After Jeff graduated from high school in 1995, he attended the School of Ministry for a year at Calvary Chapel Church, Applegate Christian Fellowship. Jeff loved the Lord and people. He moved one hour north to help with a Godly mission. There, Jeff worked for Campus Life and was assistant soccer coach for a high school team. Jeff also made numerous missionary trips to Mexico to spread the gospel of Christ.
When Jeff was about 25, he moved to Southern California, where my parents lived. He started doing some odd things, like living on the street, etc. His dad and I just thought Jeff was doing what young people sometimes do, but we sure did wonder about his behavior. He kept moving around and didn't always keep contact with us. He moved from one shelter to another. Now I can look back and see it was mental illness slowly creeping in on Jeff, but we didn't know it at the time.
Jeff drove to Illinois for a telemarketing job by way of Kansas. In Colby, Kansas, he tried to use the credit card, and a sheriff's deputy took out after him. Jeff led law officers on a 20-mile, high-speed chase. During his escape attempt, Jeff called his dad on the cell phone and said, "Dad, I'm in this high-speed chase, I'm scared, what do I do?" Officers eventually threw out the spike strip and arrested Jeff.
Now comes the bad part. During the first three weeks that Jeff was in the Colby Jail, Jeff's dad talked with him most often. Then his dad called me and said, "I can't take this any more, he is out of his mind," For the next 18 weeks, I talked to Jeff almost daily. It was obvious to me that Jeff was delusional and paranoid. That is when I realized that my son was mentally ill.
I talked with Sheriff Rod Taylor many times, trying to get him to give Jeff a mental evaluation. Sheriff Taylor flatly refused. For 18 weeks, Jeff was in a solitary cell, a room that was only 6 feet by 8 feet. The only opening was the size of a dinner plate. IT WAS AWFUL. They did many horrid things to Jeff. He was stripped naked and thrown back into solitary. They also put belly chains on Jeff, because when we was allowed into the exercise yard, he damaged a chain link fence. Where were the guards who should have been watching Jeff if he had time to take apart a chain link fence and run?
Throughout this time, Jeff's symptoms of mental illness worsened. He told me that everyone at the jail was an avatar and that the jail had no real humans. He said a lot of mentally ill things like this. All of our phone calls were recorded, and I expected the jailers to see Jeff was sick. But Sheriff Taylor told me, "Your son is not mental; he is just being belligerent." The sheriff denied Jeff's mental illness throughout the 18 weeks Jeff was there.
I could see Jeff's mental condition was rapidly deteriorating in solitary confinement. We have no money to hire a good attorney, so Jeff suffers. I told my best friend, "If this keeps up, they are going to drive Jeff into schizophrenia."
Finally Jeff took the Kansas plea deal, although he was too sick to understand it during the court proceedings. After that, Jeff was shipped to a jail in Boulder, Colorado, where he had stolen the car, phone and credit card. Jeff did these crimes when he was trying to escape whomever he thought was chasing him. I don't think Jeff was thinking of his behavior as "stealing." He had no criminal record at all from his teens or early 20's and only minor infractions after he started living homeless.
I called our local mental health judge, Pat Wolke, and he advised me to call Boulder Jail as they were transporting Jeff to that correctional facility and tell them that Jeff was mentally ill. I did that, and Geoff Getz told me Jeff was in a holding cell and was just fine. The next day, Jeff started screaming that he was going to kill himself. By the end of that day, he was in a padded cell.
While Jeff was in the padded cell, totally out of his mind, I don't think Jeff even knew where he was, thinking the jail's personnel were all avatars. Jeff was desperate to get away from whomever he thought was chasing him and had captured him. So he lured a guard into his padded cell, and there was an encounter. Jeff says the guard hit him and he did NOT hit the guard, but that charge will sentence Jeff to prison. What upsets me most is that I tried to tell the Boulder jailers how mentally ill Jeff was from spending 18 weeks in Colby, Kansas enduring solitary torture, but they wouldn't listen. Therefore, Jeff's altercation with the guard happened.
Interestingly, only 14 days after Jeff arrived at Boulder Jail, they sent him to Pueblo Mental Hospital for two months. He was diagnosed as having paranoid schizophrenia. Sheriff Taylor in Colby Kansas Jail had insisted that Jeff was not mentally ill, but he was wrong. I am extremely unhappy about those 18 weeks Jeff spent in solitary and feel strongly that solitary confinement worsened Jeff's mental problems. I was sent an article by someone from N.A.M I. that says putting a mentally ill person in solitary is like pouring gasoline on a fire, and that is exactly what happened to my son. It is horrible.
Jeff returned to Boulder Jail from the mental hospital, and about one month later they moved him to a jail nearby to serve 34 days. They did not take his meds, and neither did they offer him his meds at this new jail. So Jeff thinks he has been captured and is being held by avatars, thanks to the jailers not making Jeff's psychiatric drugs available to him. Guards just walked to his cell one day and said, "Come with us." Jeff had received no notification that he was being transferred and had no opportunity to go to his locker. Therefore, Jeff decided he does not need medication. He has Anosognosia, which is very typical for many mentally ill people. Anosognosia victims are unable to see that they are mentally ill; they think what is in their brain is real.
In early April 2013, Jeff will be sentenced. Because of Jeff's altercation with the guard when he was totally mental, he may go to a prison for violent offenders although my son is no more violent than the man in the moon. This has been a long, hard journey. The mentally ill are not going to get better in jails or prisons. They need counseling and help, not incarceration. A counselor told me in the 1980's that mental institutions were losing their funding and that the mentally ill would then be homeless. I did not have any idea at the time that this would some day affect my son. It is AWFUL. Mentally ill people like my Jeff face such huge challenges, and incarceration only exacerbates their condition.
I could write a book about the abuse my son has gone through. Almost every official we encountered during this ordeal has lied to us about Jeff, except the judges. I may never trust the justice system again after what we have endured over the last 14 months and the situation Jeff now faces as a prisoner for being mentally ill.
I was an elementary school teacher until I got sick. My entire family has disowned us. They are too embarrassed over Jeff to help us in any way. But I will be there for my son as long as I live. I told Jeff, "I will never leave or forsake you," and I won't. If it gets to be more than I can handle, I will try to make sure someone is helping him even after I die.
Jeff has sent me instructions for his funeral. This is a warning, I am quite sure, as the suicide rate is high among bipolar people and schizophrenics. Please help my son.
Wendy Benedetti and her son need help: an attorney, financial assistance so that she can travel to visit Jeff, and encouragement from people who care about what they endure. Jeff should be a hospital inpatient, not a prison inmate, and certainly not in solitary confinement torture. Dogs are not treated that way. Please contact Wendy at the email address firstname.lastname@example.org or comment below if you can assist her. You can also email Mary Neal at MaryLovesJustice@gmail.com or call 678.531.0262. Homelessness, prison and death must discontinue being America's answer to acute mental illness.