Local News

Sheriff: Mental illness is 'sad, but a problem' in Wake County prisons

Posted January 25

Map Marker  Find News Near Me

— A Wake County case is shining a light on mental health and the criminal justice system after a former Wake County student was arrested for stalking one of her former teachers.

When Abigail Killion, 21, walked onto the campus of Wakefield High School this week, carrying what police describe as a 4-inch steak knife and looking for a former teacher, it was the second such incident involving the former student. The first time, police said she had a bag of knives and was searching for the same teacher.

Killion’s mother told the court Wednesday that her daughter suffers from mental illness and she has tried over the years to get her help.

Ann Akland is on the board of Wake County’s National Alliance on Mental Illness. She said usually people with mental illness are not violent. Although Killion was found with knives, she never acted violently during either incident.

“It’s just so distressing, it really is,” Akland said. “She had reached some point, maybe she was delusional, maybe it was some obsession that she had and that’s just how it manifested itself.”

Mental illness can be a challenge for parents, especially if their son or daughter is an adult, like Killion. If parents opt for an involuntary commitment, that involves paperwork and law enforcement.

Akland said while Wake County hospitals are doing what they can, none have in-patient psychology units. In many cases, those with mental illnesses who commit crimes end up at the Wake County Detention Center like Killion.

“It’s sad but it’s a problem,” Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison said

Harrison said prisoners going through an immediate screening to determine their mental health.

“We had 1,246 in jail today so, with taxpayers money and we being probably the largest mental health facility in the state, its costing tax payers,” he said.

By the numbers, Harrison estimates more than 65 percent of prisoners suffer from some type of mental illness. He contracts with mental health professionals to take care of them and psychiatrists are available seven days a week.

Harrison and Akland agree that more needs to be done to help people like Killion.

“The good thing is the county commissioners and a lot of other people are really working with us to make it better for the people that come in here,” Harrison said.

Killion’s parents told the court they hope to get her the help she needs. She is due back in court next month.

3 Comments

Please with your WRAL.com account to comment on this story. You also will need a Facebook account to comment.

Oldest First
View all
  • Rick Nolte Jan 26, 2:01 p.m.
    user avatar

    Be especially guarded in Southport where they just shoot the mentally ill because they "don't have time for this".

  • Kim Anderson Jan 26, 12:02 p.m.
    user avatar

    William you are complety RIGHT. It saddens me when I hear its a shortage of funds avaliable for Mental health. If they go and take some of the money that is poured into the wasteful foster care system that would surely help. Every child that comes in contact with CPS or Wake County Human Services is deemed mentally ill. That leaves no money for adults and other people. Take a look at Stategic Behavioral Health in Garner. They are filled with children with mental issues. They get all kinds of funding, but dont have staff who are dedicated and commited enough to help make a difference in these children lives. Majority of the kids are highly medicated to get zombie like results and we taxpayer have to pay for that. Then you have young adults out her suffering not knowing where to turn for help because of a funding shortage. You speak commissioners are planning to take action. The only action they will do is to try to cover it up to keep Wake County painted as this nice pretty place

  • William Patterson Jan 26, 9:58 a.m.
    user avatar

    its a problem in the executive office of the White House too....