A community activist and the mother of a pretrial detainee at the Clayton County Jail allege that a man living with severe mental illness was stabbed 17 times on Friday, released back into general population Sunday, and that CCSO has not given them complete information about the man’s injuries.

Deandre Hart, 29, made first appearance at 10 a.m. Monday via Zoom before Judge Keisha Wright Hill, on possession of a deadly weapon by an inmate and simple assault. He was granted $10,000 bond and $1200 in fees on the weapons charge, plus $3,000 bond and $500 in fees on the assault charge.

Hart has been in jail since June 14, charged with second-degree criminal damage and battery against a pregnant female. He was not granted bond on those charges.

Gerald Rose of the New Order National Human Rights Organization told The Clayton Crescent Monday the detainee is diagnosed with schizophrenia and that he is well-known to jail staff and local law enforcement.

“First of all, we’re still not satisfied on the investigation that’s going on with Deandre,” Rose said at a press conference outside the jail Tuesday morning. “We want to continue to put pressure until somebody do pay for a bad mistake that you have done. We’re not here going on his criminal background, which I do understand… He’s a human being first.”

Tisha Hart (center) speaks to reporters outside the Clayton County Jail, July 12, 2022. With her are Gerald Rose (right) and Tamika Streater of New Order National Human Rights Organization. (Photo: Cheryl Wells, NONHRO)

Hart’s mother, Tisha Hall, and Rose readily acknowledge the man is facing serious charges, but say that he should not have been stabbed 17 times and especially not released back into general population. They want to know which officers in the jail were responsible for his care and where those officers were at the time of the incident. They also want to see security video from the jail.

“He can’t tell me exactly what happened, why did it happen, why it wasn’t security around,” Tisha Hart told reporters.

Mental illness and the judicial system

Some people living with severe or untreated mental illnesses can get in trouble with the police. If someone does not understand what’s happening around them, they may act strangely. If they feel threatened, they may become violent. It’s a short trip from a roadside episode or violent outburst to jail.

However, people with severe mental illness are not exempt from Constitutional protections while in custody, and their disability means that jail and prison staff must take extra measures to ensure the person’s safety. That could range from dispensing medications to isolation in a padded cell–or even the use of a restraint chair under specific circumstances if the person poses a danger to themselves or others.

On June 23, Senate Bill 3846, the Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Reauthorization Act of 2022, passed unanimously. The bill went to the House of Representatives Thursday, just a few hours after Hart’s mother and NONHRO held their press conference outside the Clayton County Jail.

Under existing law (Public Law 110-416), which also provides support for treatment courts and pretrial diversion when possible, data on seriously mentally ill inmates must be forwarded to the U.S. Attorney General the percentage of inmates with serious mental illness and who get disability benefits.

According to Prison Policy Initiative, which tracks statistics about inmate mental health, about one in every four inmates has dealt with moderate to serious mental illness in the past 12 months. Three of every five inmates report having a substance abuse disorder.

Data compiled by the Prison Policy Initiative from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 2017. (Graph: Wendy Sawyer, 2019)

According to Prison Policy Initiative, “at least 4.9 million people are arrested and jailed each year, and at least one in 4 of those individuals are booked into jail more than once during the same year. Our analysis shows that repeated arrests are related to race and poverty, as well as high rates of mental illness and substance use disorders. Ultimately, we find that people who are jailed have much higher rates of social, economic, and health problems that cannot and should not be addressed through incarceration.”

The group’s analysis of existing data found that “people with multiple arrests are disproportionately: Black, low-income, less educated, and unemployed.” Most were arrested for nonviolent offenses.

In addition, Prison Policy Initiative found:

  • People with multiple arrests were 3 times more likely to have a serious mental illness (25% vs. 9%) and 3 times more likely to report serious psychological distress, including symptoms of depression and anxiety, than people with no arrests in the past year (30% vs 11%).”
  • People with multiple arrests were less likely to have access to health care. Individuals who were arrested and booked more than once were over 3 times more likely to have no health insurance (27%) compared to those with no arrests in the past year (8%), and slightly more likely to lack insurance than people arrested just once (23%).”

A check of online court records shows the 29-year-old man’s long history of interactions with Clayton County courts.

“We don’t condone his criminal record,” Rose emphasized. “What upset his mom was they act like they didn’t know who he was. They knew who he was. He’s been in the system for a long time. They know he has serious mental health issues. They know who he is.”

A cry for help

Rose went public with the incident on Facebook Live after he and the man’s mother showed up to meet with CCSO officials and were given what he characterized as a runaround:

“They lied to us today,” Rose said.

“I feel, honest to God, this man is in danger up here, and they’re covering it up,” the man’s mother said in a Facebook Live post. “I feel like he’s been a target from day one. After this happened, we can take this wherever we need it to go.” At the time, she was reluctant to make her son’s name public, even though she had named him in the Facebook Live. However, she did reveal his name to reporters at Tuesday’s press conference. (The names of all detainees, inmates, and prisoners, as well as their charges or convictions and other information, are public record.)

The mother said a CCSO official showed her a cell phone photo of her son’s back but did not show her any photos of his face or the front of his body. According to Rose, she speaks with her son daily and he told her he had been stabbed in the face. Rose said the official did not give them a copy of the photo, stating the investigation was still open.

Rose also told The Clayton Crescent that the man had been returned to general population after two days in the infirmary and questioned why the detainee had not been taken to a hospital, given that he allegedly had 17 stab wounds.

“Why he was not taken to the hospital first, instead of inside this facility? And we just feel they’re not being honest with us,” Rose said. “When we first went in there, when the mom called me, she said, ‘Mr. Rose, Mr. Doyle won’t be here. You’ll be meeting with Major Lewis.’ I said, “OK, at least we’re meeting with someone.’

“And then I was in there, we was talking, and I said, ‘It’d be funny if this guy was actually here.’ About five minutes later, he walked around the corner. OK, that’s strike one. First of all, you done lied to the mother, you know. You said you wasn’t gonna be here.’ He said, ‘That’s irrelevant!’ So you could tell he was upset at that time.

“And then, they said she was restricted to see her son, OK? But they didn’t know why. But something happened seven years ago that, of course, if we would have never came up here, we would have never known that. Then they lift the restriction, but then they said, ‘You can’t see him because he’s in court.'”

“Now I know that you verified the court thing yesterday,” Rose said, “but it’s just all of a sudden, you know, he gets stabbed on Friday, and then get taken to court on Monday. And she talks to her son several times, and I wonder why he didn’t tell the mom that he had a court date.”

The Clayton Crescent has filed an Open Records Request seeking more information on the alleged incident:

CCSO responded that it could not release any records because the investigation is still open:

However, under Georgia’s Open Records Act, several of the records requested, like initial incident reports and inmate information sheets, do not fall under that exemption:

Excerpt from The Blue Book, noting O.C.G.A. § 42-4-7, which provides that jail records of detainees are public record.

We will update with more details as they become available.

To learn more about Georgia’s Open Records Act, visit the Georgia First Amendment Foundation (gfaf.org), where you can download or read a copy of the “Red Book” (Government Transparency Guide), the “Yellow Book” (A Guide to Court Access in Georgia), the “Blue Book” (Law Enforcement Transparency Guide), and the “Green Book” (Schools Transparency Guide).

Robin Kemp is executive editor and CEO of The Clayton Crescent, which she founded in 2020. She has worked for Gambit, CNN, The Weather Channel, Clayton News, Henry Herald, and numerous freelance outlets....

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