Escaped inmate's family speaks out

Saturday, May 17th 2008, 10:43 pm
By: News 9

By Rusty Surette, NEWS 9

The mother of an escaped inmate is making a plea to lawmakers to fix what she calls a growing crisis in Oklahoma prisons.

On May 7, Mitchell Shults picked a lock at the Pontotoc County jail and took off on a stolen motorcycle. A week later he was arrested in Oklahoma City and now he's back behind bars. Shults' family said he's mentally ill and he's not getting the help he needs in prison or jail. They're hoping his recent run from the law proves changes are needed. 

"We desperately need changes," Margie Wilkett, Shults' mother said. "They send them to prison because they break the law, but they're not addressing the real issue."

In Oklahoma, researchers estimate 60 percent of all prison inmates suffer from a mental illness, and across the nation 10 percent of all prisoners have severe psychiatric disorders.

Researchers say inmates are not getting the proper treatment. One report says "America's jails and prisons are now surrogate psychiatric hospitals for thousands." Click here to read the full report.

A spokesman for the Oklahoma Department of Corrections says expenditures for medications for the mentally ill have increased in the past two years.

Shults' sister, Stacey Olsen, said if the state would have provided the right amount of treatments and medications for her brother, then she thinks he could be back on the road to recovery instead of back in jail.

"He's been diagnosed as schizophrenia, bipolar, manic depressant," Olsen said.  "He's my brother and I see this and it hurts, and if we can correct it for him, maybe it can be corrected for other individuals too."

Shults' family is seeking legal assistance in getting their concerns through the proper channels and asks anyone who is willing to help to call Wilkett at (405) 823-3523.

"I just want to plea for the laws to be changed and for parents to wake up because one day you will be sitting where we are at," Wilkett said. "There is a good possibility."