About the author
David Geiger is a native of New Jersey where he still resides and is married with three grown children. He is an electrical engineer with a baccalaureate degree with honor as well as a master’s degree from Stevens Institute of Technology. He has a professional license from the State of New Jersey and worked in New York City for twenty years as an engineer with Con Edison. He is also a member of Mensa where he started his writing interests in Imprint: The Newsletter of Northern New Jersey Mensa as of December 1990.
As part of his effort to reduce recidivism he attends conferences at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City. He has a strong interest in music and a love for art which he continues to study at The School of Visual Arts, also in New York City. Some of his work can be seen in the book.
And he still has schizophrenia which has been in full remission, meaning symptom-free, since 2001.
WHAT IS MENTAL ILLNESS? SCHIZOPHRENIA?
From the DSM5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) we learn that “schizophrenia is characterized by delusions, hallucinations, disorganized speech and behavior, and other symptoms that cause social or occupational dysfunction. For a diagnosis, symptoms must have been present for six months and include at least one month of active symptoms.” Source
Schizophrenia is a mental disorder (also known as a mental illness) as much as depression, bipolar disorder, and autism are mental disorders. Mental disorders include a wide range of conditions affecting mood, thinking, and behavior. Schizophrenia is also included as a brain disorder in which people interpret reality abnormally. These disorders are usually treated with medication. Contrary to popular belief, schizophrenia is not split personality or multiple personality. Source
Facts and Information about People with Schizophrenia
From Surviving Schizophrenia: A Manual for Families, Patients, and Providers, 5th ed. (E. Fuller Torrey; Quill) we learn:
- There are over 2.2 million people with schizophrenia in the United States as of 2006, of which approximately:
o 6% are homeless or live in shelters
o 6% live in jails or prisons
o 10% live in nursing homes
o 20% live in supervised housing (group homes, etc.)
o 25% live with a family member
o 28% live independently
What is Life Like with Schizophrenia?
- The earlier schizophrenia is diagnosed and treated, the better the outcome of the person and the better the recovery. (Yale University Medical School)
- At any given time, there are more people with untreated severe psychiatric illnesses living on America’s streets than are receiving care in hospitals. (Treatment Advocacy Center)
- People with schizophrenia have a 50 times higher risk of attempting suicide than the general population. Suicide is the number one cause of premature death among people with schizophrenia. (Treatment Advocacy Center)
- People with schizophrenia are far more likely to harm themselves than to be violent toward the public. Violence is not a symptom of schizophrenia. News and entertainment media tend to link mental illnesses including schizophrenia to criminal violence. (For more information check Schizophrenia.com, Facts and Statistics)
- Even when people with mental disorders are recognized as having a medical condition, the treatment they receive is often less than humane. (WHO) http://www.who.int/features/2005/mental_health/en/
What books and articles often miss when discussing the mentally ill is how the latter are often a forgotten people. From WHO (World Health Organization), “people with mental disorders are some of the most neglected people in the world. In many communities, mental illness is not considered a real medical condition, but viewed as a weakness of character or as a punishment for immoral behaviour.” (http://www.who.int/features/2005/mental_health/en/) also http://www.inquiriesjournal.com/articles/1428/the-forgotten-illnesses-the-mental-health-movements-in-modern-america
While I was in Trenton Psychiatric Hospital Vroom Building – a maximum security psychiatric facility – it was rare to see an individual who was lucky enough to have a visit from a family member or a friend. Patients do not have a designated place in society outside of the institutions they live in whether it is a private hospital or state hospital where they are placed by the court for breaking the law. I consider myself fortunate that my family – even my ex-wife – took the time to visit with me.
What is criminal justice?
From The National Center for Victims of Crime, “The criminal justice system is the set of agencies and processes established by governments to control crime and impose penalties on those who violate laws. There is no single criminal justice system in the United States but rather many similar, individual systems. How the criminal justice system works in each area depends on the jurisdiction that is in charge: city, county, state, federal or tribal government or military installation. Different jurisdictions have different laws, agencies, and ways of managing criminal justice processes”
The Urban Institute put out a research report dealing with “The Processing and Treatment of Mentally Ill Persons in the Criminal Justice System.” It says “severe mental illness afflicts nearly one-quarter of the US correctional population, including individuals in prisons, in jails, and on probation” yet they cycle through the system without appropriate medical care. Our current knowledge on identifying cost-effective programs and policies is very limited with extremely rare, rigorous evaluations of programs and policies directed toward the mentally ill. But the report does present a few interventions and policies for mentally ill offenders:
1) Diversionary mechanisms that route the mentally ill to treatment programs rather to prison or jail.
2) Community-based reentry programs
3) Policies that provide mentally ill offenders with more access to medical care.
When I was in Trenton there were reports in the news about “former mental patients” terrorizing the community. These were few, but they were the only ones being reported. This frightened the community and thereby frightened the judges who became loath to give freedoms to more trustworthy patients. And these considerations last throughout the life of the case.
What is recidivism?
“Recidivism is one of the most fundamental concepts in criminal justice. It refers to a person's relapse into criminal behavior, often after the person receives sanctions or undergoes intervention for a previous crime. Recidivism is measured by criminal acts that resulted in rearrests, reconviction or return to prison with or without a new sentence during a three-year period following the prisoner's release.” (National Institute of Justice; http://www.nij.gov/topics/corrections/recidivism/pages/welcome.aspx) In other words, a person commits a crime, is tried, then goes to jail. He gets out, commits a crime, is tried, then goes to jail. He gets out and so on ad nauseam.
One example of the issues being looked into is “ban the box.” (https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/page/files/20160423_cea_incarceration_criminal_justice.pdf) You may have seen the box on employment or college applications. Most of us can ignore it and so pay no attention to it, but it is a monumental obstacle to those who have been in prison and want to change their ways. The box asks something like “Have you ever been arrested or convicted of a felony or any other way involved with the law?” This is to screen out those with criminal backgrounds so the business does not have to assume the risk associated with him. Well, let’s look at this. If this guy does not get a job he may very well return to crime as a means to support himself. Someone has to take on the risk, and it is not right that the justice system just dumps these guys out onto the street as I saw at Trenton nor is it right for education to be denied to him. He needs the skills to get a job just like everyone else. There is further discussion and efforts about this and more at John Jay College. http://johnjaypri.org/
“National Statistics on Recidivism
Bureau of Justice Statistics studies have found high rates of recidivism among released prisoners. One study tracked 404,638 prisoners in 30 states after their release from prison in 2005. The researchers found that:
- Within three years of release, about two-thirds (67.8 percent) of released prisoners were rearrested.
- Within five years of release, about three-quarters (76.6 percent) of released prisoners were rearrested.
- Of those prisoners who were rearrested, more than half (56.7 percent) were arrested by the end of the first year.
- Property offenders were the most likely to be rearrested, with 82.1 percent of released property offenders arrested for a new crime compared with 76.9 percent of drug offenders, 73.6 percent of public order offenders and 71.3 percent of violent offenders.”
One of the reasons why I live where I do is that the judge who oversees my case cannot with 100% certainty ever know if things will happen again. As long as the case is not dismissed the Court still has the power to pull me off of the street if it should see something developing. This is an action of the criminal justice system in practice.
What is opportunity cost, and how does it fit into the story?
According to economists, “opportunity cost” is defined as the next best alternative forgone because once a choice is made from among several competing opportunities, all other opportunities are sacrificed. (Keith Lumsden, Economics, Pitman Publishing, 1991, pg. 1/8) As an example, you have a choice to build a new prison or to spend money on programs to help prisoners become contributing members of society. You choose to build the prison, and true to the idea of opportunity cost the programs fall to the wayside. We go through this exercise a few more times choosing prisons over programs, and, boy, those prisons begin to weigh heavily on our pocketbooks.
I spent a few nights in jail as a result of my illness. I was also an observer at Northern State Prison in Newark, New Jersey as part of a training program given by the Paterson Chamber of Commerce in 1997. In neither case at that time did I find that any of the inmates were receiving training that would help them to decrease their recidivism.
What we have to remember is that if we choose one option, the other issues must still be addressed, i.e., criminal behavior must be mitigated before release from prison.
What is the book about?
This story involves a man suffering from schizophrenia who kills his wife while in a delusion and goes on trial for his life. It is the story of his struggle to regain his place in society and, as a result, lays the groundwork for workable criminal justice reform.
We’re talking about the value of a person. Today we see him as a criminal, but what about tomorrow if he gets the proper help and support?
Why did you write this book?
Originally it was a catharsis, and I wrote only the first ten chapters. After I finished, I said “There is more to this story.” I did this several times as I wrote until I got to where we are today. If you click on the link to John Jay College of Criminal Justice Prisoner Re-entry Institute, I would say, “This is what my aim is, what my issues are.” http://johnjaypri.org/ . There is a newsletter available on the web site under ABOUT. You can also join their mailing list under ABOUT/CONTACT US.
What makes you qualified to tell this story?
I am qualified because this is my story; it happened to me.
Were you ever convicted of a crime?
Is it illegal for you to write such a story?
I checked with my attorney on this. It is illegal for one convicted of a crime to profit from such a book, but I have not been convicted of a crime. There is good that comes from this book.
Why do you include drawings?
Edwin has an interest in art. It is therapeutic, and he finds he has a talent for it. The object is to share them with my readers and maybe develop my skills to a professional level.
Where did you get the idea for this book?
I had a tragic breakdown in 1979 where one person died and another was seriously injured. I developed a friendship with one of the head nurses at the hospital – Herma Darrow. She encouraged me to write the book though I had no skills or experience at the time. She believed in me and changed my life. Sadly, she never lived to see the book come to fruition. She died of a brain tumor from smoking.