On another occasion, she gave a rubber ball to an inmate who had schizophrenia; she thought that he would benefit from tactile play. An officer returned both items to her, ostensibly because they posed safety hazards. Krzykowski felt that she was being taught a lesson about knowing her place. I kept getting the message that whatever security says goes, she said. Krzykowski had heard enough stories about inmates assaulting prison staff to know how dangerous it was to work without protection. One day in the rec yard, after a guard left her alone, an inmate sidled up to her and put his hands on her backside. The inmate was tall and imposing, and had been diagnosed as psychotic.
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He accused Dade security officials of sabotaging our caseload, and said that action needed to be taken. In the days after the meeting, Krzykowski recalls thinking that sabotaging was a pretty strong word—a loaded word. Mallinckrodt was known to be on friendly terms with some of the patients in the. C.U., and Krzykowski felt that he had become too aligned with the inmates—too much on their side. She told me, i thought hed muet become an advocate—you know, a hug-a-thug. Krzykowski tried to focus on providing good care, but she discovered that she had limited power to make decisions. State law mandated that prisons offer inmates twenty hours of activities a week, and when she was hired she was told that she would be responsible for insuring that this happened in the. But every time she proposed an activity—yoga, music therapy—her superiors rejected. Invariably, the reason cited was that it posed a security risk, even though the activities were meant to alleviate aggression. One day, krzykowski brought in a box of chalk, in the hope that inmates could draw on the pavement in the rec yard.
According to medical ethicists, prison counsellors and psychologists often feel a dual loyalty—a tension between the impulse to defer to corrections officers and the duty to care for inmates. Because guards provide crucial protection to staff, it can be risky to disagree with them. But, if mental-health professionals coöperate too closely with security officials, they can become complicit in practices that harm patients. After Krzykowski met with Perez, she told herself, maybe Im being too sensitive—boys will be boys. Aware that she was a newcomer to the world of prisons, she decided that the corrections officers at Dade were far more qualified than she was to determine how to maintain order. At remote a morning staff meeting in June, 2011, a psychotherapist at Dade named george mallinckrodt aired a different view. The previous day, mallinckrodt announced, an inmate had shown him a series of bruises on his chest and back. The injuries had been sustained, the inmate claimed, when a group of guards had dragged him, handcuffed, into a hallway and stomped on him. Several other inmates confirmed the account, mallinckrodt told his colleagues.
Activists decried the existence of mental hospitals that presentation were filled, as one account put it, with naked humans herded like cattle. During the next two decades, states across the country shut down such facilities, both to save money and to appease advocates pushing for reform. But instead of funding more humane modes of treatment—such as community mental-health centers that could help patients live independently—many states left the mentally ill to their own devices. Often, highly unstable people ended up on the streets, abusing drugs and committing crimes, which led them into the prison system. By the nineties, prisons had become Americas general dominant mental-health institutions. The situation is particularly extreme in Florida, which spends less money per capita on mental health than any state except Idaho. Meanwhile, between 19, the number of Florida prisoners with mental disabilities grew by a hundred and fifty-three per cent. The supreme court failed to clarify how psychiatric care could be provided in an environment where the paramount concern is security.
By then, Krzykowski had received a bachelors degree in psychology, and had enrolled in a masters program in mental-health counselling. But Florida was in a deep recession, and Krzykowski had no luck finding work until she saw a listing posted by correctional Medical Services, the private contractor in charge of providing mental-health services at Dade. Even at the height of the economic crisis, jobs in corrections were plentiful in Florida—the state has the third-largest prison population in the country, behind Texas and California. Insuring that inmates with mental illnesses receive psychiatric care is a constitutional obligation, according to Estelle. Gamble, a 1976 case in which the supreme court held that deliberate indifference to serious medical needs of prisoners amounted to cruel and unusual punishment. Around the same time, the court ruled, in oconnor. Donaldson, that a florida man named Kenneth Donaldson had been kept against his will in a state psychiatric hospital for nearly fifteen years. The ruling added momentum to a nationwide campaign to deinstitutionalize the mentally ill.
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But she was afraid to complain about her situation. She didnt even tell her husband, Steven, fearing he would insist that she give notice. He was an unemployed computer-systems engineer, and they could not afford to forgo her modest paycheck. Krzykowski and her husband lived at her mothers house, in miami, with their two young children. Her hourly wage was only twelve dollars, so she supplemented her income with food stamps and, occasionally, with loans from her mother and her sister. Krzykowski was accustomed to hardship. Born in a small town in northwestern Missouri, she was seven years old when her mother drove her and her older sister to a battered womens shelter to escape their father after he had hurled the familys pet cat against a wall.
(He denies that this happened.) They moved to an even smaller town, in Illinois, where her mother took a job at a gas station. They required public assistance, and at home there was often little to eat. After Krzykowski graduated from high school, in 1998, she and her mother moved to miami. Her mother became a nurse, and Krzykowski enrolled at Florida International University, majoring in psychology. She got in touch with Steven, a childhood friend, and invited him to visit proposal her. He showed up a few weeks later, and stayed; they married in 2007.
Not infrequently, several minutes passed before a security officer buzzed her through, even when she was the only staff member in a hallway full of prisoners. Krzykowski tried not to appear flustered when this happened, but, she recalls, it scared the hell out. In theory, the. Was designed to provide mentally ill inmates with a safe environment in which they would receive treatment that might allow them to return to the main compound. Krzykowski discovered, however, that many inmates were locked up in single-person cells.
Solitary confinement was supposed to be reserved for prisoners who had committed serious disciplinary infractions. In forced isolation, inmates often deteriorated rapidly. As Krzykowski put it, so many guys would be mobile and interactive when they first came to the. C.U., and then a few months later they would be sleeping in their cells in their own waste. Not only did Krzykowski suspect that few inmates in the. Were getting better; she was certain that the guards were punishing her for the e-mail she had sent to perez.
Florida department of Corrections
In an e-mail to perez, krzykowski expressed her concern. A few days later, Krzykowski was running a psycho-educational group—an hour-long session in which inmates gathered to talk while she observed their mood and affect. After a dozen inmates had golf filed into the room, she noticed that the guard who had been standing by the door had walked away. She was on her own. Krzykowski completed the session without incident, and decided that the guard must have been summoned to deal with an emergency. But later, when she was in the rec yard, the guard there disappeared, too, once more leaving her unprotected amid a group of inmates. Around the same time, the metal doors that security officers controlled to regulate the traffic flow between prison units started opening more slowly for Krzykowski.
Inmates would not be allowed in the resume prisons recreation yard. The yard, a cement quadrangle with weeds sprouting through the cracks, had few amenities, but for many people in the. It was the only place to get fresh air and exercise. Overseeing this activity was among Krzykowskis weekend responsibilities. The following Sunday, access was denied again. The closures continued for weeks, and the explanations increasingly sounded like pretexts. When Krzykowski pressed a corrections officer about the matter, he told her, Its Gods day, and were resting.
she had overheard security guards heckling prisoners. One officer had told an inmate, go ahead and kill yourself—no one will miss you. Again, perez seemed unfazed. Its just words, she said. Then, as Krzykowski recalls it, perez leaned forward and gave her some advice: you have to remember that we have to have a good working relationship with security. Not long after this conversation, Krzykowski was working a sunday shift, and a guard told her that, because of a staff shortage,.
Complain that meal trays often arrived at his cell without food. After noticing that several prisoners were alarmingly thin, she decided to discuss the matter with. Cristina perez, who oversaw the inpatient unit. Krzykowski, an unassuming woman with pale skin and blue eyes, was thirty at the time. The field of correctional psychology can attract idealists who tend to see all prisoners as societys victims and who distrust anyone wearing a security badge—corrections officers call such people hug-a-thugs. But Krzykowski, who had not worked at a prison before, believed that corrections officers performed a difficult job that merited respect. And she assumed that the prison management did not tolerate any form of abusive behavior. Perez was a slender, attractive woman in her forties, with an aloof manner. When Krzykowski told her that shed heard guys arent getting fed, perez did not seem especially concerned.
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Harriet Krzykowski, a former counsellor at the dade correctional Institution, faced retaliation after questioning inmate abuse. Photograph by Elinor Carucci for The new Yorker. Shortly after Harriet Krzykowski began working at the dade correctional Institution, in Florida, an inmate whispered to her, you know they starve us, right? It was the fall of 2010, and Krzykowski, a psychiatric technician, had been hired by dade, which is forty miles south of miami, to help prisoners with clinical behavioral problems follow their treatment plans. The inmate was housed in Dades mental-health ward, the Transitional Care Unit, a cluster of buildings connected by breezeways and equipped with one-way mirrors and surveillance cameras. I thought, plan Oh, this guy must be paranoid or schizophrenic, she said recently. Moreover, shed been warned during her training that prisoners routinely made false accusations against guards. Then she heard an inmate in another wing of the.