‘He’s literally eating the jail’: Chicago Basketball Star, 17, Has Cost County $1 Million in Medical Bills After Eating Metal Screws In Jail

‘He’s literally eating the jail’: Chicago Basketball Star, 17, Has Cost County $1 Million in Medical Bills After Eating Metal Screws In Jail

A Chicago teen has racked up a huge amount of medical bills – $1 million – by literally eating the jail. He’s ingested screws, thumb tacks, needles, and more after being unable to post bond for 16 months.


Authorities at Cook County Jail told the Chicago Tribune that the case of 17-year-old Lamont Cathey highlights the hazards of institutionalizing impressionable youths, some of whom have mental health issues.

‘This case to me is a perfect example of the failure of the criminal justice system,’ the jail’s executive director, Cara Smith, told the newspaper.

‘It’s been a crushingly sad and very frustrating case.’

The newspaper says the sheriff’s office moved the Chicago teen into a newer section of the jail last week and that his condition appears to have improved.

Cathey has been in the jail for 16 months following his arrest for allegedly stealing money from a pizzeria safe, after he couldn’t post a $5,000 cash bond.

It’s only when a plea deal that was supposed to let him attend a boot camp fell through last year that he began swallowing objects. They included a thumbtack, strips of leather and even parts of a medical device he had dismantled.

‘He’s literally eating the jail,’ Smith said.

He’s been hospitalized two dozen times and had several operations to remove objects from his digestive tract.

Cathey piled up other charges while at the jail, including allegedly shoving a guard. That could mean time in state prison.

Cathey’s brother, Kenneth Barber, said he had never displayed signs of depression before he was jailed. He had been enrolled in an alternative charter high school, where basketball coaches called the 6-foot-8 Cathey ‘Big Boy.’

His lawyers have said in court filings that he urgently needs psychiatric treatment.

That isn’t extraordinary for Cook County Jail, where nearly a quarter of its 8,000 inmates are mentally ill, say jail officials, who have long
clamored for more mental-health resources.

‘Lamont requires structured, long-term psychiatric residential treatment,’ one of the defense filings said.

Cathey had been in trouble before. He was arrested more than a dozen times as a juvenile, though none of those arrests led to convictions.
A cousin, Charles Drake, said Cathey always wanted to do well in life.

‘He’s got a good heart,’ he said.

‘He just got some wrong turns.’

Though the goal is law and order, the goal will be easier reached if inmates are given the mental health treatment they need. By ingesting things that can severely hurt him, he’s crying for help. After that is rectified, he can serve the appropriate sentence for his crimes.

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