PRINCE GEORGE'S COUNTY, MD (WUSA9) - A Prince George’s County father is devastated that his mentally ill son is not only locked up – he’s been in solitary confinement for months.
The 20-year-old, Khali Campbell, was charged with a violent crime, allegedly committed two days after he stopped taking his medication.
The Campbell’s same situation is playing out in jails across the country. When there are no beds available in mental health facilities, jailers are drowning in a crisis they’re not trained for or equipped to handle.
“He was my hero. He still is my hero,” said Khali Campbell’s father, Kenny Campbell. “Khali did so many amazing things that I could have only dreamed off.
Kenny said his son was a star athlete, an honor roll student and an avid reader.
“He just loved being perfect. He got all the accolades afterwards, so he just loved it,” Kenny said.
But in January, mental illness ravaged that perfection. A sudden, uncharacteristic breakdown landed him in Laurel Regional Hospital for a week. He was diagnosed with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, hallucinations and seizures due to manic episodes.
Doctors prescribed two anti-psychotic medications, but two days after he stopped taking them, Khali allegedly went on a one-night crime spree. He’s now charged with the armed robberies of a motel and restaurant in Laurel.
“You have to give them proper treatment. It can be managed. It can’t be cured, but it can be managed,” Khali’s father said. “Millions of people deal with this every day.”
Khali has been locked up at the Prince George’s County Correctional Center since January. For much of that time, he’s been in solitary confinement.
“The reason this particular individual was isolated is for his protection. And for the protection of our officers and other inmates,” said Yolanda Evans of the Prince George’s County Correctional Center.
In Prince George’s County, an estimated 20 percent of its 960 inmates are mentally ill.
“The majority of our staff are officers,” Evans said. “And they’re not trained to deal with the mentally ill.”
Inmates who are busy are easier to manage, so jail administrators said they don’t want to use solitary confinement.
“It’s basically the worst possible situation for someone who has a mental illness. The lack of stimulation, the ability to even know day or night depending on the facility, the lack of social contact,” said John Snook, with the Treatment Advocacy Center.
Maryland is one of only four states that isn’t offering assisted outpatient treatment to its mentally ill.
“What it would do is keep those sort of individuals who need care from ending up in jails. And get them treatment in the communities,” Snook said.
Khali’s next court date is in November. Until then, his father is in fear that his son will continue to deteriorate.
“You warehouse him like he’s cargo. He’s not cargo. He’s a human being. How inhumane can people be to warehouse a mentally ill individual, let alone my son,” his father said. “It can’t happen. You can’t do this to people. They don’t know what they’re doing.”
A recent national survey conducted by the Treatment Advocacy Center revealed that jails are seeing more mentally ill inmates than ever before. Yet, corrections officers are given on average, just two hours of training a year to deal with them.
To read the full national survey, click here.