A teenage Chicago basketball star is eating a prison from the inside out — literally. The 17-year-old, Lamont Cathey, is ingesting screws, needles, and anything else he can find at Cook County Jail. In the process, he has managed to rack up over $1 million in medical fees after being hospitalized 24 times to remove digested pieces of metal.

Cathey was charged with burglary for a theft from a pizzeria, spending the last year and four months in prison after failing to pay a $5,000 cash bond. Since then, he's been struggling with depression and other mental health issues. He's one of the many inmates who need professional care but haven’t come close to receiving it. As the Treatment Advocacy Center noted in a report released, “prisons and jails have become America’s ‘new asylums.’”

As of 2012, there were almost 400,000 inmates who were severely mentally ill. When you contrast that with the amount of patients who were in state psychiatric hospitals (35,000), you can see the structural issues at work. There are more than 1.57 million inmates behind bars as of 2013. That means that nearly a quarter of those inmates are dealing with severe mental illnesses.

The conditions of many prisons across America are incredibly poor, leaving the inmates untreated and unkept. It is in these types of conditions that Cathey finds himself. In addition to eating metal, he has also continued to rack up charges. He shoved a guard and committed other offenses, which could leave him in prison longer.

“This case to me is a perfect example of the failure of the criminal justice system,” the prison’s executive director Cara Smith told the Chicago Tribune.

After racking up the $1 million in medical fees, officials then decided to move Cathey into a location with no access to loose objects.