Being A Better Person

It is Lent 2019 as I write this, and I want to take part. The emphasis is to improve our relationship with God, to be a better person. But as someone with schizophrenia, I know that many others in that category with me are suicidal and have a very difficult time being a better person. We need to forgive ourselves, and that is the crux of the matter: We can’t. We live with the belief that we are among the worst, most unforgiveable people on the planet, and the reality is that only medication can resolve this. And the TV news doesn’t help.

Attempts at suicide are common among people with this illness. I saw this firsthand during my years at the hospital, and I tried it myself. Sadly, some succeed. I knew a man who carried through with it. I called him Frank Kirkland in my book. He was a drug addict with so much potential to do good. I still weep for him at times now 40 years later.

I can’t blame the Church for putting this weight on my shoulders. Its people are human, too, with their own failings and limitations, and we go through this walk together. But generally, they withdraw. As the young prosecutor asked during the “Just Prosecution” simulation exercise, “If the Church won’t help you, who will?” In the March 2019 issue of US Catholic there is an interview with Chicago deacon Tom Lambert. The online headline to the article is “Catholics must do more to accompany people with mental illness, says this deacon. Parishioners don’t have to be psychiatrists to support Catholics with mental illness.”

 There is hope in this season.

NYCHA Permanent Exclusion Policy Update

The New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) is the largest public housing authority in the United States with nearly 180,000 units housing nearly 400,000 low-income individuals and families in 334 developments throughout the city.

You may remember my last article on NYCHA from back in October of 2018. In that I reported on NYCHA’s permanent exclusion policy that would not let anyone with the slightest involvement with the law live in their public housing. This destroys families and prevents justice-involved individuals from establishing a base to get themselves on their feet. From the February 2019 PRI website: “This policy has resulted in thousands of people who cannot live with, or even visit, their families who live in public housing, with harsh effects on the young and old alike. Youth under the age of 18 can be excluded from public housing even if their families – who are legally responsible for them – are still living in NYCHA, and even if they have nowhere else to go. Many elderly residents have also been forced to exclude family members who act as their caretakers, leaving them without the vital assistance they need to manage the tasks of daily living.” This includes the mentally ill.

Jarrett Murphy, editor of CityLimits.org newsletter, reported these things back on April 19, 2017. He also told us of an investigation done by New York City’s Dept. of Investigation (DOI) that criticized NYCHA’s “leniency” in evicting justice-involved individuals. “DOI recommended NYCHA prosecute these cases more aggressively, request evictions in more cases and consider letting armed law-enforcement officers – rather than NYCHA staff – inspect apartments for banned people.”

“NYCHA has an obligation to protect residents of its buildings,” DOI commissioner Mark Peters said in a statement that accompanied the report. The Daily News piled on with him against NYCHA.

From the CityLimits.org newsletter: “But advocates see a different reality, one in which NYCHA’s reluctance to evict families caught up in the criminal justice system is a lot more sensible than creating hundreds of new clients for the homeless shelter system.” Advocacy groups urged NYCHA and the City Council to reject the “misguided and irresponsible approach to safety” espoused by DOI.

Fast forward. There was a panel on this matter titled “Locked Out” held February 6, 2019. From the PRI February 2019 newsletter: “The panel explored the legal aspects of the policy, the broader context of policing in NYCHA, and the perspectives of the NYCHA residents.”

More to come.

View From The Top

These articles that I write should give you some insight to what is going on in criminal justice reform, but there are some behind the scenes actions as well. Some of it I may have had a part in, for example, in May 2013 I sent my recidivism article to NJ Gov. Chris Christie. I heard nothing, so in May 2014 I sent it again. Later in that year Martin’s Place opened in Jersey City, NJ to much fanfare to help justice-involved individuals make the transition from prison to the community. Former NJ Governor Jim McGreevey was appointed as Executive Director, and he made some real efforts to advocate for these justice-involved individuals. My wife and I met him at a rest stop on the NJ Turnpike during the summer of 2017 while we were on our way to a friend’s home in Maryland. I had also sent him a copy of my book, In the Matter of Edwin Potter, and he recognized me straight away – coming around the car to shake my hand 5 or 6 times. We had a brief conversation, then we went our separate ways. In January 2019 he lost his job as Executive Director at Martin’s Place. (The Star Ledger, January 8, 2019) It was said to have been political.

I sent US Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) a copy of my recidivism article back in August of 2015 and the book in December 2016. I never heard from him, but in December of 2018 he submitted a significant bill to the US Senate for criminal justice reform. (The Star Ledger, Dec. 20, 2018) Did he read the book? I also never heard from current NJ Governor Phil Murphy after I sent him the book in January 2018, but I did hear from NY Governor Andrew Cuomo after I sent him a copy of the recidivism article back in 2014!

There are several other elected NJ officials who I sent my book to, but there is one who is much maligned, and one would never expect a response from: President Donald Trump. In March 2017 I sent him a copy of my book along with a letter, and I did not hear from him for the longest time. Then I was surprised to receive a letter from him dated Nov. 6, 2018 expressing his intent and commitment “to [help] former inmates become productive, law-abiding members of society.” I thanked him and in January 2019 reminded him that there was no mention of the mentally ill who are incarcerated. I’ve been told by people who deal with the mentally ill that my book provides them with hope. I am hoping for a positive response from the President.

If It Can Be Done Wrong

“My job description was written at the signing of the Magna Carta… If I walked into a courtroom tomorrow and you asked me to prosecute a case, my job would be to investigate that crime, produce that evidence to a finder of fact to determine guilt or innocence. Nothing has changed since then. And unlike medicine, which changed with times and culture and advances in understanding about people in our communities, the criminal justice system functions the exact same way that it was invented.”

            --Adam Foss, Founder and President of Prosecutor Impact

 

(Today’s article relies heavily on Alisa Roth’s book Insane: America’s Criminal Treatment of Mental Illness.)

 

In 1751, Benjamin Franklin asked the Pennsylvania Assembly for some money to set up the first hospital in America with a separate ward for treating mental illness. Prior to that the latter were “treated” at the House of Correction and “that House was by no Means fitted for such Purposes.” (pg. 77) Conditions were grim. Patients lived in cold, smelly basement cells and were often put in hand irons, leg locks, and straitjackets. People would come to ogle them and were charged four pence for the hassle. Arguments ensued over the centuries up to this day whether the mentally ill should be treated as felons. See LA County Jail, Cook County Jail, and Riker’s Island.

 

“Over the course of our [American] history, punishment by incarceration has been our standard response to crime. But by the 1970s, as jails and prisons were beginning to grow dramatically, we had largely given up on the idea that incarceration should be rehabilitative. Lost with the notion of rehabilitation have been things like education programs, which made it possible. Instead, we have been left with an almost single-minded focus on punishment and retribution.” (pg. 93)

 

I’ve been in horrible places by today’s standards. This is not how people should be treated.

Finding Jobs After Life in Prison

One of the major issues in criminal justice reform – if not THE major issue – is prisoner re-entry, that is, the entry of the justice-involved individual back into society as a contributing citizen. It sounds like a joke right now because we have been trained to believe in the revolving door. Cam Ward, a Senator from Alabama (R-Alabaster), sees it differently. He is sponsoring a bill that would remove more than 700 sections of code from the Alabama constitution that restricts jobs that people can get after being released from prison.

 

“The whole idea when someone gets out of prison- we want them to get a job,” Ward said. “We want them to pay taxes. We want them to be productive citizens and not a public safety risk.”

 

Basically, it addresses the question: How can a person freed from prison become a contributing member of society if the law bars him from getting a job? Currently, a justice-involved individual is discouraged from getting the training he needs to get a job – even reading and writing.

 

Said Fredrick Sherill who was released from prison this past September after 15 years for armed robbery as a teenager, “It’s hard when you being released from prison after doing a lot of time and you’re trying to do the right thing in society and being a law abiding citizen and there’s constant road blocks.”

 

As you read my articles, there has been a lot of talk, but there have also been real-life situations that prove the point. It is important that we go on to the next step which is to implement new laws that will help the person coming out of prison. It will take a few years to see significant results, but this is where it starts.

Underrepresented Voices

Since July of 2018 I have been looking for a literary agent. I have been told that this is a difficult task, and I find it to be true. Sometimes, though, I find an agent who is looking for “underrepresented voices.” What is that? Mistakenly, I think it applies to me, but who talks about people with schizophrenia?

With rare exceptions, nobody is telling the stories of those with schizophrenia. The latter are seen as criminals. There are roughly 200,000 - 400,000 people with severe neuropsychiatric brain illnesses who are in our jails and prisons. What is more is that in many cases these mentally ill are not receiving proper medical treatment. When they get out, insurance companies do not cover them, so they relapse from lack of treatment, and they go back to prison – not even a hospital. Having schizophrenia is not socially acceptable as are having autism or depression, and, hence, no resolve is made to address the issue of treatment. Here in New York City there is much talk about autism and depression, but when ads talk about having hallucinations or delusions they are attributed to Parkinson’s disease. People turn away when the talk turns to schizophrenia and think only of mass shooters and how they should be dealt with severely by the law. To overcome my own issues with the law and schizophrenia, I had to write my own book. An ad campaign to educate the public might be in order.

I support SARDAA in its efforts to reclassify schizophrenia as a brain illness – which it is – and not the behavioral problem that the courts would like us to believe. Reclassifying it would allow more money for medical research. What if a person has heart disease or diabetes? Would we put them in jail for it? 

So, again I ask: Who is telling the stories of those with schizophrenia, those underrepresented voices?

Just Prosecution in Youth Justice Reform

“Prosecutors have a real moment at this time to step up and make a big change, to really lead in this effort, to be really innovative and forthright in their intentions, to reduce mass incarceration, to address racial disparity in the system, to look for alternatives to oppressive sanctions. We missed so many things, and now is the moment.”

--Meg Reiss, Chief of Social Justice, Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office

Do you know that the person with the most power in the courtroom is not the judge? More likely it is the Prosecutor. It is she who decides to plea bargain and what those terms will be or whether charges will be brought or not and what penalty will be asked for if the Defendant is convicted by the jury.

In November 2018 at John Jay College there was a symposium given by the Pinkerton Foundation: Just Prosecution: Redefining the Role of the 21st Century Prosecutor in Youth Justice Reform. Before we started the afternoon discussions, there was a re-entry simulation (re-entry into the community) in the morning. Real-life Prosecutors were put in the position of someone released from prison, and it was their job to meet all of their court obligations as well as find a job, find a place to live, buy food, pay their debts, and so on. If they did not meet their court obligations, they would be – warm my heart – put back in jail. These prosecutors had a first-hand experience that was a real eye-opener by their own admission. Quite a few ended up back in jail – including me, the only mentally ill person in the room who got a break occasionally – and few reached the services set up to help them. Some turned to crime to meet their obligations. And, as a result, all of them saw how hard it is for a justice-involved individual to walk the straight and narrow. Hopefully they will take this experience into the future as they work with real inmates in the courtroom.

Child Visitation

Today, October 24, 2018 as I write this, I attended a symposium at John Jay College of Criminal Justice organized by NYCIP and the Prisoner Re-entry Institute. The topic was “Inside and Outside the Visiting Room” regarding child visitation in prison as well as its effects. It was a very emotional conference resulting from stories from both parents who had been incarcerated as well as those who had been children visiting their incarcerated parents.

There are 2 million children in the US who have an incarcerated parent. The US leads the world in this. As a note, 80% of women incarcerated in NY State are single mothers. This is a growing number. How can we do better?

These people are hurting. One panelist spoke of her experiences as a child visiting her father in prison for so many years. She said, “Leaving is the part that hurts the most.” She was always afraid as she grew older that she would get a call from the prison telling her that her father, who had health problems, had died. One day she got that call. She broke down here.

Another man had spent decades in prison. During that time, he had visitation with his son who asked him constantly, “Daddy, when are you coming home?” “Soon.” His reason for being in prison for so long was because he had killed a man, and never wanted to say that to his son, but he did eventually. The good news was that his son still loved him.

I remember going through these issues with my own children even though I had mental illness. There is a lot of stigma in having a parent who is incarcerated, but it doesn’t always turn out the right way. In my experience with my own children, my daughter hates me now. I have a letter from her from 2013 stating that she resents (her word) that I have mental illness. What am I supposed to do now? Put everything back? It doesn’t happen that way. Will she love me again as she once did if I make my crime go away? I cannot shed my past any more than a man can shed his skin. The judge made it worse. I was sending Hallmark cards once per month to my son and daughter for many years as we were not seeing each other. In my request for dismissal of my case this past year, the judge sent a detective just a few months ago to interview them and decided, based upon the report, that I should no longer have any communication with my son or daughter (and their families as a result) who are now adults in their 30s and 40s, completely capable of making their own decisions. The doctor disagreed with the decision, citing his own experiences in similar matters that these things sometimes work out.

These things matter. That is why there are organizations fighting the good fight, to advocate for a different criminal justice system – a healing system.

Addressing Homelessness in NJ

On August 22, 2018 I made a trip to Haddonfield, NJ to learn about the Interfaith Homeless Outreach Council (IHOC) program for homeless men in Camden County. It was presented by WNET in their program “Chasing the Dream” which concentrates on poverty and opportunity. They look for reasons why these things happen and answers to them. IHOC concentrates on quality over quantity.

With that said, there are over one million people experiencing homelessness in the US. These people suffer from drug abuse, alcoholism, prostitution, and physical and sexual abuse.

This is a 28-week program lasting from October to May for 12 selected men. Participants are chosen from the streets of Camden, and they are lodged in participating congregations which provide them with meals and a warm, secure place to sleep. The program provides addiction recovery counseling, life skills training, resume writing, mock interviews, computer skills training, transportation, and regular attendance at AA meetings. But the statistics on success are very low. My comment is: Don’t give up on these guys in their hour of need.

As one of the graduates of the program said, “Nobody gets out of homelessness by themselves.”

Bail Reform

I was invited to tour the Bergen County, NJ jail with Patrick Hughes, Director of Psychology, back in May of 2017. Julia Orlando, the Director of Housing, Health, and Human Services, had read my book and wanted all of us to meet for lunch.

One of the topics that came up was bail reform. Bail reform is good for the most part. Few want to be in jail although there are exceptions. Their families don’t want them to be there, either, and depend upon them for financial support. There was a problem, though, that Pat brought up. There was a plan to educate the prisoners while incarcerated, things like reading and speaking English – something that I’ve been advocating. But now that prisoners are being released in a matter of days as a result of reform, that plan had to be dropped. The result is that they are back in jail more often for the same things.

More recently, another negative aspect of bail reform arose. Pat says the issue is that bail reform has reduced the ability of the jail to enroll inmates in the drug rehabilitation center on site which is a 30 day period to produce a drug-free inmate upon release.

Clearly, what we should do in this situation is to keep the prisoners in jail until they have finished their programs. It is a hard choice, I know, but it may be the best one.

Do any of you have other suggestions?

David E. Geiger Presented with the Albert Nelson Marquis Lifetime Achievement Award by Marquis Who’s Who

Mr. Geiger has been endorsed by Marquis Who’s Who as a leader in the engineering industry

CLIFTON, NJ, June 21, 2018, Marquis Who’s Who, the world’s premier publisher of biographical profiles, is proud to present David E. Geiger with the Albert Nelson Marquis Lifetime Achievement Award. An accomplished listee, Mr. Geiger celebrates many years’ experience in his professional network, and has been noted for achievements, leadership qualities, and the credentials and successes he has accrued in his field. As in all Marquis Who’s Who biographical volumes, individuals profiled are selected on the basis of current reference value. Factors such as position, noteworthy accomplishments, visibility, and prominence in a field are all taken into account during the selection process.

A registered professional engineer in the state of New Jersey, Mr. Geiger recently began working for AFG Group, Inc., in New York City just last year. Bringing with him more than 40 years of experience, he formerly worked for such organizations as Merrimac Industries in New Jersey, Con Edison in New York where he spent two decades and was awarded a Con Edison Team Award in 2013 for his project engineering work, and PSEG in New Jersey. Certified in business administration through Heriot-Watt University in Scotland since 2002, he also holds a Bachelor of Science with honor and Master of Science in electrical engineering from Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, NJ.

The awarded author of numerous articles, including “Change Happens: What Direction for NNJM” in 1995 and “In the Joyful Noise” in 2007, Mr. Geiger recently authored his autobiography “In the Matter of Edwin Potter: Mental Illness and Criminal Justice Reform” in 2016. The latter book is Mr. Geiger’s personal account of how the criminal justice and mental illness systems can often render people into second class citizens with limited access to careers, education and opportunities. Diagnosed with schizophrenia but in full remission since 2001, as part of his recovery he also wrote an article called “Reducing Recidivism,” which addresses these issues and is included with the book. An interested party at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, he also attends conferences as part of his effort to reduce such recidivism.

Mr. Geiger is a member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers – Smart Cities, the Communications Society, the Power and Energy Society – and a long-standing member of American Mensa since 1989 where he was Local Secretary in 2009, and he has been an Eagle Scout for 50 years. Maintaining a strong interest in both music and art, Mr. Geiger continues to study at The School of Visual Arts in New York City where he showcased his work in spring 2014. Notably, some of his work can be seen in his most recent book.

Married to his wife Marni Nachman with two children and one step-child, Mr. Geiger enjoys hiking in his down time and writing to pen pals. The recipient of a Mensa Individual Recognition Award in 1995, he has also been showcased in every edition of Who’s Who in America since 2005, as well as several more editions of Who’s Who in Science and Engineering and Who’s Who in the World. For more information, please visit www.davidegeiger.com.

In recognition of outstanding contributions to his profession and the Marquis Who’s Who community, David E. Geiger has been featured on the Albert Nelson Marquis Lifetime Achievement website. Please visit www.ltachievers.com for more information about this honor.

About Marquis Who’s Who®:

Since 1899, when A. N. Marquis printed the First Edition of Who’s Who in America®, Marquis Who’s Who® has chronicled the lives of the most accomplished individuals and innovators from every significant field of endeavor, including politics, business, medicine, law, education, art, religion and entertainment. Today, Who’s Who in America® remains an essential biographical source for thousands of researchers, journalists, librarians and executive search firms around the world. Marquis® publications may be visited at the official Marquis Who’s Who® website at www.marquiswhoswho.com.

Re-classifying Schizophrenia

In the June 2018 newsletter from SARDAA there is this:

“SARDAA is working to change the paradigm of how we treat people living with neuro-psychiatric brain illnesses.  Our white paper has been submitted to the Interdepartmental Serious Mental Illness Coordinating Committee (ISMICC) and we have advocates in high places on the committee to present and support our efforts to reclassify schizophrenia spectrum disorders.  We have also submitted a letter to the World Health Organization (WHO) regarding changes to the ICD-11.

“What difference does it make to reclassify?  If you or your loved one has become involved with the criminal justice system due to behavior stemming from neurological brain symptoms you likely realize that the legal system regards schizophrenia as a psychological disorder and  disregards the fact that schizophrenia is a neurological brain illness that requires TREATMENT not incarceration.  Incarceration delays treatment, increases stress, and isolation magnifies psychosis, all leading to further decompensation and acute illness.  That is only one reason, there are many others: comprehensive evaluation and appropriate treatment, increased access to hospital beds, treatment instead of incarceration, true parity, increased research, social change as clinicians, patients and family receive respect and dignity and with appropriate treatment individuals will have the opportunity for fruitful lives.

“Please, be sure to contact your representatives in Washington, D.C.  The Hearing Voices of Support Psychosis: Changing Perceptions Through Art & Science experiential exhibit will be there for them to experience on June 27, 28 and 29, 2018 in The Rayburn Office Building Foyer.  Help us change their perception of psychosis, the people affected and the value of research and treatment. This is an unprecedented opportunity, help us reach as many decision makers as possible.  Participants can take as much time as they can spare, even 5 minutes will be effective.  But they will stay longer to visit all of the cones and take time to talk with diagnosed individuals, family members and clinicians.  The Neurological Legislative Briefing is on June 28 at Noon in Rayburn 2103 and requires a RSVP: sardaabriefing@gmail.com. “

For more information, write to info@sardaa.org.

Credible Messengers – PART 2

I advocated mentoring for those coming out of prison ‘way back in May 1998. In October 2017 there was a conference at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in NYC where research results were presented showing that credible messengers/mentors keep at-risk youth from a life of crime. This is important because it means the beginning of the breaking of the cycle of crime.

Just recently – April 2018 – there was Part 2 of Credible Messengers which gives us the ideas of how this is done. And, simply, it is done by building trust, building relationships rather than enforcing the great divide that exists between, say, the parole officer or the probation officer and the report.

Success is measured by the desire of the young people to go forward and become mentors themselves. It is not measured in the number of program attendees. Mentors give hope and show participants in the program how to change because they were once in their shoes. The mentors “show up” for the youth they are trying to help.

And there are some really difficult issues that are part of the problems: poverty, drugs, joblessness, crime, lack of services. These are just people doing what they can with what they have, and the young people are stepping up to the plate and bringing about success. “Instead of focusing on parole officers, or probation officers, or prisons, we can build communities,” said Saj Rahman, Director, Institute for Transformative Mentoring.

How can we support this movement? Hire credible messengers/ mentors. Yes. Pay them. Otherwise they have to turn to crime to support themselves.

Why Don’t the Mentally Ill Take Their Medication?

My wife and I went to a SARDAA medical conference in Houston, Texas in conjunction with Baylor College of Medicine this past April 20-21, 2018, and this was one of the topics there. Xavier Amador, Ph.D. wrote the book dealing with this subject: I AM NOT SICK. I Don’t Need Help!: How to Help Someone with Mental Illness Accept Treatment (2012). The issue is that the person does not realize that he is sick – not that he denies it. Denial, as the doctor points out, means that somewhere deep down inside the patient realizes he has an illness. This is different. It is a symptom of the illness.

In my book, In the Matter of Edwin Potter: Mental Illness and Criminal Justice Reform, Edwin also does not realize that he has an illness and acts out accordingly. He did not understand why he was arrested, put in the hospital, or why he lost his freedom. He saw nothing wrong with himself except that his employer was out to get him. And now, today, having realized the truth, he lives with remorse and regret for the death of his wife.

Reminder! Bruce Hurwitz Presents has offered me the opportunity for a podcast interview on May 14, 2018 at 5pm. We will discuss mental illness and criminal justice reform as well as the book. Here is the link:

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/bhp/2018/05/14/david-geiger-mental-illness-and-criminal-justice-reform

Rise and Fall with Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is a terrible thing. It takes your life away. In my youth I was involved with a number of acceptable activities: Boy Scouts (I made it to Eagle). I played guitar though I was never satisfied with the quality of instruction that I received. I was always at the top of my class throughout school, for example, I received a full scholarship to attend a private high school where I graduated second in my class of about 100. In college I received a partial scholarship based upon an essay contest and always made the Dean’s List – except once. So there are some examples.

Schizophrenia appears in men about the age of 18. From there we can expect them to spend their lives in prisons and psychiatric hospitals or as homeless wayfarers – or so we are led to believe by the news media. I did respond to medication, and I went on to graduate school for a master’s degree in electrical engineering. I am retired now – unless someone has a paying job for someone of my age with gray hair. I noticed in my more recent interviews that there is not a gray hair in the room. I never get the offer though I more than meet the job requirements.

I do have other skills. I joined Mensa back in 1989. Since 2013 I attended The School of Visual Arts here in New York City. Some of my work is displayed on the school web site. But, easier to find, 10 of my works are included in my book In the Matter of Edwin Potter.

Schizophrenia does not mean my life is over.

SARDAA

I’ve been talking about mental illness as well as criminal justice reform. Today I want to bring SARDAA to your attention (Schizophrenia and Related Disorders Alliance of America).

From their email, SARDAA is the only national voice exclusively representing people diagnosed with serious neuropsychiatric illnesses – schizophrenia and related brain disorders. Among their goals are to eliminate stigma and discrimination and to increase research and improve treatment. Another goal is to reclassify schizophrenia as a neurological brain disorder which will lead to more scientific research, access to hospital beds and improve treatment outcomes.

Currently 200,000 – 400,000 people with severe neuropsychiatric brain illnesses are incarcerated (!) with only 37,679 State hospital beds. SARDAA works to stop incarceration of people with brain illnesses and start providing treatment. Schizophrenia is a neurological brain disorder that requires treatment, NOT incarceration or a result in homeless!

This coming April 2018 in Houston, Texas there will be their 10th annual conference. For more information on this or any related topic, email: info@sardaa.org.

Legalizing the Use of Recreational Marijuana

I think legalizing the use of recreational marijuana is a bad idea. Having lived in psychiatric hospitals, I’ve seen these people – oh, your friends didn’t tell you that part, that you could very well end up in the hospital with your head all screwed up? Smoking marijuana does not make one smarter. That it does is a delusion or another lie from your friends.

Drug addiction is an illness, we are told. So why encourage it? Grudgingly, I will grant you the use of medical marijuana. At least it is regulated.

Big corporations must deal with this use every day. Some of their employees are responsible for the lives of thousands of customers – and that may be the issue. They are a menace to property and the lives of OTHERS. Do we care about the lives of OTHERS, meaning your daughter or your grandson or your newborn? This is why an employee is not allowed on the job when they are under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Let me say it again: I think legalizing the use of recreational marijuana is a bad idea.

How Can You Help?

You may have been reading in these blogs that the incarcerated and “at risk” youth do not have the proper education or skills to succeed in accepted society. Some of you may be thinking, “I’d like to help, but I don’t have any teaching skills. I don’t know anybody in prison. I am not a Probation officer or have a degree in criminal justice. What can I do?”

 

Well, there is something simple that you might want to do for youth at risk: Donate to the Inner-City Scholarship Fund offered by the Archdiocese of New York. 69% of Inner-City Catholic school students live near or below the poverty level. As many as 98% graduate from Inner-City supported schools. 95% go on to college. 85% of Inner-City expenditures are directed to students, schools, and programs, and all of this for $8000 annually per student as opposed to NYC public schools at $20,000. And you can give as little as $15 per month, tax-deductible.

For more information you may reach them at 212-753-8583 or www.innercityscholarshipfund.org. I am not associated with them, but give them a call today, and make a difference for a child. I did. 

 

 

Job Advocacy for the Formerly Incarcerated

A short time back – this being two weeks before Christmas 2017 – former NJ Governor Jim McGreevey appeared on the TV news again regarding the soon-to-be-released incarcerated. He strongly advocates for their employment, and they were filling out job application forms in the news article.

This is more than a Santa Claus issue. These guys have nothing going for them when they get out of prison. They need jobs to stay out of trouble, out of prison. I can talk from my experience. I had a hard time just a few months ago: I had no job, and savings were disappearing like greased lightning. I finally had to apply for social security benefits. It wasn’t much, but it kept the wolf from the door.

What would I have done if I did not have that to fall back on? What if I were younger than 62 as many of the incarcerated are? What would you have done? The formerly incarcerated know no other world than that of crime. They most probably would have turned to crime. This is one reason why they need role models and mentors. McGreevey begs outright for employers to “hire just one person.” Employers see this as a problem. But there are already programs in place in corporate America to help these guys: education, substance abuse counseling, psychological support, and so on. Use them and make the world a better place in 2018.

Happy holidays.

Hiring the Mentally Ill

As a manager considering the hiring of a mentally ill person, you might be interested in some stories that I have to tell as one mentally ill and in a supervisory position.

In my younger days as an engineer I had the opportunity to hire some summer interns. I remember one who I scheduled for an office interview. When the time came, I received a frantic phone call that he was running late and would not be able to make it. Could we reschedule? This was not a good sign, but I had been working in New York City for a number of years by that time and realized that things sometimes happened – a helicopter falls out of the sky, the subway catches on fire, there is a parade en route, and so on. So reluctantly, I scheduled a new date. When that date came, I received a frantic phone call that he was running late and would not be able to make it. Could we reschedule? I said no.

Oh, come on. You gotta give me a chance.”

“I gave you a chance,” I replied, and that was the end of the interview.

On another occasion I had a young but very good engineer intern working for me. I needed some field work done. So I outlined what needed to be done: where to go, who to see, what to do. When I was done I told her clearly and emphatically to use my name. When she came back, she told me the story. She wasn’t getting anywhere at the site and was getting frustrated at not making headway on her assignment. Then the light dawned: She used my name, and she said it was like the parting of the Red Sea. She accomplished her mission

So maybe the mentally ill are not so incompetent after all. Someday I’ll have to tell you the story of the former stunt man who I almost threw out of the electrical substation for safety reasons.

Have a good one.