I am writing to ask you to support SB21-062 because had this bill been law, it could have saved my son’s life. Our son, Jerid Jason Thistle, was a loving son and father. He struggled with an addiction to methamphetamines that led to mental health issues.
We had a plan for Jerid to move home to Washington. It was his dream to open a home mechanic shop on our property. He was a terrific mechanic. You can ask anyone who works at the Alamosa Sheriff’s office. They all had their vehicles fixed by Jerid. We offered Jerid this dream if he completed drug treatment. He was ready to do so. But, instead, he lost his life alone in a jail cell.
Jerid faced a pending charge of theft under $500 and carrying an illegal weapon. Both the prosecutor and public defender agreed Jerid was safe for release on a non-monetary bond, but the judge refused. Jerid could not afford the $5,000 bond in his case. So his only option was pretrial incarceration.
While struggling through a painful detox with no support, and facing the reality that because he was poor, he would have to wait in jail for months until trial, Jerid felt hopeless. Three days after arrest, my son died by suicide alone in that cell.
Jerid’s suicide was a shock and I remain devasted by this loss. Detoxing in a cell, pending trial, with no intervention, is not the right response to addiction and mental health. We need a better system, where jail cells are reserved for people who pose a real safety risk and where people like my son are not driven to desperation because they can’t pay for their freedom. I ask you to please support SB21-062 not just for our son but for people like Jerid who are sitting in the Alamosa jail right now and for those who will surely follow.
June Fraser Thistle