Mentally Ill Jailed Teen Racks Up Millions In Medical Bills After Ingesting Nails

17-year-old Lamont Cathey has spent over sixteen months behind bars for a low-level offense after he was unable to post a $5000 bond. According to, Cathey’s plea deal to attend boot-camp fell through and the teenager began to demonstrate mental health issues, including depression, which culminated with his ingestion of metallic objects, needles, and even a four-inch metal bar. As a result, the teen was hospitalized nearly twenty-four times, one of which included a major surgery to remove the objects from his body. All told, the visits and the surgery cost the jail approximately $1 million dollars.

The story, however, is not only the financial costs of the young man’s actions. The greater issue at hand is the mental health issues the young man suffers from and the inability of the criminal justice system to appropriately deal with inmates with these types of issues. In the facility in which Cathey was locked-up, nearly 1/4 of the 8000 inmates suffer from some type of mental illness. Across the country, hundreds-of-thousands of black Americans are imprisoned because of actions that can be connected to their mental-health issues. While imprisoned, most of these inmates never receive the attention or treatment necessary to be successfully rehabilitated and they are returned to the community with untreated conditions which inextricably leads to the high recidivism rates of many young black men.

In Lamont Cathey’s case, his attorney’s have advocated for psychiatric treatment. Without the structure and treatment necessary, it is likely that Cathey’s time–like so many other African American’s–will be far more detrimental than rehabilitative.

Cathey’s time awaiting trial has exasperated the young man’s mental health conditions and now has saddled him and the state of Illinois with over a million dollars of medical expenses. This time has also led to additional charges which could lead to time in the state prison. Included in these charges is assault on a guard.

According to family members, Cathey’s mistakes can not detract from his good-hearted nature and desire to do more with his life. However, his talents both on and off the basketball court have not only been encumbered by his crime, but now they are being hindered by the sixteen-month long imprisonment that resulted from his family’s economic inability to pay a $5000 bond and the affects this time has had on his untreated mental health conditions.


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