THINK FOR a moment about the unconditional love we have for our children. Nothing prepares us for it. The bond continues unbroken as our son or daughter goes through the various phases of life. We try to be the best possible parents, sometimes under challenging circumstances.
Now imagine that your child is a young man who experiences medical problems in late adolescence. In an instant his life and yours changes. You are in the doctor’s office and the diagnosis is established; it is schizophrenia. There is no cure. His life is by no means over, but it is going to be different.
Your son ends up in a state hospital. Staffers file misdemeanor assault charges against him, and he ends up in a prison even though he has never been convicted of a crime.
When your son arrives at the prison, he is strip searched and almost immediately housed in a room behind solid steel doors and, as time goes on, left alone for long stretches with almost no human contact. His “room” consists of a sink/toilet combination and a thin mattress. No reading materials, pictures of family, phone, computer, or television. His meals are delivered through a slot in the door. Every other day, he can talk to you on the phone (also handed to him through the slot), but the line goes dead automatically after 10 minutes.
When your son protests, yells, or stands on the sink in his cell, he is often removed from the room with the solid steel door, taken to another room, tied down to a bed where he cannot move his arms, legs, or even sometimes his head. He can stay tied down for periods as long as two full days. He cannot move around, lie on his side, or change his position. When he needs to defecate, a bed pan is pushed underneath his buttocks, and he remains tied up.
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