TALLADEGA COUNTY -- Cindy Burk and a group of her family and friends will be leading a protest outside the Talladega County Judicial Building on Monday morning, starting around 8:15.
Burk said she will be protesting on behalf of her son, Tyler Freeman, who has been in the Talladega County Metro Jail for more than a year after being arrested on a charge of felony assault.
According to various documents Burk has provided, however, Tyler is psychotic, possibly schizophrenic, has an IQ of 53, has an autism spectrum disorder and has seizures. It has already been determined that he is not competent to stand trial, but the state has been unable to find a bed for him in a psychiatric facility -- where his mother freely admits he belongs.
“He needs a hospital, not jail,” she said. “Somewhere he can be treated, medicated by actual doctors, not banging his head and tearing up his clothes and destroying his mattress.”
Freeman was taken to the emergency room at what was then Citizens Baptist Medical Center in Talladega in June 2015 after having a seizure. While in the emergency room, he punched a nurse in the face, breaking her nose. He was subsequently charged with assault in the second degree, a class C felony, and was jailed. He’s still there today.
This was not Freeman’s first encounter with the system, however. In 2013, he was placed in a group home in Birmingham, among what Burk described as “a group of aggressors.” He came out with black eyes, broken teeth and head lacerations, his mother says, and there has been tremendous difficulty in getting him placed in another group home since then.
It was about this point that Freeman had his damaged teeth removed. Burk said they ended up giving him copious amounts of Orajel, which led, she says, to a positive test for cocaine. She insists the test results are false positives based on the active ingredients in the Orajel, but the incident remains in Freeman’s file with the state Department of Human Resources, she said.
Even when Freeman is staying in Burk’s home, she has difficulty controlling him when he gets agitated. On one occasion, she says, he attempted to kick out a gas line.
Freeman’s case is on the status docket Monday morning, and Burk said she is hoping that the issue of finding her son suitable long-term placement will be addressed. She says she does not know if that will happen.
Freeman’s defense attorney confirmed the major delay was an available bed at Taylor-Hardin, the state psychiatric hospital, but declined to go into any further detail about someone who still had a pending felony charge, even if he was never going to stand trial.
Designated spokespeople for the Alabama Department of Mental Health generally and the Developmental Disabilities Division have failed to return numerous phone calls over the past few months. Obviously, much of the information relating specifically to this case would be confidential, but an explanation of the basic placement process was also not forthcoming.
Burk said she has already contacted just about every state and local public official she could think of, to little avail. She even spent a good bit of last summer driving around with placards advertising her plight stuck all over her car, which also did not help the situation.