Chicago Prisoners Suffering PTSD From Gang Violence

MS-13 Gang Member
Flickr/Mara Salvatrucha

Gang violence and the mounting death toll in Cook County, home to the City of Chicago, have gotten so bad that county jails are now treating prisoners for a civilian form of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), according to a new report.

The Chicago Sun-Times reports on the work of Elli Petacque Montgomery, the chief clinical social worker in the Cook County Sheriff’s office, whose job is to watch for and identify prisoners that might have mental problems. One thing Montgomery is finding, the reports says, is that prisoners are coming into the jail with PTSD because of the incredible violence they see on a daily basis.

“The killing fields of Chicago,” the paper said on Tuesday, “have left thousands of people damaged by the same trauma that veterans have experienced overseas, officials say.”

Employing the street nickname that Chicgao earned during this past summer of constant shootings and murders, Mrs. Montgomery said that the city is like a war zone.

“What we have down here [in the jail intake] is Chiraq,” Montgomery said. “We see people without eyes, missing limbs, in wheelchairs, disabled from being shot. They’re just like veterans of wars.”

The Times notes that the Sheriff’s office isn’t alone in identifying PTSD in Chicago’s citizens. Other groups, like the city YMCA and several hospitals, have also identified the mental ailment in patients who live in violence-prone neighborhoods.

As 2014 comes to a close, the number of shot, wounded and killed has grown since 2013. There were 434 more shootings in Chicago in 2014 than in 2013 with a total of 2619 shot this year. In 2013, 375 were killed by gunfire, and in 2014, 388 lost their lives.

Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter: @warnerthuston. Email the author at 


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