Thank you for giving Assistance to the Incarcerated Mentally Ill.
Saturday, July 25, 2015
The Kristopher Rodriguez Story
My son, Kristopher Rodriguez, is presently a mentally ill inmate at Lake Correctional Institution in Florida Inmate #C07499.
Kristopher was diagnosed with schizophrenia and paranoia in April 2001. Kristopher became ill when his maternal grandmother died on September 8, 2000, just four months after being diagnosed with bone cancer. She lived with me to help raise my sons: Stephen, Kristopher, and William. Kristopher was overwhelmed with grief upon losing his grandmother at age 14. He began talking about religion a great deal and disconnected my water heater, stating he was being trapped and followed. I first committed my son to Citrus Health Hialeah Florida by using the Baker Act.
Kristopher was born at Jackson Memorial Hospital on June 3, 1986. It was a normal delivery. Kristopher was an exceptional child. He on the principal's list or honor roll every semester since pre-K. He joined the Sea Cadets. He wanted to be a Navy Seal and a pediatrician. Kris also studied Tae Kwon Do. He told us that he felt his country needed him and that he wanted to be well prepared for the Navy Seals.
Kristopher was very involved in school activities, including painting, summer camps and sports. Kristopher won first place in every basketball activity. He achieved Male Honor Cadet of the United States at MacDill Air Force Base with Commander Recommendations. By that time, Kristopher had already won his black belt Tae Kwon Do.
Kristopher loves children and is very family oriented. Kristopher always showed love and compassion for people. He was beloved by his teachers and friends as well as his family. He was the child every mother dreams of having.
Upon losing my mother, Kristopher went into deep grief. He lost interest in the Sea Cadets and later dropped out of school. Soon after her death, Kristopher was voluntarily and then involuntarily committed to mental institutions. Unfortunately, Kristopher fell into our broken prison system due to his mental illness. I am a Cardiovascular Technologist, and I have worked in the medical field for 37 years. I understand the need for long-term medical care for chronic physical conditions, and psychiatric treatment for persons with mental illness should be just as accessible. Instead, incarceration was seemingly used to punish Kristopher for being sick when he got older.
Since 2008 in Polk County, Kristopher was committed several times and was even Tasered while in water during one of his crises. He has a long history of mental issues but his psychiatric condition was not followed and treated properly due to his noncompliance regarding his psychiatric medications. That is a typical problem for mentally ill people who want to avoid being stigmatized by their illness as well as those who do not recognize their own need for treatment.
Like many people with mental illness, Kristopher began to self-medicate with street drugs. During one of his drug buys, the dealer tried to rob Kristopher at gunpoint. He and Kristopher wrestled over the gun, and the dealer was shot in his leg. Kristopher's actions were self-defense. Persons with mental illness and drug dependencies need treatment, not incarceration.
While in jail at Polk County, Kristopher had a crisis and corrections officers thought he was faking. Kristopher shivering on the floor for 18 days, we learned through another inmate who was released. He said to my son, Stephen, "Do something for your brother. Tell your Mom they are abusing your brother. He is naked on the floor, and they pepper-sprayed him."
Of course we could do nothing. My family were not allowed to visit Kristopher. Every week we were denied visitation and received no information from the prison. "NO HIPPA FORM, he is an adult," we were told.
After that, Kristopher experienced one crisis after another. He tried to commit suicide and even tried to rip his penis off with his bare hands. Kristopher was evaluated and found to be mentally ill while incarcerated. Nevertheless, my son was so abused that he was forced to eat his own feces. The abuse only made him sicker. Several times while jailed before his conviction, Kristopher was sent to stabilization units. The justice system considered stabilizing my son as a priority before his conviction in order for the court to sentence him after trial and have Kristopher join 1.25 million mentally ill prisoners warehoused in jails and prisons throughout America.
Kristopher was eventually transferred to Dade Correctional Institute, where he has been tortured and abused. He was even tortured in the HOT SHOWER, which is how mentally ill inmate Darren Rainey was murdered in 2012. I was not allowed to visit with Kristopher for a lengthy period of time. By the time I was finally allowed to visit Kristopher, he could not recognized me, his own mother. Kristopher smelled bad, and I said to him, "Kris you don't smell good, son." Kristopher started looking around like he was paranoid and checking his environment for threats. "You are not my mom!" he screamed. "You are going to tell me about a Hot Shower, lady!" With tears in my eyes, I contacted Dr. Bermudez and Dr. Perez upon learning that my son had been Hot Showered. I also sent letters to the Inspector General's office, to Corizon, and to Deanna Tate, the director at Dade Correctional Institution. Nobody answered my correspondence. It seems that officials are always more interested in covering up abuse than in protecting inmates.
I wrote to Julie Brown at the Miami Herald. She came to take my report and do an interview. During our interview, I disclosed all of Kristopher's history with mental illness. I also showed the reporter Kristopher's family pictures and diplomas. She saw how his life was before mental illness.
Unfortunately, Kristopher's father died on April 18, 2013. Although Kristopher was pretty much stable at the time, he was not allowed to attend his father's funeral. Losing his father sent Kristopher back into another grieving period. Since then, his life has deteriorated daily. Kristopher was transferred from Dade Correctional Institution to Union on December 20 2014. Again, he was denied visitors.
My son has been in solitary confinement since 2013 because he refuses to accept medications, according to the prison. Corrections officers know that Kristopher is sick. Perhaps because of his illness, he experienced abuse.
Kristopher is sometimes catatonic and sometimes paranoid. Attorneys from Legal Disabilities visited Kristopher because his rights have been violated, and he refuses to consent to being legally represented. On March 4, I was contacted by Dr. Binskey at Union Correctional and advised that Kristopher was going to be transferred to Lake Correctional Institution due to his mental illness and catatonic state. He refused medications and food, also. Mr. Steven Crosby was Kristopher's intake Specialist. I demanded information on Kristopher, but his HIPPA form had expired.
I was advised by Mr. Crosby that the judge assigned me to be Kristopher's Healthcare Surrogate and that a copy of that assignment would be sent to me. However, on March 23, my son was transferred to Lake Correctional Institution. I check on a daily basis and saw it, I contacted a classification officer for my son. As of today, Ms. Jackson from Mental Unit refuses to give me information about Kristopher. She states there is no Healthcare Advocate form in his transfer.
I contacted Mr. Crosby and he said, "Yes, Madam, I requested Mr. Crosby to send it again." I explained the denial of information about my son from Ms. Jackson again last week, and she stated NO FORM was received via email, and she is very certain that it was not sent with his transfer.
I only trust GOD with my son's life. His status is unknown. I hold the State of Florida and the U.N. responsible for my son Kristopher Rodriguez's life. I will speak the truth to the world and will not keep my mouth shut. My son lives in solitary confinement, but he has a VOICE, and I AM HIS VOICE.
Some people at this time may not believe the torture that is inflicted on the mentally ill in this country, but Kristopher's circumstances are indicative of this problem. Thank you for your help. My cell phone number is (813)527-5148.
IN GOD I TRUST!
Gemma Pena, Kristopher's mom
Kristopher Rodriguez's Petition
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Post Note: Gemma Pena was allowed to visit Kristopher on July 24, 2015. When the legal system reaches into a family and takes the most vulnerable member, entire families often suffer from Legal Abuse Syndrome. Parents sometimes experience stress that causes physical problems: strokes, heart attacks, and complications of their existing diseases. Younger siblings sometimes experience separation anxiety in their fear that one day they might also be forcibly removed from their parents and incarcerated. Fathers feel an impotent rage that they cannot protect their mentally disabled children from the system that too often uses mentally disturbed people for target practice or prison profiteering.
We hope that Gemma's visit with Kristopher was a good experience for them both, but they need regular visits - something for Kristopher to look forward to while alone in solitary confinement all week. It would give his mother the opportunity to help bring him out of his current crisis. She would encourage Kristopher to eat and accept his medication. That would be good for both of them and ultimately for all of us. Kristopher is due for release in a few years. He can either be ready to become a productive community member or not, depending on how Florida treats this young man whose crime was caused by mental illness.
Kristopher should be released from prison to the care of a mental hospital. Once he is stabilized, Kristopher should be ordered into an assisted outpatient treatment (AOT) program, where his subsistence needs would be met and he would be under a mandate to continue his psychiatric treatment. AOT program participants have a better than 85 percent chance of avoiding homelessness, future arrests, hospitalizations, and imprisonment. That means AOT programs also improve community safety and are less expensive than incarceration.
Thank you for giving Assistance to the Incarcerated Mentally Ill.