This case dragged out, in particular, because TDCJ refused admission to court-ordered drug treatment (SAFP) based on the probationer's psychotic state - the program simply has very few beds designed to handle offenders with serious mental health needs. So that particular sentencing decision was probably a misjudgment to begin with, particularly as a probation condition on a minor assault. But the situation points to the larger truth that we have no good answers for such defendants except forced medication, and that only lasts as long as taxpayers foot the bill to keep the fellow locked up.
Nicholas Sauve says he talks to angels in his Dallas County Jail cell.
The severely schizophrenic man has had months alone to do so. Arrested for shoving his mother against a car, he was sentenced in September to 45 days in jail.
Six months have passed. He is still in a cell in the West Tower Jail. During a jailhouse interview last week, he drummed his long, dirty fingernails against his nose and cheek and questioned why he couldn't go home.
"Why am I still here?" he asked, his eyes flitting from left to right. "They're all criminals for keeping me here. It's on their flesh and spirit. I'm a holy angel. I don't sin."
The legal filings in Sauve's case show he hasn't been lost in the criminal justice system since his arrest June 12. But the delays in his case are readily apparent. ...
"I knew him when he could write poems, paint, sculpt. And now sometimes he doesn't recognize me," said Billy Elrod of Irving, a friend who has visited him in jail. "When he doesn't get his medicine, it hurts him. Every time he goes, the person we get back is only a part of who he was before. If we don't get him back soon, we'll never have him again."
Large numbers of people wrapped up in the justice system - about 3 in 10 Texas inmates - were clients of the state's indigent mental health system before incarceration. While most cases don't drag out as long as this one, Sauve's case emblemizes the problem of mentally ill offenders arrested for minor offenses who soak up large amounts of criminal justice resources over what's essentially a medical problem, except their medical care is primarily delivered as part of a punitive system.