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.

Hatred: Where Does It Come From?

Checking Google for information leads predominantly to dictionary definitions. As such, the Urban Dictionary gives us this: “Haters gonna hate.” This is a colloquial expression meaning that “people who don’t like you will always find a reason to dislike you, no matter how stupid that reason may be.”

Also, hatred is often associated with feelings of anger, disgust, and a disposition toward hostility.

This is all well and good, but where does hatred come from? Well, let’s look at this: Like love, hatred begins at home. They believe they are right. Why do they believe they are right? Because they belong to a larger group of people who think the same way and believe they are right as well. We must break this cycle. Do they feel threatened? Challenging them on the issues will only make them angrier. Angry at always getting the short end of the stick? Executing one of them is not going to solve the problem. It threatens them and only makes them herd closer together.

he recent tragic terrorist attack in New York City (Nov. 2017) brings out these elements. From personal experience, I would say people like that belong in a psychiatric hospital, not to face execution as some in power are advocating. His execution would not make America great. Tyrants do that.

 

Credible Messenger Mentoring

On the afternoon of October 17, 2017 there was a symposium at John Jay College of Criminal Justice sponsored by the Pinkerton Foundation. It was called “Part 1: Credible Messenger Mentoring.”

Mentoring is something that I advocate in my book In the Matter of Edwin Potter. In this case the mentors are those who have been incarcerated and can offer their experience to help “at risk” youth – AND IT WORKS. We don’t get to say that too often in the world of criminal justice, but what is this? We are going to hire thugs to work with our children? Well, let’s not put it quite that way. These mentors have experience that no one else has and can help. So, a rap sheet is the resume for getting the job? This is wrong. The reason why they went to prison is because they themselves did not have someone there to tell them to stay away from the situation. And now they are paying for it – with the remainder of their lives. This, too, is wrong. They served their time, now let’s get them back into the community because it is a community issue.

So, who is going to hire them? It is too much of a risk. Let me tell you about risk. Put in support systems AS FOR ANY OTHER EMPLOYEE: substance abuse counseling, psychological support, etc. These are in place in much of corporate America now. And there should be a balance in the community: If we need more cops, then we need more mentors.

Who is going to pay for this? There are big financial benefits by keeping people out of prison. This should offset at least some of the cost.

But let’s not marginalize the mentors now that they are contributing to society by fighting on the front lines. They, too, have dreams in life, and we should not encourage the media image of becoming a rapper or a basketball player. There is a bigger world out there.

Part 2 of this topic is scheduled for April 19, 2018 at John Jay.

Housing Issues for Those Released

About a year ago I attended a symposium at John Jay College of Criminal Justice (JJC) here in New York City. The topic was housing for those released from prison.

Well, first, they can’t get a job because they have a criminal record, so no one will hire them. So they don’t have the money to rent an apartment. This means that they will have to live with family. Ha! In New York City, the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) will not allow anyone who has less than a perfect record to live in their housing. This is called Permanent Exclusion. This means, in short, that the family must break up because if anyone in the housing even so much as breathes in the direction of a jail, he will be thrown out. So, the parent cannot see his children. He has no base from which to start his life over. His predicament is usually so dire that he must turn to crime to support himself – and he is back in prison. This also applies to someone whose arrest never led to a conviction.

Fortunately, someone from NYCHA also attended that symposium last year, and the person said, “We have seen the light.” The Prisoner Re-entry Institute (PRI) (a research organization) at JJC “is working with a diverse group of organizations and tenant-stakeholders to overturn the NYCHA… policy.” (From the PRI web site.)

In my case (not with NYCHA), my first discharge from the hospital allowed me to go in steps, but I could not live with my parents because my young son was living with them, and the Court would not allow it. But I thought that particular process made some sense. I was directed to get a job and transportation (a car) – which I did – while I continued to live at the hospital. Family and staff helped. At the end of the probationary period I was given permission to live in a place of my own, and I had the wherewithal to do that.

My second discharge was not as easy. The Court would no longer allow a smooth transition from the hospital. I must have a job, transportation, and a place to live all at once. As we are talking about housing, I was not allowed to live in Section 8 housing because of my Court involvement though I was never convicted of a crime nor involved with parole. Technically I was never on probation although that is how the Court monitored the case.

It was a hard go for the Social Worker. Nobody wanted me, and I had no support. So, what was I to do? Fortunately for me, my son had grown and moved out of my parents’ house, giving me the opportunity to live with my parents while getting back on my feet. If they had not taken me in, I could still very well be in the hospital now 14 years later.

Overcoming Mental Illness

When I was very young, I was taught that life was meant for suffering, that God is angry with us. Twenty-some years later I tried to kill myself in an acute schizophrenic episode. Others were injured as well, and after a jury trial where I was found Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity I was placed under the supervision of the Court and experienced – all told – well over half a decade in a psychiatric hospital.

Time passed – slowly. I discovered who my enemies were, and I overcame them. Almost 40 years after my initial breakdown, I was on the right side of the keys to the jail cells. I had written a book, and it was generating interest.

Recently I was invited on a tour of the Bergen County (NJ) jail where I saw once again the suffering of the mentally ill. Suffering is chronic for this class of people.

Remembering my days past, I asked my guide, “Do they know where they are?”

“They seem to.”

I thought I knew where I was that 40 years ago, but I was in a world of fantasy and delusion. Today I believed these people were no better off. Maybe medication made a difference. But we want to help them. We want them to live a life of joy and happiness, not just some subsistence level of living in a locked room.

What can we do to get these people jobs, improve their lives? Well, first we must address their illnesses. Research into better drugs and gene therapy, for example. But are jobs the only thing we want for them? Some can’t handle the stress of having the responsibility of a job.

I can and have handled the stress. I ran multi-million-dollar projects in New York City for twenty years for Con Edison, improving service and winning industry awards. And I believe there is more that I can do.

Cop Shot – Ban the Box!

Last night a female police officer was shot in the face near to my wife’s house in Yonkers, NY. There are no further details at this time, but it is reported that she will be OK. Drug sales are suspected because of easy access to the highways.

Let’s turn to my experience of being locked up with some of these people: Why do people sell drugs? Because they can’t get a good job. Even when they come out of prison on fire with the thought of turning their lives around – and there are those – they can’t get a decent job and have to turn to their old ways.

It makes me raging mad to see that box on job applications: Have you ever been convicted of a felony?

Not me, but it screens out other applicants right away, and they must turn to crime once again to support themselves and their families. Yes, some of these guys have family. I just saw the box yesterday.

What would you do if you could not get an honest job? I have been fortunate in my life to some extent. I played by the rules, and I was able to get a job. It is much more difficult now because I have gray hair, and age discrimination is rampant. I just filled out an application yesterday that asked if I am over 40 years old. I can’t get a job. What do you say that I should do? Fortunately, I’m old enough to apply for social security and take withdrawals from my IRA, but it is not enough. Again, what do you say that any of us should do?

Ban the box!

Reporting a Pending Crime

Too many times we hear on the news that a murder or mass murder was committed by someone – just today as a matter of fact in Las Vegas! What can we do to stop it?

One thing is that neighbors see something unusual is going on in the community, but the police can’t respond because nothing had happened yet. How true is that? At one of my Court appearances after my commitment to a psychiatric hospital my mother told the judge that she saw something happening with me but did not know where to go but was later instructed by the judge to get in touch with the Probation officer. In the case of Adam Stein – a real character in my book – to his recollection he was sitting at home reading the newspaper when a police officer came to the door with a warrant and took him away to the same maximum security psychiatric facility where I was committed. He had no idea why, but it was done.

“If you see something, say something” is great directive, but it is useless if there is nowhere to go.

One suggestion is to bring him to a hospital for a 30-day psychiatric evaluation, but who has the right to do that? From personal observation families have turned in family members, but what if they don’t want to do that or there is no family? Then we have a problem. Can we change that? Is it worth somebody’s life? Sometimes freedom is a little too free and brings about anarchy. It is important that we realize this, and don’t let it go that far

 

Jim McGreevey Gets It

You know what the problem is with criminals? I’m going to tell you what the problem is. Then I’m going to go one step farther, and I’m going to tell you how to fix it. Here is the story: The typical prison inmate does not have the skills necessary to succeed in accepted society. That is the problem. And here is what we need to do about it: We educate them -- reading, writing, arithmetic, social skills, speaking English in many cases. They also have a problem with substance abuse which must be addressed. They also need role models and mentors because they need to see that integrating into society can be done, and, in that regard, not every day is a good day.

I learned this the hard way by going through the criminal justice system myself. I have schizophrenia, and it brought tragedy to my family in 1979: my wife died, and my son was severely injured. He is OK now and has a family of his own with three teen-aged children.

Back in the 1980s and 1990s, the State’s answer to crime was to build prisons and incarcerate everyone they could. The result today is that well over 2 million people are in jails nationwide, and crime has not gone down.

I was sick of this, being on the receiving end, so I wrote an article in 1999 called “The Crime Solution” (copyright 2000 David E. Geiger) stating the same things I just told you here and published it in a Mensa newsletter. (It is now titled “Reducing Recidivism” and is available as chapter 104 in my book In the Matter of Edwin Potter available on Amazon and my web site: www.DavidEGeiger.com) Later in May 2013 I dusted it off and sent it to NJ Governor Chris Christie. In May 2014, I sent it to him again. In the fall of 2014, Martin’s Place opened up with former NJ Governor Jim McGreevey as Executive Director. Martin’s Place is a transition facility for those getting out of prison and into the community, and recidivism has gone down in New Jersey.

Jim McGreevey gets it. My wife and I met McGreevey serendipitously in a parking lot on the NJ Turnpike when we were traveling to Baltimore to visit a friend for the Labor Day weekend. I told him I had sent him a copy of my book – and he knew right away who I was when I told him the title. We spoke for a little while about my health and chapter 104. We shook hands 5 or 6 times, then wished each other luck and parted ways. A few days later he appeared on a local PBS news program and stated that released prisoners need, “Employment, employment, employment, employment!” You’ll see my arguments for this in my book.

 

Criminalization of Gender

Criminalization of Gender

Back on February 23, 2017 there was a symposium at John Jay College of Criminal Justice given by Pinkerton Fellowship. The topic was the criminalization of gender – not boys but girls. The example given was that of a 14-year-old black girl on a bus who cussed out a white boy. She was put in prison. In addition to the racial issues, the argument was made that if a white boy had done that the whole thing would have been ignored.

This issue is not new. Panel 1 discussed factors that lead to criminalization: 1) substance abuse, 2) placement in foster homes, 3) racial profiles, 4) offenses not limited to violations of the law. Woman many times do not have the means to support their families, so they turn to crime, and the problems are criminalized. The criticism was made that they really get no support from the community or the justice system though it is known that a girl is having a problem.

Panel 2 discussed the impact of criminalization. Among the results are suicide, death, and sexism. Additionally, foster care is seen as a funnel, a “cross-over” into the criminal justice system with “incredible long-term effects of having the police in your life.” – Mik Kinkead. Nevertheless it was Ebony Walcott who said, “It was the people around me who pulled me up.”

The featured speaker, Ana Oliveira who is President and CEO of The New York Women’s Foundation, said, “It is not a question of money. It is a question of investing the money in human beings... We cannot dream of freedom and have nightmare elements… Setting our sights high is not the reason for failure… It is important to do more of what works.”

Part 2 of this symposium will be held at John Jay College in April 2017. Contact Prisoner Re-entry Institute.

Earn Your Way Out

Earn Your Way Out

Exciting things are happening in criminal justice reform in New Jersey. It has been said that New Jersey is leading the nation in this area, and crime is decreasing.

Assemblywoman Shavonda E. Sumter is a sponsor of the bill Earn Your Way Out. Its purpose is to keep inmates out of jail after release. It could save the State $69 million over 2 years. (Click to view full blog)

Ban the Box

Ban the Box

I keep a casual eye on the local New Jersey news, and sometimes I hear some interesting things related to what I wrote in “Reducing Recidivism” (chapter 104). As an example, the Executive Director of the Trenton Housing Authority – W. Oliver Leggett – recently hired ex-cons as security guards in his 1500-unit complex (PBS NJTV News 12/2/2016). His reasoning is that if you put a person back into the community with no means for gainful employment, that person may very well turn to crime to support himself. (Click to view full blog)

New Chances at Life

New Chances at Life

Recently there was an article in Time magazine (Nov. 7, 2016 – New Chances at Life) about several prisoners among the hundreds who were pardoned by President Obama and how they are adjusting to their new-found freedom. I found that many of the problems they face are similar to the ones I experienced at my initial release from the hospital: getting a job, getting a place to live, starting a new social life, adjusting to all of the changes in society, and so on. (Click to view full blog)