Ms. Gina Cruz and her son Matthew
Ms. Cruz is the parent of an inmate who was recently released from the George W. Hill Correctional Facility. Her son, Matthew, is 30 years of age and has had a long history of drug abuse and mental health issues. He was diagnosed with ADD at age 5 and subsequently with ADHD, OCD, and some degree of learning disability. He has been under a doctor’s care for a long time and has received SSI in the past. According to Gina, he went to rehab once before and has not been involved with any 12 Step programs. At age 13, Matthew was physically assaulted during a trip to Philadelphia. As a result of his injuries, he was hospitalized and actually "flatlined". He was resuscitated, but Gina feels sure that her son has suffered some permanent impairment from this injury.
Matthew began to have conflicts with the authorities at around age 14, and he eventually spent time in a Juvenile Detention Facility. As an adult, Matthew has been at the George W. Hill Correctional Facility a handful of times, with his longest period of residence lasting about six months. It is important to note that, according to Ms. Cruz, Matthew has no convictions for violent crimes on his record and all of his trouble with law enforcement stem from his drug abuse and mental health issues. Matthew was also incarcerated at the Chester County Jail for a period of 10 months several years ago. Matthew's current stay at G. W. Hill began in December 2018 when he was charged with a Probation Violation. Matthew told his mother that, upon his arrival at G. W. Hill, he was kept in a crowded "holding cell" for many days with many others (some of whom were detoxing from drugs and alcohol) and people were vomiting and urinating all over the floor of the cell.
Ms. Cruz has not visited her son during his current incarceration at G. W. Hill, per his request. They speak on the phone once per week, but she has visited with him at the facility in the past. On her past visits, Ms. Cruz indicated that she was treated "poorly" by guards. She said they acted arrogantly and ignorantly. Gina noted, "They treat you like you're a criminal, just because you're visiting someone there. Because of this, many parents don't even want to visit their children there.” We asked Ms. Cruz about the worst part of her experience there and she said "the worst part for me was when they closed the gates and there was that really loud clang.” Ms. Cruz also noted that she often had to wait excessive amounts of time to see Matthew once she arrived at the facility. She dislikes going to the facility because she doesn't like the atmosphere of the place, but she did say that the atmosphere in the DUI Block was slightly more relaxed.
We asked Gina to describe a typical day for her son within the confines of the George W. Hill Correctional Facility and she said, "I really don't know what he does in there, but I know that he sleeps a lot.” She also suggested that he exercises when possible. Ms. Cruz felt strongly that her son, Matthew has seen violence while at G. W. Hill, but has not engaged in it or been injured by it. She made it clear that her primary criticism of this facility revolves around Matthew not getting the medical care and rehabilitative services he needs to address his mental illness and drug addiction. During this current incarceration, Matthew has been prescribed Cymbalta, but he has not been seen by an actual psychiatrist. Ms. Cruz has called George W. Hill on more than one occasion to discuss her son's issues there, but she has been unable to reach the staff there - no one answers the phone and she has been unable to even leave a message. Matthew was recently released and he has been transferred to a drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility in Chester County. Gina advised that Matthew has had a hard time getting all of his personal property returned to him upon his exit from the George W. Hill Correctional Facility.
Ms. Cruz has worked hard for many years to try to help her son address his drug problems and mental health issues. She has tried with all of her might to "keep him out of the system" - in effect, to save him from himself. Over the years, Gina has gotten very little support and assistance from her family in dealing with these issues. Sadly, she has gotten even less help and assistance from "the system" in the form of drug and alcohol treatment professionals, mental health clinicians, and corrections professionals. According to Ms. Cruz, the only real support and assistance she has received has come through the office of Leanne Krueger-Braneky, the State Representative from the 161st Legislative District in Holmes, PA.
Ms. Cruz gets tired and frustrated sometimes, but she is not giving up on her son. She is quite clear that over the years Matthew has not gotten the kind of treatment that he needs. In specific reference to George W. Hill Correctional Facility, Ms. Cruz states, "they need to implement more mental health and drug and alcohol addiction treatment." She also feels strongly that the staff at G. W. Hill needs more training, especially in how to deal with people. They need to learn to be more courteous, more professional, and more knowledgeable about successful methods for dealing with people who have mental health issues.
Note: pseudonyms have been used to protect the privacy of the individuals who shared their story with us.