Teen Sentenced on Weapons Charges to be Treated by HHI Psychiatr - Local news, weather, sports Savannah | WSAV On Your Side

Teen Sentenced on Weapons Charges to be Treated by HHI Psychiatrist

Teen Sentenced on Weapons Charges to be Treated by HHI Psychiatrist

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BLUFFTON, S.C. - It’s the video shown in a Beaufort County courtroom that Austin Almeida’s defense attorney says proves the Bluffton teen didn’t understand what he was doing when he brought a gun, knives, and gasoline to Bluffton High School last May.

In it, Almeida confesses to Bluffton Police, “I was going to chop them up into little bits and set them on fire.”

Almeida’s condition, his attorney says, is Asperger’s syndrome. It is an autism spectrum disorder that affects language and behavioral development.

With the sentence to serve up to five years behind bars and then to seek medical treatment while on probation, News Three questioned how the treatment could change Almeida once he is released from jail.

Hilton Head Island psychiatrist, Dr. Srivastava will treat Almeida once he is released from jail.

“If he can get redirected and seek the treatment that he needs, there is no reason why he can’t be a wonderful member of society,” attorney Sam Bauer says.

However, without the treatment, Bauer says it could be a different story.

"Immersing them for too long in a population of hardened criminals is way more harmful than beneficial," Bauer says.

A new study by the Treatment Advocacy Center backs that up. It says South Carolina prisons are some of the worst at treating the mentally ill.

"We have people suffering from schizophrenia, paranoia, insane delusions, who were being left basically to rot in their cells," Bauer says.

A Richland County judge even filed a suit against the Department of Corrections, claiming the overuse of force and isolation on the mentally ill violates their constitutional rights.

Instead of facing such a treatment, which could worsen Almeida’s condition, Bauer hopes the medical help will have a positive impact on his former client.

"If we can treat them and make them safe to release back into society, that's our obligation as good Christians," he says.

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