Anne Marcelline thought her daughter’s schizophrenia was under control. Elle, 34, had her own apartment in New York City, a steady job in a law office and was studying for the Law School Admission Test. She seemed stable—so stable that to clear her mind for the test, she stopped taking her medication.
It wasn’t long before she had a psychotic break and ran away, something that had happened at least once before, when she ended up in Georgia, in homeless shelters and a county jail. This time, she turned up in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, nearly 100 miles from her home. Elle was arrested while walking down the street, suspected of stealing cash from the register of a gas station.
That was nearly two years ago. Elle has been trapped in the Pennsylvania justice system ever since. “If she wasn’t convicted, why the hell is she there? You know she’s ill,” her mother said. (Through her lawyer, Elle declined to comment for this article; her name has been changed to protect her privacy.)
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