In the words of Stephanie Lummus:
One day in court, I met a man who seemed a little confused and very scared. He spoke in a whisper at all times. He told me he did not know why he was incarcerated, but that he would like to go home. When I asked him where ‘home’ was, he responded by saying it was an alley behind an abandoned factory. At that time, he had been in jail for 54 days on a trespassing charge. His speech was irregular and I thought that he might need mental health services. I agreed to represent him and try to get him connected with mental health services. Because of that the judge released him that day and I made arrangements for him to see a mental health provider. We did not hear from him again and he never made it to his appointment. I went searching for him at local shelters. They had records of him coming in for sack lunches, but they could not tell me when he would return.
Eventually a warrant was issued for his arrest and he was brought back into court again. I visited him in jail and spoke to him about how important it was that he see a doctor—someone that could help him be less confused. I arranged for the community mental health agency to interview him in jail. The social worker confirmed what I suspected—that he was in need of serious mental health treatment. I pleaded with the court to release him and I gave him a bus ticket to get to the treatment center once he was released. I told him how mental health treatment was so important—how it could literally save his life.
He eventually showed up at the community mental health agency. For the first time in his life someone treated him as a person, not a problem. He was diagnosed with schizophrenia, and given medication and therapy for treatment.
The Courts alone are limited to a kind of “catch and release” program that never addresses the underlying cause of the behavior. After ArchCity got him released and connected to services, things turned around for him. He goes to Places for People almost every day. He is quite literally a different person. He is aware of what’s going on, has a few modest goals, and he has a team of social workers devoted to fixing any area of his life that they can. I am still handling some older municipal cases for him, and he has shown up to every court appearance. And for the first time since I met him wearing orange and chained to a bench, he has a chance at a different life.