Haley Stevens. "Treatment`s going to be how we stop that. Sending them to jail for a couple of days to sober up, they`re going to return."
A broken system leaving those like McDonald on a dangerous path.
"My son needs some help before something really bad or he gets killed," Thomas said.