Whatcom County Jail Trauma Chart
This is a summary chart of an ethnographic research study of seventy-nine (79) people who have been dealing directly with the law and justice system in Whatcom County. The case study interviews were conducted by Joy Gilfilen, a civic systems researcher and President of the Restorative Community Coalition for nine years. Her goal was to talk with people who were directed impacted by an arrest in the family, to map out their experience and to find out from them where the system is broken and could be improved.
An unexpected finding was discovering the intense, high impact emotional trauma that is endured when someone is suddenly accused of a crime, taken captive, held in an hostile environment under duress, scrutized and examined in a highly intense compressed timeframes where they have no protection and no capacity to defend themselves. This chart synthesizes the emotional shocks endured, along with the physical, familial, mental and psychological impacts on the people interviewed in the case study group.
This diagram is limited to illustrating what kinds of impacts are felt during the time that elapses between a 911 call to the time an arrested person gets to their 1st Appearance in Court – which could be up to 72 hours. During that period of time their body (corpus) becomes a commodity that the authorities control.
None of the symptoms shown on this chart are mitigated prior to 1st Appearance in court. This is when the person arrested and accused of a crime first finds out the charges filed against them by the Prosecutor, their value is set by the bail that is brokered, and their right to be free is negotiated, and they are assigned a Public Defender to essentially manage the paperwork of the courts for the accused.
This chart doesn’t show this economic or legal sequence of impacts and losses. It does not include the impacts of economic, social, or job related ripple effects that follow as a as a consequence of an arrest, nor does it include the emotional impacts of what happens when a person is held in jail pending court, plea bargaining,or probation. That information will be provided in a separate document.
The synthesis of symptoms described in this chart are limited to what happens at the onset of a situation – from the point of a 911 call. This is when an unsuspecting accused person is suddenly placed in an extreme hazardous emotional and psychological conditions that are unfamiliar, debilitating, and whole-systems traumatizing.
The Accelerating Impact – RADD-RAT Symptoms:
The interviews showed that even when people were perfectly well before the incident, the experience of dealing with the initial shock of whatever happened escalates in a short time to produce Radicalized Acute Distress under Duress (RADD) symptoms. The interviews showed how people at the point of being held captive, especially in the jail, then experience compounding traumatic emotions defined as Repetitive Accelerating Trauma (RAT) symptoms.