An inmate in Cook County Jail in Chicago has cost the facility more than $1 million in health care after ingesting prison property – and we're not talking cafeteria mystery meat. The 17-year-old has eaten a large number of screws, leather restraints, thumbtacks, needles and other metal scraps. In the words of the jail authorities, he is “literally trying to eat the jail.”
Promising basketball player Lamont Cathey was arrested for allegedly robbing a pizzeria and stealing an undisclosed amount of money from the safe. He was taken into custody by the police and, unable to post the $5,000 cash bond, he was detained in the county jail, where he remains more than 16 months after the incident.
Although his alleged crime was a low-level burglary, a plea deal that called for him to attend a boot camp fell through last year, and something snapped inside the young man.
“We have a guy right now that has cost us close to a million dollars in health bills because he constantly eats the jail,” Sheriff Tom Dart reportedly told Cook County judicial leaders.
Some argue that the inmate is mentally unstable; however, his case highlights the hazards of institutionalizing impressionable youths, some of whom have psychological issues, according to the jail officials.
“This case to me is a perfect example of the failure of the criminal justice system,” said the jail's executive director Cara Smith. “It's been a crushingly sad and very frustrating case.”
So far, Cathey has been hospitalized more than two dozen times and had several operations to remove objects from his digestive tract. The facility has spent over $1.3 million on his medical surgeries.
He has also been denied a chance to be transferred to psychiatric ward, despite his various threats to commit suicide.
The teenager’s family blames the jail for Cathey’s situation while his lawyers say he needs long-term psychiatric treatment.