Tarrant inmate has mental capacity of a child. His mother is begging DA to get him care

The mother of a 21-year-old inmate in Tarrant County Jail says her son has the mental capacity of a young child and is pleading with prosecutors to drop charges so he can get the care he needs.

Kai’Yere Campbell has an intellectual and developmental disability and is unable to understand why he has been incarcerated for five months, according to his mother, Shantel Taylor. He has been deemed incompetent to stand trial and ordered to a mental health facility, but authorities say there is not space anywhere to send him.

“He is a child who cannot comprehend the adult world,” Taylor said in a statement sent to the Star-Telegram. “But now he is being punished by the justice system for behaviors that are a symptom of his developmental disability.”

An undated photo of Kai’Yere Campbell, who is 21 years old and has been held at Tarrant County Jail since December.
An undated photo of Kai’Yere Campbell, who is 21 years old and has been held at Tarrant County Jail since December.

She ended her statement with a plea addressed to District Attorney Phil Sorrells.

“As a parent, I am humbly begging the District Attorney as well as those involved in Kai’Yere’s ‘inner circle of care’ to please do whatever it takes to get him access to [a state-supported living center] for the appropriate level of care,” she said. “My son does not need punishment, he needs care.”

Campbell was arrested in December on charges of assault on an elderly person. He has since lost over 100 pounds, and does not understand that he needs to put clothes on, Taylor said.

His case has since attracted the attention of advocacy groups who are joining in calls for Campbell’s release.

Speakers during public comments at a Tarrant County Commissioners Court session this month called on county leaders to act, saying that the walls of Campbell’s cell are covered with excrement and scraps of food.

The person Campbell allegedly assaulted, a 72-year-old nurse in a group home where he was living in December, never wanted charges filed against him, according to Pamela Young, an organizer with the advocacy group United Fort Worth.

“When the police were called, they were called to take Kai’Yere to JPS Mental Health,” she said, referring to the taxpayer-supported hospital in Fort Worth.

Young added her voice to the call for Sorrells to drop the charges against Campbell, who she said is an 8-year-old developmentally.

“The DA is treating him like an able-minded adult who has control over his body — Kai’Yere can’t even take care of himself without 24/7 assistance. The DA is criminalizing him and it needs to stop,” she said.

Such arrests are common in group home situations in Texas, according to Krishnaveni Gundi, co-founder and executive director of Texas Jail Project.

“I cannot tell you how many times we hear that about people who are arrested in group homes. They are caseworkers and they’re nurses, and all are saying we called for help,” Gundu said. “We wanted him to get help, because they were not equipped to provide him the kind of help and care he needed.”

A court order filed in February found that Campbell was incompetent to stand trial and ordered that he be transferred to a state mental health facility in order to be restored to competency.

Sheriff’s office spokesperson Robbie Hoy told the Star-Telegram that Campbell remains in the Tarrant County jail because there is no mental health facility with room to take him.

“There has to be a facility available that will take him and as of right now, there isn’t one,” he said in an email exchange.

Taylor and advocates for Campbell, however, said that restoring his competency is impossible due to his developmental disability.

“The first question to ask is, ‘Why was he even put on the competency restoration waitlist?’” said Gundu. “Because everybody who’s worked with him, whether his caseworker or his mother or anyone who’s done any evaluation on him will tell you, this person does not have the mental capacity to be restored.”

“Kai’Yere is not a criminal, so those two criminalizing things need to be dropped by the DA, by the judge who ordered him onto the competency restoration waitlist so that he can be free and clear to receive the proper level of care that he needs for [his disability],” Young said.

“You cannot restore Kai’Yere’s competence. Because he does not have the mental capacity to understand the consequences of his behaviors,” Taylor said in an email exchange. “Moreover, he doesn’t have the mental capacity to be educated and retain information. His medical and mental health caseworkers are aware of this, everyone within his inner circle of care is aware of this.”

Taylor denied the Star-Telegram’s request to view documentation of Campbell’s developmental disability before his arrest in December.

Sorrell’s office did not address the assertions that Campbell’s competency cannot be restored, citing the February transfer order.

“Due to the order signed by the magistrate, the state cannot proceed any further on this case until the defendant receives treatment,” said DA spokesperson Anna Tinsley Williams.

Court documents show that Campbell has refused to put on clothing, eat, take medicine and meet with his court-appointed attorney while in custody. The attorney, Jake Wiggins of the Shane Lewis Law firm, did not respond to a request for comment.

Young also urged the social work community center My Health My Resources of Tarrant County, which provides services to people with mental health issues and intellectual or developmental disabilities, to expedite putting Campbell on the waitlist for a state-supported living center.

State-supported living centers provide round-the-clock care to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. State mental health facilities are not equipped or meant to treat people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

A representative from MHMR said the center provides assistance only with applications and referred the Star-Telegram to the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, which makes placement decisions for state-supported living centers.

A commission representative said the agency is legally prohibited from releasing information on Campbell’s candidacy for admission to a state-supported living center.

Sorrells has the authority to drop all charges against Campbell, according to Adrienne Frazior, a Dallas-based partner at the law firm Polsinelli who specializes in government investigations.

“They can either not prosecute a case, never take it to the grand jury or never file charges, but they can also dismiss at any time,” she said. “They have wide discretion to do that.”

Sorrells has practiced that discretion in the past. In the summer of 2023, his office cited prosecutorial discretion to drop aggravated assault and official oppression charges against three jailers who allegedly beat an inmate in the Tarrant County jail in 2020.