Why Wasn’t Michael Adams Deemed Seriously Mentally Ill (SMI)?


Michael Paul Adams says he stabbed Elijah Al-Amin and slit his throat because the 17-year-old teen was listening to rap music. Adams is a white man. Al-Amin was an unarmed Black teenaged boy.

12News reviewed the lengthy criminal history of Adams. They found MULTIPLE reports where police officers described him as mentally disturbed. The officers literally checked the MENTALLY DISTURBED box on the forms on MULTIPLE arrest reports.

Yet, prison officials insist they didn’t consider him Seriously Mentally Ill, also known as SMI. The question is… WHY WASN’T MICHAEL ADAMS LABELED SMI, when there’s proof authorities knew he was coo coo.

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Images Credit: Johanna Huckeba/The Republic

What Is Seriously Mentally Ill – SMI?

According to the Maricopa County Superior Court, SMI is explained as follows:

Probationers who are diagnosed with a serious mental illness often require unique resources. Specialized Seriously Mentally Ill (SMI) caseloads exist to supervise these individuals, for which the Probation Officers receive specialized training.

SMI Probation Officers work collaboratively with specialized Mental Health Courts, clinical providers, the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, and the Public Defender’s Office to provide comprehensive services to this specialized population.

Typical Probationer Characteristics

  • Currently or previously designated as SMI through the Regional Behavioral Health Authority (RHBA)
  • Medium or high risk level
  • Specialized Mental Health Conditions
  • Psychiatric instability resulting in functional impairment

SMI Program Characteristics

  • Probation Officers work collaboratively with community based behavioral health clinics to manage behavioral health symptoms and guide them toward positive behavioral change while on probation
  • Mental Health Court is utilized to address problematic behavior in an effort to avoid further Court action
  • Probation Officers focus on ensuring probationers have access to needed services immediately following their release from incarceration or discharge from inpatient treatment, including housing, medication, and on-going treatment

Who Should Have Deemed Michael Adams SMI?

Basically, had Michael Adams been deemed SMI, he would not have been out in the streets at 1-something in the morning, possibly HOMELESS, on July 4, 2019. And Elijah Al-Amin would still be alive, bumping his beat in his almost paid-off ride.

The state of Arizona had three chances to get it right:

1. The Court System

Now, to be realistic, I know the criminal court system from the ‘loved ones’ arena. So, I understand how someone like him could easily be considered a natural-born F*CK UP, as opposed to a serious mental health case. I completely get it.

HOWEVER, that’s at the COURT level. Judges see criminal defendants for minutes at a time… with months in between sightings.



2. The Prison System

PRISON personnel is a different story. The correctional officers, counselors, teachers, doctors, nurses, other inmates, the assistant warden and the warden all dealt with Michael Adams 24 hours per day. There is an entire prison system case file filled with information about this man.

The prison officials there at that prison KNEW he was mentally disturbed and dangerous. They also knew he was on meds before he was released because THEY issued them, so they could manage him better.

Yet, they send him out onto the streets of Phoenix with NO MEDS. And the public is supposed to know how to manage him.

3. The Probation System

Adams had already been assigned a probation officer before his prison release. That PO should have read the case files. They clearly state that the man was taking meds for mental health and/or behavioral reasons.

It was the PO’s duty to ensure he was designated SMI, so he could get the immediate services he needed… especially his meds. The person should have also known this man was homeless and would be released with no money in his pocket.

Provisions should have been made to get Adams into the probation office that same day. Then, the PO could’ve ordered him to a mental health facility, even if he/she had to transport Adams personally.

Did he ever end up seeing his PO in the two days he was out?

Never mind… I digress…

This is a case of the Arizona Department of Corrections and the Maricopa County Probation Department NOT doing their parts to protect the public.

Elijah Al-Amin Memorial at Peoria Circle K
Elijah Al-Amin’s Memorial at Peoria Circle K. Image Source: GV Wire

Mentally Disturbed Timeline of Michael Adams

In June 2016, he was caught with marijuana and drug paraphernalia.


September 2016, he’s caught shoplifting at a Walmart in Phoenix. The arresting officer noted on the arrest report that Adams was MENTALLY DISTURBED.

May 2017, Adams is arrested for violating probation. Once again, the arresting officer checked the MENTALLY DISTURBED box on the arrest report. The AN ADDICT box was also checked.

November 2017, he attacked a security guard. Adams threatened him and other people around him with a brick. In that case, court documents show that police officials wrote:

History of mental illness.”

While being held for that case, in March 2018, Adams assaulted a correctional officer at the jail.

April 2018, the court issues a mental evaluation. The report shows that he was enrolled in Mercy Maricopa Integrated Care while an inmate at the county jail. There, he received mental health treatment.

On November 1, 2018, the day Adams arrived at the Arizona state prison where he would serve the remainder of his 13-month prison sentence, a disciplinary action report says he “verbally assaulted” a correctional officer.

During intake processing, he walked up to a correctional officer and said:

“Hurry up, let’s get this over with you piece of sh1t!”

What was his reasoning? Adams wrote on the report that he did it because:

“I had no sleep. The transport officers were playing loud rap music. I was tired and irritated.”

Michael Adams Prison Rap

8 months and 1 day later, he was released from prison. 2 days after that, he took the life of Elijah Al-Amin, a promising 17-year-old teen who never even got to see the 12th grade.

Yet, officials from the Arizona Department of Corrections continue to say that Michael Adams:

“…was not designated seriously mentally ill (SMI).”

The Arizona State Prison Has No Excuse

See, it’s one thing for a judge to not get it. Court interactions with defendants are very, very limited. Judges go off of district attorney and probation reports when making decisions.

But ADC has no excuse. Looking back, they KNOW that man should have been designated SMI before he left that prison. Don’t expect an apology, though. I just don’t see it happening.

However, they can start the process of making changes:

  1. They need to change their fear of labeling prisoners SMI >>> It’s costly to the county and the state.
  2. They need to change the way they release inmates who take psych meds while in-custody >>> Adams should have been given a holdover supply of meds.
  3. They need to change the prison-to-probation process >>> Homeless, car-less and broke Adams should have been transported directly to the probation office.

Michael Adams’ Arizona State Prison RecordMichael Adams Prison Record 1Michael Adams Prison Record 2

Download PDF Copy of Michael Adams’ Prison Record

What If Michael Adams Had Been Deemed SMI?

The acting attorney for Adams, Jacie Cotterell, says the state KNEW this man was diagnosed with mental issues. However, they still let him out with no meds and no way to get mental healthcare or the probation office.

I’m still trying to figure out whether he ever even met with his probation officer.

But anyway… I digress again…

Had Michael Adams been deemed SMI by ACD, he wouldn’t have been released the way he was… no meds, no probationary supervision and no mental healthcare.

Arizona Department of Corrections policy states that if a prisoner is given the SMI designation, the inmate can’t be released:

“…without every effort being made to assure continuity of care and a smooth transition to Mental Health Services in the community.”

The policy also states that if an inmate is designated seriously mentally ill and poses a threat to self or others, ADC can potentially have that person involuntarily committed to a mental institution.

Arizona Department of Corrections Dropped the Ball

But Arizona prison officials dropped the ball. They use jail records and reports to help them evaluate where a prison inmate should be housed and the type of physical and mental health services they need.

Therefore, they knew this man had mental health issues before he arrived at the prison. As a matter of fact, they were treating him for it there! He was getting meds daily as an inmate. That’s why the attorney keeps referring to it.

However, the day Adams was released from prison, on July 2, 2019, the COs opened the gates and let him out with not one single pill to hold him over. Adams should have been transported to directly to his PO, who should have required that he get mental health treatment immediately.

Maricopa County Probation Department Didn’t Do Its Job

I also have questions for the Maricopa County Probation Department too. These case files are shared with the probation department BEFORE the inmates are released. So, the probation officer should have taken the proper steps to ensure the public’s safety.

Once again, had the probation officer LOOKED at the d@m file, he would’ve known this man had some type of mental issues. Not only is he extremely violent toward unarmed people, but he’s dangerous without his meds.

This is the THIRD entity that had the power to deem Adams SMI. Had he been placed in that category, he would’ve received the following after-release services IMMEDIATELY:

Probation Officers focus on ensuring probationers have access to needed services immediately following their release from incarceration or discharge from inpatient treatment, including housing, medication, and on-going treatment

Yet, this dangerous man was HOMELESS, was given exactly ZERO pills and had NO ACCESS to mental healthcare.

AZ Family reports:

“His attorney, Jacie Cotterell, told the judge during his initial court appearance on the murder charge that Adams has a history of mental illness but the Arizona Department of Corrections released him with no medication and without a courtesy ride to get access to mental health services, even though the department knew he was on mental health probation.”

I’m still trying to figure out whether he ever even met with his probation officer. I mean, he was only out two days.

But anyway… Digressing once again…

Who’s to Blame for the Death of Elijah Al-Amin? Taken from Us Over Rap?

Michael Adams Gets Arraigned for Taking Elijah Al-Amin from Us

Michael Paul Adams appeared for his arraignment in Maricopa County Superior Court on Thursday, July 18, 2019. The only words that came out of his mouth were his name and date of birth:

“Michael Paul Adams – January 27, 1992”

Just like most arraignments, it only took minutes.

Adams’ probation hearing has been scheduled for August 29th at the Jefferson St courthouse in Phoenix.

His pre-trial conference for the charge of premeditated murder in the first degree has also been scheduled for August 29th at Phoenix’s Madison Street courthouse.

According to his family and friends, Elijah Al-Amin was a caring, responsible teen with a lot of promise. He had the potential to become someone great in this world. But Michael Adams took him from us.

But #JusticeForElijah is should just be about putting this murderer away for the rest of his life. That’s a given.

TRUE JUSTICE comes from something good coming out of this. The people of Arizona need to insist… no DEMAND that changes be made within their justice systems in regards to how they handle mentally disturbed cases.

Changes need to be made in the Arizona criminal courts, the Arizona state prison system and the Maricopa County probation department.

Something like this should NEVER happen again!!!

Video: Why Wasn’t Michael Adams Deemed Seriously Mentally Ill (SMI)? The Systems Failed!

Michael Paul Adams says he punctured Elijah Al-Amin in the back with a knife and sliced his throat because the 17-year-old teen was listening to rap music. Adams is a white man. Al-Amin was an unarmed Black teenaged boy.

#JusticeForElijah is should just be about putting this murderer away for the rest of his life. That’s a given. TRUE JUSTICE comes from something good coming out of this.

The people of Arizona need to insist… no DEMAND that changes be made within their justice systems in regards to how they handle mentally disturbed cases.

Changes need to be made in the Arizona criminal courts, the Arizona state prison system and the Maricopa county probation department. Something like this should NEVER happen again!!!

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Spicey Ky

Content Manager at Content Marketing Geek
Kiesha Joseph is a Content Marketing Geek with a knack for writing. She also runs a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping people find rides to prisons called Prison Rideshare Network. Born and raised in Cali, she now calls Nevada home. When Kiesha's not working, she enjoys cooking, eating, listening to Hip Hop, dancing and partaking in that green life.
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