Cruel and Unusual

Mentally ill Texans used to go to hospitals. Now, increasing numbers of them go to prison instead.

"We were so naive," says Lois, "that after he was arrested, we thought he would go to a mental hospital."

Instead, Robison was convicted of capital murder. He's scheduled to be executed next month. Despite a campaign by his family and anti-death-penalty groups such as Capacity for Justice, Larry Robison says he's ready for the end.

"I believe there is something better waiting for me in the next life, and I look forward to it," he says. "I know my mother probably doesn't agree. She's very attached to me. But I'm trying to help her with that."

Howard Waffer is an inmate at Texas' Skyview facility for the mentally ill, where he is serving time for sexual assault.
Phillippe Diederich
Howard Waffer is an inmate at Texas' Skyview facility for the mentally ill, where he is serving time for sexual assault.
The Hodge Unit: mentally retarded inmates outside their cells
The Hodge Unit: mentally retarded inmates outside their cells


Aaron George's mother, too, is very attached to her son. But unlike Larry Robison, George does not see a better life for himself anywhere on the horizon.

At the conclusion of his retrial, a Montgomery County jury again found George guilty of murder. This time around, he was sentenced to 99 years in prison -- 39 years more than after his first conviction. Before the trial, George's attorney had been gung-ho about filing a class-action lawsuit about the treatment of the mentally impaired in TDCJ. Now, even the appeal of George's latest conviction appears to be on hold.

George is still waiting to be transferred from the Montgomery County jail back to the psychiatric care TDCJ system. Every day he makes a collect call to his mother, but each time the conversation grows shorter.

"All he can say, over and over," she says, "is '99 years.'"

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