BLACK HAWK COUNTY – When you think of a jail, you typically envision criminals locked up for breaking the law. But mentally ill people are ending up in more and more jail cells in this state.
18-year-old Jayton Hinkhouse comes from a loving family that cannot take care of him because of his mental illness.
“He needs 24 hour, every minute care because you’re not sure what he’s going to do next,” Jayton’s mother, Shanna Kellor, said.
At the age of seven, doctors said he belonged in a mental health center. For the past decade, he’s been in and out of those facilities.
“You never stop feeling like an inadequate mother when you’re unable to keep your son at home,” Kellor said, “What do you do when there’s no place for your son to go?”
On New Year’s Eve, he became violent at a Waterloo treatment center. Staff called police. Jayton ended up in jail.
“He’s not a criminal. He has a disability,” Kellor said.
Jayton remained in jail for three months because, his mother says, the state had nowhere else for him to go.
“My son has a heart. He has a heart. He’s a human being and he’s being treated like an animal in the Black Hawk County Jail,” Kellor said.
Black Hawk County Sheriff Tony Thompson says more than 60 percent of the inmates in his jail are mentally-ill. That’s twice the national average.
“We’re a county jail. We’re not a mental health facility. We’re not a treatment center. We simply house people for the court until the court says to let them go,” Thompson said.
Thompson doesn’t know why Black Hawk County has so many mentally-ill inmates.
“It grows more and more frustrating because those population numbers are not getting better. Every year, those numbers get worse,” he said.
Now, Jayton’s mother is on a quest to help her son, and others like him, get treatment instead of punishment.
“I think there’s more of a focus on animals and placing them than human beings,” she said.
Jayton’s mother tells me her son is actually a wonderful, loving person when he’s on the proper medications.
She says he got out of the Black Hawk County Jail on Friday and is now at a local hospital.
However, after doctors evaluate him, she says he could end up right back in jail.