Currently, Cassy is being held in solitary confinement on an assault charge at the Minnesota Correctional Facility in Shakopee.
The 31-year-old has been in and out of prison for the last six years, although she's been dealing with diagnosed bipolar disorder since she was a teenager.
Cassy has a 7-year-old daughter named Aryah, and a 4-year-old daughter named Alysiah, who she delivered while in prison.
Her father, Tim Barry said, he's been trying everything to get his daughter the treatment that she needs for her mental health issues and drug addiction, but her aggressive outbursts and the criminal justice system have not eased the beleaguered father's mission, they have made it worse.
"This girl is lost," said Barry. "Basically, I've been trying to save this girl's life for 15 years."
He said he first started noticing her attitude and defiance around age 16 when she alleged that he was physically abusive toward her. She ended up going to her aunt's house, where she told Tim's sister her story.
"The next thing I know, I'm getting a call from Otter Tail County where I'm being investigated for child abuse," said Barry.
After speaking with investigators and social services, Barry said he was never charged with anything, but, because his daughter was 16 years old, she was able to adjudicate herself from Barry's home and ended up living with her aunt.
However, he said his sister called him a few months later, after seeing her behavior, and said the arrangement "ain't working," which put Cassy in the state's foster care system. It was while she was in foster care in Pelican Rapids that Cassy started experimenting with meth and alcohol.
"This is not uncommon to happen to people," said Paula Woods, a licensed independent clinical social worker at White Earth Mental Health. "The war on drugs is not working, and it's just causing increased incarceration of people and is not helping people with their addiction in any way, shape or form."
She said poverty, different types of trauma, and certain mental health disorders, play a major role in a potential downward spiral for individuals.
"From that point on, it's been a nightmare," Barry said. "Social services gives kids the power to do what they want, when they want, with no real consequences for their actions."
Cassy did graduate high school and wanted to go on to college to become a mortician, but her assaultive behavior, drug use and constant stints in jail prevented her from doing so, he said.
"The addiction becomes its own beast," said Woods. "It grabs a hold of you, and it doesn't let you go."
She said the drugs that people take change the processes of the brain and can be extremely difficult to overcome.
Barry also said that after Cassy turned 18, they repaired their relationship, but she didn't move back in. Instead, she moved in with friends and stayed on couches while she tried to hold down jobs, but none of them ever lasted long.
She was prescribed medication for her bipolar disorder, but, after a while, she would stop taking the pills because she didn't need them, he said. She also had therapy sessions, but never followed through with them after a few meetings with the therapist.
"She ended up in prison at 22, or 23, for probably a year and a half" said Barry. "But even in prison, she can't acclimate because of her brain, so she'd end up in solitary."
After getting out of jail, Cassy got pregnant and moved back in with her father.
At age 25, she suffered a hernia during childbirth, Barry said, after a week, she went back to the hospital for a hernia operation.
"About a week after (the operation) she had a stroke," he said. "They figured it was from blood clots from the hernia operation which caused the stroke."
It was a massive frontal lobe stroke and it completely wiped her out, Barry said.
"In being treated for the stroke, the clot went to her leg," he said.
The doctor put Cassy in a medically induced coma and amputated her right leg in an effort to save her life.
"She woke up about three months later with a new baby girl, half a brain, no leg and bipolar," said Barry.
He said he believes that she never truly came to terms with the loss of her leg. After about a year, Barry said, she started getting back into her old lifestyle of drugs and bad influences, and he had her committed to a treatment center in Fergus Falls.
"She was there for maybe three weeks and I get a call, 'well, your daughter is in jail,'" he said. "Her and another chick were fighting over what was on TV . . . they haul them both out and take them to Otter Tail County jail."
Woods said the correctional system isn't designed to correct behavior.
"The criminal justice system isn't a correction focus, it's a punitive focus," said Woods. "
Cassy served 90 days and Barry told the judge that his daughter needs more help than what she has been getting, the judge agreed.
The judge put an order in her casefile that she was not to be released from anyone's custody until she gets the help that she needs, he said.
After her 90 days, she was transferred up to Moorhead because she had another warrant, but the judge there didn't abide by the Otter Tail County judge's order and released her.
Barry said, after she was released, she got back into meth and got into a fight with her sister, causing her to end up back in prison.
Woods said prisoners are constantly told that they are no good, and those types of judgments aren't helpful when dealing with drugs or mental illness.
"It's completely unhelpful," Woods said. "There are people who want to get clean so they don't go to jail, but that is not enough, they need a lot of different kinds of focus and to learn how to sit with pain."
It takes practice to sit and deal with emotions, she said.
Cassy was fitted for a leg prosthetic while she was recovering from her stroke and ended up receiving the leg while she was in prison.
"It was a $15,000 prostheses," said Barry. "She called me from prison and said, 'Dad, I'm starting to walk,' you know, happy. Her whole demeanor had changed."
Two weeks later, Barry said he got a call saying the inmates stole the remote control for her leg and flushed it down the toilet.
"Leaving her (prosthetic) inoperable, and back in a wheelchair she went," said Barry. "The prison sent her leg to Essentia Health in Fargo to be repaired. Essentia Health repossessed her leg for non-payment because, when you're in prison, Social Security disability doesn't cover your bills."
She was released from prison and continued to bounce between group homes, treatment centers and jail for the next three years, he said.
Most recently, Cassy was living in a drug treatment facility as part of her probation from a previous charge, when she began arguing with her roommate over a pillow. She threatened the roommate and was expelled from the treatment facility for assaultive behavior, which caused her to violate her release agreement with Otter Tail County and a warrant was issued for her arrest.
Cassy called the police herself to turn herself in, Barry said, but before the police arrived, she took a large amount of medication, which caused her to be heavily under the influence by the time police arrive. They took her to the county detox unit, but, at one point over her two day stay, they neglected to lock her in. She attempted an escape and wheeled herself out of the detox unit and across the street before police finally caught up to her, he said. She assaulted a nurse, which caused her to be sent to the county jail, where she assaulted a corrections staff member. She is due to be released in December.
"It started with a minor probation violation," Barry said.
In 2018, Barry walked from Moorhead to the state capitol in St. Paul over nine days in an effort to raise awareness for the criminalization of mental health in Minnesota and bring Cassy's story to light. He met with political leaders, lawmakers and anyone who would listen to his story about Cassy's plight. He met with Rep. Jeremy Munson, R-Lake Crystal, who drafted Cassy's law.
Cassy's law would require a judge to have a neuropsychological evaluation performed before sentencing an individual with a traumatic brain injury, which they could use to adjust sentencing guidelines. The bill passed the Minnesota House of Representatives in May last year, but failed to get a vote in the Republican-controlled Senate. The bill will have to be reintroduced in the House because it is a new legislative session if it is to move forward.
"After the stroke, she has no impulse control, no sense of consequence and that's the problem," he said.
Get into “Inside Out”
The 9-part series kicked off Nov. 30 and continues through January. Watch the videos on local station TV3, online on the lakestv3 YouTube channel, or at beckercountyenergize.com. Videos launch every Monday. Read the feature stories in the Tribune, in the Wednesday print editions every week of the series as well as online every Wednesday at dl-online.com.
The series schedule is as follows:
Generalized Anxiety During the Pandemic/Current World Stressors
TV3 video: Monday, Nov. 30 / Tribune story: Wednesday, Dec. 2
TV3 video: Monday, Dec. 7 / Tribune story: Wednesday, Dec. 9
Farmer Depression and Suicide
TV3 video: Monday, Dec. 14 / Tribune story: Wednesday, Dec. 16
TV3 video: Monday, Dec. 21 / Tribune story: Wednesday, Dec. 23
Addiction/Recovery and Mental Illness
TV3 video: Monday, Dec. 28 / Tribune story: Wednesday, Dec. 30
Borderline Personality Disorder
TV3 video: Monday, Jan. 4 / Tribune story: Wednesday, Jan. 6
Mental Illness and the Judicial System
TV3 video: Monday, Jan. 11 / Tribune story: Wednesday, Jan. 13
Mental Illness as it Relates to Domestic Violence
TV3 video: Monday, Jan. 18 / Tribune story: Wednesday, Jan. 20
Mental Illness in the Elderly and Final Panel Wrap-up
TV3 videos: Monday, Jan. 25 / Tribune story: Wednesday, Jan. 27