“Mental ward / is where I landed,” begins a poem by Marshun, an inmate at Cook County Jail in Chicago. The poem describes Marshun’s struggle with bipolar disorder, as well as his appreciation for flowers and photography. He was diagnosed before first entering Cook County Jail, where he’s been an inmate on and off since he was 20 years old, but it was only during his most recent stint at 33 that he entered the Mental Health Transition Center, a program that provides inmates with mental-health services. “If I had come to this program when I was 20,” Marshun says, “I wouldn’t have come back to jail.”
Marshun’s story is just one of many that photographer Lili Kobielski captures in her recent book, I Refuse for the Devil to Take My Soul, a revealing collection of portraits and interviews from inside Cook County Jail. The facility is not only one of the largest jails in the United States, but it may also be the nation’s largest mental health care provider.
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