Mental Health Not So Much Their Specialty
From the "maybe this should have been obvious but it still surprised the hell out of me" files: After missing Clienette at jail two weeks ago , then missing her again at court last Monday, I went to jail again on Friday. Supervising attorney was there (hurrah!) and we headed to Clienette's unit so we could get in to see her. "Attorney visit for Clienette McClient," said supervising attorney to the guard on the unit. The guard consulted the huge prisoner list (which is printed on old-school double-wide dot-matrix paper and which is, no joke, 2 inches thick, and reprinted every single day- because who needs trees?!) and said "oh, Clienette isn't here. She's across the way at the hospital." Hospital? Our client is in the hospital? "What's she in for?" asked supervising attorney. "Dunno, you'll have to ask them," said guard. So we went across the way to the prison hospital, where we tried once more to meet with Clienette. She refused to see us. Apparently she's there because her medicines aren't working, or the dosage got messed up, or something has shifted in the dark recesses of her very very screwed-up brain, and she was put in the hospital because she had become too "agitated." No fever, no injury, just put there so they could put an iv in her and fill her with some drugs to calm her down. She'd been there for 3 days on this iv-drug-calming-down plan. Must have been really agitated. I guess I should not be surprised that we had no idea this was going on. We're not her legal guardians. But it was sheer coincidence that we went to visit her only 4 days after seeing her in court. Often, it would be a couple of weeks between visits, and we might never have known that she had been put in the hospital to be pumped full of sedatives. I don't know who I expected to call us, exactly- but it truly never occured to me that we could have a client experience a major medical episode in jail and never hear anything about it. Especially when our defense of Clienette hinges largely on her serious mental illness, these episodes are good things to know about. Even though we didn't get to see Clienette, the visit was not without value- I did get to see my partner law student sent back to his car after a search of him at the entrance to the jail revealed that he had a handcuff key attached to his key ring. Watching him, red-faced, trying to explain to supervising attorney that he just happens to have a pair of handcuffs for "personal use" and that he had forgotten he had the key with him made the whole trip worthwhile.