Prison the treatment for Buffalo Grove man’s mental illness

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Prison the treatment for Buffalo Grove man’s mental illness

The first hint that Daniel Jason might not fit in with others came when he walked
into his kindergarten class with his hands shielding his eyes so he wouldn’t
have to look at anyone.

A good baseball player throughout his childhood and teen years, Daniel nonetheless
sat by himself in his team’s dugout.

A fine college student who graduated early, Daniel had problems with almost all
of his roommates. He clearly struggled in his first romantic relationship. Some
time off in Florida didn’t bring him peace.

But of all the places where Daniel has had difficulty fitting in, the numerous jail
cells where he’s spent all his time since March of 2007 have been the most
difficult to endure for his parents, Joseph and Nancy Jason.

“He’s not a thug,” the mom says of her son as she sits at the dining room table in
their Buffalo Grove home. “He’s acting like a fifth-grader and they put him
with criminals.”

Daniel has Asperger syndrome, a high-functioning person with an organic developmental disorder
in the autism spectrum, explains his father, Joseph Jason,
whose experience with his son has turned him into a crusader for people with mental
illnesses. A certified public accountant, Joseph Jason is president of the
Barrington Area chapter of the National Alliance on
Mental Illness
. He knows the struggle all too well.

“It’s like a nightmare that just keeps going,” Joseph Jason
says of his son’s ordeal.

A bright child who had difficulty making friends and
socializing, Daniel was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome as a teenager after he
threw a tantrum, was hospitalized and his interactions with his parents became
more argumentative.

“He’d be in your face,” his mom recalls.

“He lashes out verbally,” his dad says.

The boy used the Internet to write offensive and juvenile
things about girls’ bodies.

With treatment and counseling, Daniel was able to run cross
country at Stevenson High School and did well enough academically to get into plenty
of colleges. He wanted to major in finance at the University of Iowa, but his
parents were worried about him being so far from home. They told him to start
at Illinois State University with the promise that if he got straight As for
two years, he could transfer.

“He got all As,” his mom says, accustomed to the way Daniel
can lock in on a goal.

Roommates — who didn’t understand the mental illness that
led to Daniel typing at 3 a.m., eating sloppy meals with his fingers or leaving
the room a mess — just thought he was a jerk. One punched him.

Daniel had trouble socially, but he managed to graduate
early in December of 2005. He also started dating a woman for the first time.
It wasn’t a healthy relationship. When his parents couldn’t manage to meet her
during one of their visits, Daniel lashed out.

“We got a text message in the car,” the dad says, recalling
the words they are sure their son didn’t mean: “I hope both of you get killed
on the way home.”

Those kind of impulsive threats are how Daniel responded
after his girlfriend ended their relationship.

He’d send hundreds of emails and text messages, threatening
to go public with secrets of their relationship.

He returned to Iowa for graduate school. She got an order
of protection. Daniel violated that order of protection. He was suspended from
grad school and his parents brought him home and tried to get him help. He
returned to Iowa, spent a month in jail, and within hours of his release,
violated court orders by contacting his old girlfriend.

Using his smarts and a couple thousand dollars of his bar
mitzvah money, Daniel started trading options online and made $120,000, which
he used to travel to Daytona Beach, Fla.

While there, he continued to communicate with his
ex-girlfriend and send inappropriate and disturbing photos and messages. When
he came to Iowa to visit her in March of 2007, he was arrested again and sent
to jail.

Firing his lawyers and choosing to defend himself, Daniel
mailed one of his stick-figure drawings to an attorney, depicting the lawyer, a
gun and the saying “R.I.P.” That led to the FBI filing charges and a federal

Daniel threatens violence, but isn’t violent, say his
parents, who note that mental health treatment, not jail, is the only way to
end this sad cycle of inappropriate and criminal behavior.

“What’s the answer? You can’t just keep him in jail and
prison for his whole life,” says the father, who notes that he hasn’t even been
able to hug his son since a 2007 court appearance.

“I get five to eight phone calls a week from families in
the same situation and that’s just the calls I get

says James Pavle, executive director of the
Treatment Advocacy Center,
a not-for-profit group that advocates
alternatives other than jail for many of the people with mental illnesses.
“Over-incarceration is a tragedy.”

Studies show that 16 percent of our nation’s jail and prison population suffer from
mental illnesses, and many experts think the percentage is higher, Pavle says.
In the 1950s, we had 550,000 psychiatric beds in facilities
across the nation. Now, we have fewer than 100,000. We moved away from
large mental institutions, but we didn’t move that money into other treatments,
Pavle says.

“What confounds me the most is the comfort level that we in this society have with
the incarceration of people with mental illnesses,” Pavle says. “This great
society of ours, we’re just not cutting edge when it comes to treating people
with mental illness.”

The Jasons continue to write prosecutors, judges and other authorities, trying to
get their son into a facility with the mental health treatments he needs.

“We are begging you, from the bottom of our hearts to please give him a chance to
improve and build a life for himself,” they write.

“We really don’t know our son anymore,” the mom says, wiping tears from her eyes.
“You think if you love that child, it’s enough. But it’s not, because it’s in
their brain.”


2 thoughts on “Prison the treatment for Buffalo Grove man’s mental illness

  1. So what is the solution? That your son gets to continue to harrassed his ex girlfriend? That the ex girlfriend spends the rest of her life getting calls/ emails / threats from your son? That your sin continues to post pictures snd vile things about women (if he’s working, his colleagues) all over the web?? That it is ok because he has aspergers and thus unlikely to actually carry out the threats?

    • The answer is treatment and not incarceration. There is a place in Iowa called the Homestead that is familiar with this type of behavior. The Criminalization of Asperger Syndrome is not the answer.

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