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Mississippi Veteran Waited 18 Months in Jail For Mental Health Evaluation Without Trial

JACKSON, Miss.—Beverly Pool worries about her brother, Marvin Pernell, who was in the Oktibbeha County jail in Starkville, Miss., from July 2021 until January 2023, and is now at the Mississippi State Hospital, a state-funded psychiatric hospital in Whitfield, Miss. Now 48, Pernell is a military veteran who served in the U.S. Marines from 1994 to 1998.

In November, before his admittance to the hospital, an Oktibbeha county jail official told the Mississippi Free Press that Pernell was being held while waiting for a mental health evaluation after an initial arrest for possession of stolen property. The official said he had been waiting for a bed to open up at the state hospital ever since a judge ordered the evaluation and that such long waits are routine.

Over the course of multiple conversations with the Mississippi Free Press, Pool said she fears for her brother’s life and explained that has a checkered history of dealing with mental health issues.

“This is his first time ever being in any trouble like this,” she said on Nov. 4. 2022, before a bed finally became available at the Whitfield hospital. “And I understand they’re just a detention facility, so they’re just housing him there.”

On Jan. 5, 2023, Oktibbeha Circuit Court Judge James T. Kitchens (pictured) postponed the hearing for a possession-of-stolen-property case against 48-year-old Marvin Pernell to April 5, 2023. He was in detention at Oktibbeha County Jail from July 2021 to January 2023 while he waited on a mental health evaluation Kitchens had ordered. Photo courtesy Oktibbeha Circuit Court

“So my concern, I’m just really concerned about my brother’s welfare because, one, he’s not getting any mental health (assistance), nothing,” Pool added. “They just have him detained; they’re saying they’re waiting on a bed.”

“Instead of the individual getting the mental help they need, they’re putting them in jail, and it is not good, and I just don’t want my brother to deteriorate or, you know, something tragic to happen to him there,” Pool told the Mississippi Free Press.

Pool later said she received a call letting her know that Parnell had

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