INDIANAPOLIS – When Brenda Pero couldn’t get help for her daughter, who was struggling with mental illness and a broken leg inside the Marion County Jail, she marched over to tell a neighbor’s wife about the problem.
“So I went to Sheriff Layton’s house and Mrs. Layton was very nice and she assured me that she would pass the info on and someone would get ahold of me and they did.”
Pero said within an hour of her visit with Laurie Layton, her daughter was at Eskenazi Hospital being treated for a leg broken by another inmate.
“I was a desperate mom,” said Pero. “Her leg was swollen and purple up to her knee and she was losing feeling.”
While Pero was successful in gaining some temporary attention for her daughter’s broken leg, the jailed woman’s plight is an example of the cost, housing and treatment challenges for Sheriff John Layton and the entire criminal justice system at the Marion County Jail.
Pero’s daughter is among the forty percent of the jail population that struggles with mental illness behind bars, costing taxpayer an estimated $7 million a year.
“My daughter was involved in a very serious car accident in February of 2014,” said Pero. “She tells me that she believes that since the accident she has not been able to really think clearly. Sometimes when you’re talking to her, she can’t form a word that she’s trying to say. A lot of memory loss. I ask her about things and she doesn’t remember them.”
Pero said after more than thirty years of a law abiding life, her daughter suddenly racked up four arrests in six months this year, including drug possession, operating while intoxicated and theft.
“In addition to the head trauma she may have had a nervous breakdown,” said Pero. “She told me that she doesn’t even remember a lot of the things that went on that caused these charges and the week that she was incarcerated, July 3rd, she was having seizures and she doesn’t even remember the first week that she was incarcerated.”
Pero said her daughter was not receiving her medication despite pleas from the woman’s attorney to the jail staff.
“So the following Tuesday I went to Sheriff Layton’s house and talked to his wife and told her what was going on because I was desperate,” said Pero. “I was a desperate mom.”
Pero said her daughter received some temporary attention but her broken leg isn’t being treated currently and she hasn’t been given her anti-seizure medicine. Pero’s complaints are similar to many of those that come from offenders inside the Marion County Jail.
“I think you would be finding that they are getting their medication,” said Col. James Martin. “They may not be getting the medication that they want or the medication that they had on the street or we couldn’t verify. So if you’re self-medicating or you don’t have a medication that we can actually verify you’re taking, you’re telling us you’re taking this medication, give me your doctor’s name and all this comes in and we have to verify it, then we leave it up to our doctors too to take a look at the medication, take a look at the conditions and then prescribe properly.”
Layton, IMPD Chief Troy Riggs and Mayor Joe Hogsett have all indicated they want to find an alternative to locking up offenders with mental illness issues at a cost of $92 per day. The running tab on the incarceration of Pero’s troubled daughter is $3,864 plus hospital and, if she receives it, orthopedic bills.
Pero said she was prepared to bail her daughter out of jail last week when a judge ordered the mother of three young children held without bond for the discovery of methamphetamine in her purse during a probation check.
“I know they have to arrest any person who commits a crime, yes, but looking at her history and her nursing degree and over thirty years of no criminal offenses and all of a sudden all of this is going on, and me offering to be personally responsible, I don’t even know if that’s an option but I would do that and get her home and she needs to be in treatment,” said Pero who indicated that prosecutors have reached a plea agreement with her daughter’s attorney if only the court would sign off.
“She’s desperate to get out of jail and she’s willing to sign anything to get out of there and get treatment, get her leg treated and get her mind treated.”
Tuesday afternoon the Criminal Justice Planning Council will debate authorizing emergency release protocols so that Superior Court judges could free some detainees pending trial in order to relieve the jail’s overcrowding crisis now that the offender population has soared over its capacity of 2507 inmates with no reduction in sight.