Today I want to write about the need for a consolidation of mental health organizations and the criminal justice system.
I have been in the courts for 40 years, and my current experience makes me angry. Last year the doctor recommended my release, and this year he reported there was no change. The order this year says that if it were not for the court and its supervision, I could very well have a breakdown. That is the court speaking, not the doctor.
The court treats me as though I am a felon. Instead of taking my children away from me by an order because I am sending them Hallmark cards, the court could have said to them (now 30 and 40 years old and on their own) that their father is experiencing signs of brain illness. Then we could argue about her qualifications to determine and treat brain illness. Several years ago, I was without a job, and I lost a job opportunity in New England because of the court’s unwillingness to decide. Of course, if I say too much the court will cite me for contempt, but something must be said. This is America.
I wrote to Alex Keoskey, an attorney familiar with my case and with brain illness in his own family, and this is what he had to say.
“I agree. I’m happy to say that the stigma of mental illness is finally being addressed by the public at large, mostly coupled up with addiction and the current problem we have with opioids. But more needs to be done and the criminal justice system is way behind. A judge should never substitute their opinion in place of someone with expertise. A consulting psychiatrist should be the only one who makes any determination regarding danger or no danger. A judge should always defer to that opinion, or at least ask for a second opinion. You are correct, the judge is treating you like a common criminal. How many years has it been that you have been stable and productive, not the slightest bit of harm to anyone? I don’t understand why she doesn’t take this into account.”
So much about me. I have already begun efforts in starting to get the two sides to talk with each other. I make efforts to keep both SARDAA and the Prisoner Re-entry Institute (PRI) at John Jay College of Criminal Justice aware of what the other is doing through my blogs, through our emails, and through our newsletters. My point is that there is a need for a third party to take part in the conversation, and that third party does not yet exist.