How people with mental illness become prisoners in Alabama

Jessica Purshock became an accused felon inside the place she least expected: a facility designed to protect her and others from the dark thoughts in her mind.

Staff members in February 2017 placed her in a seclusion room at WellStar, a crisis center for some of the most seriously ill psychiatric patients in Madison County, said her mother, Marla Durkin-Pope. Purshock pushed on a door, which swung open, striking an employee.

The employee pressed charges so administrators discharged Purshock from the facility to be booked and released from jail. Court records described the weapon as her “hands,” and the act as strong-arm assault.

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