BUTTS COUNTY, Ga. (Atlanta News First) – A woman incarcerated in a mid-level prison in Georgia is now blind in her right eye after being overturned. The deputy minister responsible for it, did not face criminal charges, because police allege that Ashanti Walls lunged at them.
However, Walls’ attorney argued that his client’s mental health medication was withheld and subsequently punished for having a psychotic episode.
The case represents the myriad of challenges law enforcement officers face when dealing with mentally ill people in Georgia prisons.
The incident occurred on September 10, 2021; Walls has been at the Butts County Jail for five days now. According to prison records, she has also been biased twice before. Walls’ incident reports and medical records show prison staff describing aggression, delusions, and screaming. Staff also said Walls urinated and defecated herself in her cell.
Walls, 58, was diagnosed with bipolar schizophrenia, according to her medical records, but despite the incidents that occurred while she was in the Butts County jail, she was not given medication for five years. that day. In fact, her medical records show that she only received medication for her mental illness after losing her eye.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) investigated the incident and interviewed the sergeant who caught Walls’ eyes; Atlanta News First Investigates obtained video of the interview.
The third mission occurs when prison officers are entering Walls’ cell to serve a meal. In the video interview, the sergeant said Walls was in a “crouched down” position when she entered Walls’ cell and “I couldn’t see her.”
“As soon as the door opened… [Walls] Sergeant said.
The sergeant told state investigators her body camera malfunctioned, so it didn’t capture the moments leading up to the incident or the mission itself, only the footage afterward. Atlanta News First investigations in the prison obtained only one corner and no sound.
The sergeant said that she “had my duty, prepared … based on [Walls’ history].
“Something is wrong, mentally,” segreant said.
On September 12, 2021, according to records, a Grady Memorial Hospital doctor ordered Walls to take Zyprexa once a day, along with other medications. Zyprexa is the brand name of Olanzapine, which is used to treat mental health disorders.
“If there is no medicine, [being] Aaron Durden, an attorney for Walls said.
According to the policy of the Butts County Sheriff’s office, after someone is arrested and arrives at the prison, inmates should be segregated “to promote safety and humane treatment,” using “templates”. behavior patterns … and any special needs.” The classification, as a measure to reduce risk, is done when the employee completes the objective classification form.
However, when the Atlanta News First Investigator requested records to determine whether prison staff completed that process for Walls, the agency said yes. No profile.
“The worrying thing is why have a policy if you don’t follow it,” says Durden.
Instead of following and implementing procedures for dealing with inmates who have symptoms associated with episodes of psychosis, Durden said mentally ill people are subject to the punishment of a prong. “So it looks like the protocol has started [and] get ready to tease her, just do it,” he said.
GBI also asks about the type of force used.
“Under what circumstances would you use pepper spray instead of aerosol cans,” the GBI asked the sergeant during the interview.
“I’m not really sure,” said the sergeant. “In my opinion, I don’t think pepper spray can be successful because she was so violent and in an altered mental state.”
“I’m a mess…a nervous wreckage,” said the sergeant. “I would never intend to do that to anyone. It really hit me really hard.”
Walls have a different feel. “It’s point and shoot,” she said. “That’s hurt. Itchy. It’s painful. There are no eyeballs there. “
According to her medical records, Walls underwent an emergency surgery called an eyeballectomy, which removes the eyeball.
“When I cried, it burned,” Walls said. “And it’s just very annoying so I try not to cry.”
Jonathan Adams, who serves as district attorney for the Towaliga Justice Association, did not submit criminal changes to the sergeant.
“After careful consideration of the incident, I believe the Butts County Sheriff’s Office acted lawfully under the applicable statues,” wrote Adams, whose circuit includes Butts, Lamar and Monroe counties. in a letter.
Adams’ decision came after the GBI launched an investigation to determine criminal misconduct.
Atlanta News First has been trying to contact the Butts County Sheriff’s Office for comment on the case for several months, to no avail. However, after this story was first aired in our 4 p.m. newscast on October 4, a spokesperson for the office reached out to Atlanta News First and apologized for the delay. The spokesperson also confirmed Butts County Sheriff Gary Long was present for an interview.
At its core, experts argue, patterns of use of force involve training.
“When I went to my trainings, I asked what the best way to prevent tragedy was. I write on a blackboard or PowerPoint, ITTS,” said Dr. Laurence Miller, a nationally recognized clinical and forensic psychologist. “It stands for ‘It’s training, it’s stupid.’ “People do what they’re trained to do.”
Miller is also an expert in the use of force, and said law enforcement officers – especially those assigned to prisons – should get more training in unarmed force.
“You can have several staff members, where or four or five staff members can physically restrain an inmate but safely,” he said.
However, he maintains the best line of defense is assessment and treatment. “If this woman had been able to manage her psychotic symptoms in a medical way,” says Miller, “she probably wouldn’t have gotten into that out of control situation, but would have been in a state of anger,” says Miller. such fearsome anger,” Miller said.
Miller notes that even when provided with medication, staff cannot force inmates to drink in most cases.
In June 2022, the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council released its state study, reporting on identifying predictors of mental illness in Georgia’s county prisons. Research shows that people with mental illness are represented in county jails at twice the rate of the general population.
In addition, the average length of stay for people with mental illness is nearly twice the average length of stay for people without mental illness.
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