A woman was forced to leave her home in the US and live in a tiny, filthy room for six months because she was ‘just going to have a point’, a court heard.
The Australian woman had been held at the California state prison at Sacramento since October 2011, but only made a point of making a joke during a visit to a visiting US prisoner in December.
The prison is notorious for overcrowding, mental illness and a lack of services, including mental health and social workers.
When the woman’s family tried to help her, they were told to get out of her home.
‘I can’t say the least bit joking around.
I mean, what do you expect me to do?
I’m just going have a joke,’ she told the court.
A psychologist later testified that the woman was a ‘disadvantaged minority’ with mental health issues and that she did not fit in with other prisoners, the ABC reported.
The woman’s lawyer, Susan Brown, said the woman had lived in a cramped room for almost a year and had become increasingly stressed and depressed over her mental health.
‘It’s hard to believe that someone would do that, let alone for a six month period,’ Ms Brown said.
‘She had suffered a lot of trauma from being held in a locked facility and had been left with a lot more mental health challenges than she had when she was in a prison.’
She said the ‘joke’ was not the only time the woman struggled with mental illness.
‘This is not the first time this has happened.
‘And it’s not the last.
She’s got some issues and she has a lot to deal with.’
The woman was given a conditional discharge and released from the prison in January, but she said she would not be returning to prison again.
‘My life has been shattered.
I’m going to do whatever I can to make up for it, but I don’t think I will,’ she said.
Ms Brown called on the Federal Government to reform prison policies to provide more services and support.
‘We don’t want to be a society where there is no safety net, where people are left in isolation, where they’re isolated from people who are able to help them,’ she added.
‘That’s not what this country is about.