Gov. Schwarzenegger's Mental Health Crisis
Judge Henderson's plan breaks down to about $230,000 annually for each ill inmate, as opposed to current expenditures of approximately $43,000 annually for an inmate in the general prison population. Each sick inmate would be attended by an average of 1.4 employees, including art therapists, music therapists, beauticians and barbers.
It would appear that Judge Henderson sees nothing wrong with criminalizing Californians for having a common and treatable health condition - mental illness, but he wants those who committed the crime of being mentally dysfunctional to live as comfortable prisoners with fresh haircuts. On the other hand, Gov. Schwarzenegger has no intention of forking over the money when mentally ill Californians could just continue to rot in the existing prison facilities and make do with the state's current inadequate prison health services. I can imagine Schwarzenegger saying in his heavily accented voice, "You go crazy in California, that's just what you get."
Schwarzenegger appeals order in contempt case over inmate rights By DON THOMPSON, Associated Press Writer
Article Launched: 10/31/2008 02:53:44 PM PDT http://www.mercurynews.com/breakingnews/ci_10867947?nclick_check=1#article_comments
SACRAMENTO—The Schwarzenegger administration appealed a federal judge's order Friday in a growing battle that pits state sovereignty against inmates' constitutional rights. The administration asked the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to block Monday's order by U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson. Henderson gave the state until next Wednesday to pay $250 million to design seven prison medical facilities. Henderson said the money is needed quickly as a first step toward building the facilities at an estimated cost to the state of $8 billion. The centers would house 10,000 sick and mentally ill inmates in a prison system that currently provides such poor care that judges have ruled it violates inmates' rights.
The state on Friday also planned to ask Henderson to postpone a mid-November hearing Henderson scheduled to consider finding Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and state Controller John Chiang in contempt of court if they don't turn over the money.
(See the above link for full article.)
Judge Henderson's heart may be in the right place, but inherent in his plan is a refusal to grant early release to prisoners suffering from physically debilitating illness, and a disturbing assumption that mentally ill Californians belong in jail.
Building seven expensive, new health facilities to imprison chronically sick and mentally disturbed Californians means the notion of granting compassionate release for chronically ill and dying prisoners will not come to fruition, regardless of the cost to taxpayers to continue punishing people (perhaps for offenses committed 40 years previously) even beyond the point when prisoners are capable of conscious thought.
Will comatose parolees suddenly awaken upon release from prison hospice wards and rob banks? Will 80-pound parolees whose bodies are racked with HIV/AIDS pose a threat to their communities? How many parolees are likely to spring from their hospital beds after their kidney dialysis or chemotherapy sessions to pull an armored truck robbery? Are we really so afraid these human beings who are dying may get a whiff of fresh air between the car to their radiation treatment that we would pay $230,000 PER YEAR PER DYING INMATE to keep punishing them right up to their final breath? See the article below.
BRAIN DEAD INMATE DENIED EARLY RELEASE
Obviously, psychiatric patients in California are expected to continue being criminalized for mental illness for years to come, and at staggering costs to taxpayers. And the expense of criminalizing mental illness does not begin at the prison door. The court process that precedes prison is also costly, even though many such cases never actually go to court. Many imprisoned acute patients had such little mental clarity during arrest, arraignment, and/or trial, that they were ill prepared to launch successful courtroom battles or to even participate in their own defense. Neither are chronically mentally ill Americans likely to have the necessary funds to fight criminal charges, even if they had the presence of mind to do so.
How many mentally ill inmates even understood their Miranda rights? http://usgovinfo.about.com/cs/mirandarights/a/miranda_2.htm
1. You have the right to remain silent. (Yes, but does he have the ability to do so?)
2. Anything you say can be used against you in a court of law. (Instead of keeping quiet, an acute mental patient may confess to anything at all. "Did you kill Rip Van Winkle?" the prosecutor asks. "Of course I did, and ate him afterwards. That is what you do with Martians.")
3. You have the right to have an attorney present now and during any future questioning. ("And have him steal my limelight? No thank you. I'll defend myself on that capital murder charge. In the alter universe where I am from, I was Johnnie Cochran.")
4. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed to you free of charge if you wish. ("I've also had several earth lifetimes. Before this one, I was Abraham Lincoln. So I'll be my own lawyer.")
5. Do you understand these rights? ("What did you say?")
The entire process of criminalizing mental patients is a morally wrong, very expensive exercise in futility. Prisoners with mental dysfunctions should be either hospitalized or cared for in their communities, depending on their offenses and the severity of their conditions, not imprisoned! Disabled people should not be jailed for their handicaps.
Jail has three purposes: (1) to punish criminals; (2) to deter crime; and (3) rehabilitation of criminals. Acute mentally ill people do not act out of a criminal intent, and prison is no deterrent to their psychosis. Instead of rehabilitation and punishment, they need containment in a safe environment offering long-term psychiatric care. This is not a popular idea, because many mental health professionals do not choose to acknowledge the need for confinement for insane people. In fact, they have thrown out the word “insane.” It is a politically incorrect term, and the idea of keeping patients confined and enforcing psychiatric treatment was largely discarded in all but the most violent cases of mental illness. It was decided some time ago in this country to treat mentally ill people just like everybody else, and that means jail for many sick people.
If we want to stop incarcerating sick Americans, we must have someplace to put the chronically mentally ill – not only those who are dangerous, but those who simply cannot survive in society unrestrained, such as homeless mental patients like Mr. McGraham, a Los Angeles elderly man who was recently burned to death by persons unknown who were apparently out having fun. (See Mr. Graham's story below).
MORE HATE CRIMES - CRUELTY TO MENTALLY DISABLED PERSONS
Prisons have become America's mental institutions in large part because of restrictions on enforced treatment and hospitalization of chronically mentally ill citizens. Unfortunately, sick people often do not recognize their need for treatment. They really believe they see the monster under the bed, and it is not easy to make them believe otherwise with the monster lying right there in clear view rolling its eyes and slobbering at the mouth! To expect patients to make wise treatment decisions while in a state of dementia is ridiculous. Below is an article that addresses enforced treatment versus prion for mental patients, and it provides a link to an article by former California prison system physician Moss David Posner, M.D., entitled Your Children Are Dying in Prison, and Here's Why.
ENFORCED TREATMENT v. PRISON FOR ACUTE MENTAL PATIENTS
Many diffable people are capable of functioning well in society without enforced treatment or confinement. Some need nominal assistance, and others require basic subsistence and health care. Neither of these options would cost nearly the $230,000 per annum budgeted for each of California's incarcerated mental patients under Henderson's plan.
Patients with more severe conditions may require containment and enforced treatment. Society should provide humane options for the care of such patients, not prison. The decision to put chronically ill patients in charge of their own treatment options (to treat or not to treat) contributed to the criminalization of mental illness. Enforced containment and enforced psychiatric treatment are often necessary for acute mental patients’ safety. These patients are usually expected to make major health decisions while in a demented mental state. Someone other than the acute mental patient must be allowed to make their treatment decisions before any tragedy occurs, or mental patients face the likelihood of repeated arrests for crimes committed while in a mental crisis.
Of the 2.3 million prisoners in America, 1.25 million are incarcerated mentally ill persons who should be treated in their communities or hospitals, depending on the severity of their crimes. We must reverse the current trend to imprison rather than treat our mental patients. However, laws restricting enforced hospitalization or outpatient therapy for diffable persons often hinder chronically mentally ill persons from receiving needed treatment.
Chronically mentally ill prisoners also have a higher rate of return to jail than other inmates precisely because of their tendency to discontinue therapy and lapse back into psychosis. Therefore, prison release for the nonviolent offenders should include mandatory treatment, at least during their parole or probationary periods. Inmates who are incarcerated for violent acts should be hospitalized for the duration of their criminal sentences or until their psychiatrists recommend release. Such psychiatric recommendations should be reviewed by the sentencing court. If the court agrees with the psychiatrists’ recommendation for prison release, the court should then order the patients' continued psychiatric monitoring and care as outpatients for the duration of their parole or probationary periods. Mental patients who are required to receive court ordered treatment should be zealously sought and remanded back to hospitals if they disobey the court and discontinue their treatment at any point while on probation or parole.
Decriminalizing mental illness will not occur unless and until sensible alternatives to prison are available for diffable persons in crisis. Mental hospitalization in extreme cases, and community care under enforced treatment for nonviolent offenders, will provide the alternatives that our most severely ill citizens need in order to regain and to retain their freedom from our nation’s correctional institutions.
The good news is that mental illness is treatable! With proper treatment, enforced if necessary, many patients could be restored to health sufficiently to rejoin taxpayers in California, and that prospect should excite even Gov. Schwarzenegger!
UPDATE - 11-7-08 Audio Presentation
National Public Radio (NPR) Legal Affairs Nov. 7, 2008
Schwarzenegger Risks Contempt on Prison Reform http://www.npr.org/templates/player/mediaPlayer.html?action=1&t=1&islist=false&id=12171473&m=12171476 *************************
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And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. ~ Matthew 25:40