A Greensboro mother is doing the best she can to hold it together as she tries to fight for her son to receive adequate mental-health treatment in a county jail, worrying that without it he might provoke or lash out at guards with fatal consequences.
Tammy Tucker is worried sick about her son, Maurice. So much so that she lost one of her jobs.
After Greensboro police arrested Maurice Tucker, 30, on a variety of charges including possession of a gun by a felon and driving the wrong way down a street in the Smith Homes area on May 14, his mother Tammy hasn’t been able to stop worrying.
It’s not that she’s worried about whether he’ll beat the charges — she’s worried for his life. His letters from the Guilford County jail in downtown Greensboro haven’t helped.
Maurice was diagnosed as manic bipolar, schizophrenic and as suffering from psychosis in 2010, Tammy Tucker said, which she said helped explain years of erratic and illegal behavior. He’d been living with her for several years before his arrest, but she only found out after Maurice got locked up that he’d been off his medication for six or eight months. Unable to bring Maurice his medicine in jail — Tammy said the jail won’t allow it and provides him with generic medication — she is worried that Maurice isn’t in his right mind. If he acts out or provokes a guard at the jail — or worse yet in prison if he’s convicted — who isn’t trained to deal with someone with his cocktail of mental health issues, Tammy Tucker fears the results could be deadly.
“All it takes is the wrong chokehold,” she said.
He’s had trouble in jail before, she said, and his record shows it. Since being locked up, Maurice has written her repeatedly, sometimes complaining of treatment from guards including one incident where he claimed a guard pinned him to the floor with a knee on his temple, scratching Maurice’s head by his ear.
Her son’s rap sheet is voluminous. Maurice Tucker has been charged with a seemingly endless string of offenses, though many — ranging from possession of a drug not in its original container to assault with a deadly weapon — were dropped by the district attorney, according to court records. But Maurice has also been found guilty in plenty of other cases, including misdemeanor assault on a government official/employee, malicious conduct by a prisoner, felony possession with intent to sell/distribute cocaine and felony attempted breaking or entering a building.
To an extent, Tammy Tucker blames herself — as a single mom, she raised her children as best she could, but they were often living in “drug neighborhoods.”
“I’ll probably die still blaming myself,” she said, “but I just want to get him right.”
Maurice and people like him belong in mental health facilities, Tammy Tucker said, somewhere like the state-operated healthcare treatment center in Butner, where Maurice was originally diagnosed.
“I want him to be safe,” she said. “He still has rights.”
Maj. Chuck Williamson, the court services bureau commander of the Guilford County Sheriff’s Office, confirmed that Maurice Tucker is receiving mental-health treatment at the jail that includes medications and daily visits from a mental health nurse, adding that the law prevented him from sharing additional medical information. Tucker does not appear on the department’s online listing of those currently in the jail, but Williamson confirmed that Tucker is there and being held in an administrative segregation unit “primarily based on his history and some of his current behavior.”
In the past, Tucker has thrown feces at guards, Williamson said — evidence that he needs proper medication, Tammy Tucker said — adding that Maurice is “disruptive” and can’t be around other inmates because he does things like banging on a cell door, tapping incessantly or “hollering” throughout the night. Williamson said Maurice has behaved better than other times he’s been in the Greensboro jail.
When Tammy Tucker inquired about the alleged incident that her son wrote to her about, involving the scratches behind his ear and being restrained, she said she was told there is no record of such an incident. Williamson said that Maurice had an “incident” on May 24 that required placing him in a restraint chair, though there is no record of a use of force by guards in the report, he said. Maurice complained that his jaw and mouth hurt afterwards, Williamson said, but when a nurse ordered X-rays, they came back negative and Maurice hasn’t complained since, Williamson said.
There’s nothing else of the sort in his medical file or incident reports since his recent arrest, Williamson added.
When Tammy Tucker saw her son via video feed at his bail hearing last week, she said she could tell “he was not quite right.” When he’s been off his meds for a long period of time, Tucker said, he requires a shot instead of pills to up the dosage and bring him back to balance, adding that it is clear from talking to him that he doesn’t understand his situation and isn’t fit to stand trial.
Talking openly about her son’s mental health issues isn’t easy, Tucker said, and it’s taken her a long time to open up about it.
“It’s emotionally draining,” she said. “At times I felt embarrassed, I felt ashamed.”
Her son was shot eight times in Smith Homes housing projects last year, Tucker said, after he went off his meds and started talking crazy to someone who left and came back with a gun. Since then, Tammy said Maurice has been paranoid, hearing voices and convinced that someone was coming after him. That’s why he had two guns on him when he was arrested, she said.
Shortly before his arrest, people started warning Tammy that her son seemed like he’d gone off his medication again, and she had planned to have him involuntarily committed.
Stress from Maurice’s incarceration made Tammy sick, she said, and she lost one of her jobs. She also ended up being kicked out of her apartment. Tammy still holds a catering job, “but I’m so depressed I don’t want to go to it,” she said.
God is what pulls her through, Tammy said, a cross and a portrait of Jesus hanging on necklaces around her neck.
“When there’s nothing you can do for your child, it’s a lot [to deal with],” she said before getting up and leaving the room, returning with tissues to wipe her eyes.
Tammy Tucker won’t be able to relax until her son is receiving the mental health treatment he needs and deserves, she said. She is turning down offers from family and friends to get away and relax for a weekend, saying she doesn’t feel like she deserves it. And she’s ready to find some sort of a support group for people in her situation.
It’s about more than just her son, she added — it’s about an overall lack of prioritizing mental health resources and treatment, a lack of support for single mothers like her and a legal system where white kids such as Brock Allen Turner can walk away from a conviction relatively unscathed while parents like her fear for their children’s lives.
Tammy Tucker said the state government isn’t doing enough to fund mental health needs.
“I watch them building highways,” Tucker said. “Do something for mental health.”