From the December 2007 Idaho Observer:

Mental health therapy at the York County Prison

I am writing this on behalf of my daughter, who has been incarcerated at the York County Prison since Aug. 1, 2007. Her incarceration is a result of a relatively minor parole violation (sound familiar?) that was potentially harmful, but resulted in no injury. Unfortunately, she is without insight and is unaware that her actions were potentially dangerous.

Initially, due to severe overcrowding she was housed in the prison gymnasium with some 90 other women. Though the conditions were poor, she adjusted OK. Then due to her history of mental illness, she was transferred to the medical unit. The medical unit for most prisoners is a temporary set-up until their medical condition is stabilized. As a result, the 23-hour per day lockdown is tolerated. However, her mental illness could not be stabilized via their inept psychiatric drug therapy. As a result she has been kept in solitary confinement, with no let-up in sight. One of the drugs administered to "patients" there is the dated, brain-numbing, teeth-rotting, warehousing drug "Thorazine."

Now they are wondering why she acted aggressively against one of the guards (tormentor). The following is an incomplete list of some of the conditions in the "medical" unit:

Typical institutional food devoid of fresh fruits and vegetables—and badly needed nutritional supplements.

One hour per day to shower and make phone calls—no received phone calls allowed.

Three visitations per week.

Lack of clean clothing—she avoids sending clothes out because they regularly lose them.

No exercise or outside recreation—has not been outside since August.

No religious services, no Bible studies and no structured activities whatsoever—she is a Christian and would really value that and find it supportive.

No TV—she has a portable radio, but has trouble with its operation.

Kicked and cussed out by one of the guards.

Cellmate for only one week.

Loss of personal items including documents and repairable eyeglasses—due to her mental condition, she is unable to keep track of personal items so when she is transferred to a different cell anything left behind is immediately trashed.

The "behavioral" unit is all of the above plus the following:

One prearranged visitation per month—what about Christmas?

Blended food—standard procedure—she eats very little—happy Thanksgiving Dinner!

No running water for one week—apparently had been misusing water—got quite dehydrated.

Suicide watch for at least two days without clothing or blanket in severely air-conditioned cell.

One half hour per day to shower and make phone calls (very few).

No writing materials—no Bible.

Drugs are administered by guards W/O medical training—records are poorly kept—one guard does not know what the others are doing. When asked specific questions, they hide behind the HIPPA privacy act—secret hearings—secret rulings.

For some unknown reason, the female section is substantially more strict than the male section.

Letters appreciated—especially from those who have suffered likewise.

Jeannine Keith

York County Prison, 3400 Concord Road, York, PA 17402

The York County Prison has the dubious notability of "housing" the largest population of INS detainees in the country—The county commissioners saw big bucks and decided to get into the action by building a gigantic prison—that is until former neocon senator Rick Santorum bungled the federal contract that resulted in York County taking a big loss. This resulted in a substantial county tax increase.

Submitted by Jim Keith

York Pennsylvania

Jim: My guess is that, if you were to find out the cost associated with incarcerating women in general population compared to that of a prisoner with psychological/medical problems, the mental/medical prisoners are worth a lot more to the institution. The reason should be legitimate—these mentally or physically ill people need and deserve additional care and attention. But they aren't getting it. It's another national shame. (DWH)