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Three Years. Fifteen Suicides.
December 10, 2007 6:55 PM   Subscribe

Prison and the Mentally Ill in Massachusetts: The Globe reports on the pitfalls and consequences of using a retribution-based correctional system on the criminally insane in MA, as inmates in the state kill themselves at triple the national rate. Part I. Part II. Part III (in tomorrow's Globe). Photos of the system's most troubled. Last words of some disturbed inmates.

As solitary confinement and other traditional forms of correction continue to be used on the most vulnerable in the prison population, one must wonder: Is the problem funding (PDF), understanding, or a combination of these and other forces? What is the solution?
posted by rollbiz (92 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
Certainly a stain on Massachusetts, but it's a national problem-- as documented in FRONTLINE's The New Asylums.
posted by Mayor Curley at 7:07 PM on December 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


People cannot tolerate life inside a facility designed to make life intolerable.
posted by sourwookie at 7:16 PM on December 10, 2007 [3 favorites]


"I'm never gonna sympathize with the inmate. That's not my job."

How embarrassingly to the point. Way to go, 'progressive' Massachusetts.

Thanks for posting this.
posted by inoculatedcities at 7:29 PM on December 10, 2007


At least prisons give pot heads the chance to see what it is like to live with schizophrenics for decades.

What? That's not the point of prisons?
posted by Astro Zombie at 7:30 PM on December 10, 2007 [3 favorites]


Wow, titicut follies eternal!
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 7:30 PM on December 10, 2007 [5 favorites]


I spent part of my teen years in Holyoke, Mass, and it was common for mental institutions to dump patients out on to the street. You'd see them at McDonald's, pretty out of it. I don't know what the rationale was for "setting them free" to fend for themselves without meds or support. Seemed pretty cruel.
posted by 45moore45 at 7:38 PM on December 10, 2007


Um, excuse me, I may seem heartless. but some of these these people are MURDERERS.
posted by WaterSprite at 7:45 PM on December 10, 2007


45moore45 - I saw the same sort of thing in the early 2000s post-Giuliani New York. Lots of grown adults wearing Nick Jr. t-shirts amidst the crack deals in Tompkins Square Park. What a great job he did cleaning up that city!

9/11 for president '08!
posted by inoculatedcities at 7:46 PM on December 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


WaterSprite: Um, excuse me, I may seem heartless. but some of these these people are MURDERERS.

...so...we should torture them? Have I heard you right?
posted by inoculatedcities at 7:47 PM on December 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


Way to go, 'progressive' Massachusetts.

Progressive? 4 out of the last 5 governors were Republicans. Massachusetts rarely deserves the lefty reputation it gets.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 7:50 PM on December 10, 2007


Wow, titicut follies eternal!

I saw that at college 25 years ago and something inside me broke. Damn.
posted by Kinbote at 7:52 PM on December 10, 2007


Watersprite your compassion is showing!

They were mentally incapacitated before they were murderers. Does that matter at all to you?
posted by zerobyproxy at 7:53 PM on December 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


Yep. My compassion is for children of crack whores, and not the crack whores themselves. Also innocent children of people in third world countries. Certainly not the maggots who actually did the drugs, killed people, knowingly gave themselves that first needle... bring it on, Iwill not defend the druggies, murderers, etc. to the end! There is no reason for anyone to commit murder.
posted by WaterSprite at 7:59 PM on December 10, 2007


As a Mental Health Clinician working with offenders, I felt I should post something - while the situation in Massachusetts seems black indeed, in Seattle we seem to have something that would work pretty well were it not for the lack of affordable housing. People charged with a crime who either have been previously diagnosed with a mental illness or are obviously suffering from one are offered a chance to go through Mental Health Court instead of mainstream court.

Mental health Court is limited in capacity, and people are regularly screened out for various reasons (chemical dependency primary, personality disorders, and things that do not constitute major disabilities, usually). However, once in, their sentence is often reduced or eliminated and replaced with about two years of probation with specialist probation officers, and mandatory assessment and treatment at a mental health clinic or agency like the one I work at. Even felony cases are often dropped down to misdemeanors, and I've heard of felony diversions where assaults or robberies have been expunged from records because of the extenuating circumstances found in a psychological decompensation. I've also been to the jail, and it's ugly, but they also have adopted the view that basically people who are insane are incompatible with the normal prison population, extremely vulnerable, and often amenable to rehabilitation and treatment. They have special wards and entire floors dedicated to psychiatric isolation or stabilization, and while it's no picnic, they are at least getting their basic needs met, including meds.

It's far from a perfect solution, but Mental Health Court is at least a step in the right direction - I was surprised when I learned it even existed because it seemed so obviously sensitive to people's needs and therefore unlikely in a government agency. But it seems to help a lot of people and if your city or county doesn't have something like it, start sending letters, because it's working all right here.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 8:01 PM on December 10, 2007 [7 favorites]


I spent part of my teen years in Holyoke, Mass, and it was common for mental institutions to dump patients out on to the street. You'd see them at McDonald's, pretty out of it. I don't know what the rationale was for "setting them free" to fend for themselves without meds or support. Seemed pretty cruel.

I don't know when you were a teenager, but it's not so bad now for non-violent mentally ill people in western MA now. There's relatively adequate (compared to the national level) housing and occupational programs for mentally ill people all over Massachusetts. Unless they have problems with violence-- in which case they just rot in jail with little treatment after a few incidents that they don't really have control over. There's a very New England attitude under it-- "if you're going to be THAT anti-social, if you're not going to try (whether you're capable of trying or not), well we're just not going to deal with you."

And keep in mind that the attitude is sad and wrong, but the people most responsive to help (marginal, non-violent mentally handicapped) are getting it. And the resources aren't infinite. But the response to "insane AND violent" needs to be addressed to get a solution beyond prison.
posted by Mayor Curley at 8:04 PM on December 10, 2007


Love, peace and dead police!
May I rest in piece
or get a tan in Hell at least.

posted by uncanny hengeman at 8:09 PM on December 10, 2007


? I thought I added the link. FWIW, it was the suicide note of this chap.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 8:11 PM on December 10, 2007


OK, people were pissed off at me. I just want to ask, is any mentally sane person a murderer, or a thief, or a rapist? Of course not. They are all mentally ill, or they would not commit the crimes they commit. I am typically a quiet MeFi person, but my beliefs about all this are very strong.
posted by WaterSprite at 8:15 PM on December 10, 2007


The dumping on the streets was (most likely) part of the great de-insituatization of the mentally ill that happened. As drugs became cheaper and a bit more effective and institutions whee seen as a public resource drain many where simply driven to a given location and, indeed, dumped. No support, jack shit.
posted by edgeways at 8:22 PM on December 10, 2007


I rarely post things, but I really need to this time, and this is my third post about this. I was a victim of a violent sex crime. They caught the guy, but there wasn't evidence. And apparently he was mentally ill. So yes, he should do time, if they could pin it on him. He was in a mental facility for a while, but HE SHOULD BE IN JAIL FOREVER, Who cares if he was mentally ill. He did it. He should be incarcerated. Please understand this... If you were in my shoes, you would agree. I am afraid every day that he will find me. These people, no matter what, should be in jail forever.
posted by WaterSprite at 8:27 PM on December 10, 2007


I lived in Northampton, MA, for a couple of years in the late 80s. We used to go for winter walks around the ruins of the Northampton State Hospital. The grounds and buildings were eerie and haunted and very beautiful. I've never forgotten it.
posted by rtha at 8:27 PM on December 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


BlackLeotardFront - I agree that MA needs something more like this, and greater care and awareness for mental health cases. The thing I wonder about is this with all the difficulties of finding the appropriate treatment for each patient, the patient might not loose their violent tendencies. For me, a guy who stabs someone because he's not able to understand that he is not a ninja turtle is way scarier, and way more of a threat to the safety of the general population, than someone who commits mafia-related murders, if only for the randomness of it all. Its important to have humane care for inmates, but its also important for the public to be safe, and I don't know how that can be accomplished without sequestering the segment of the population that has proven themselves to be violent, unless mental health care has reached a 100% cure rate.
posted by fermezporte at 8:28 PM on December 10, 2007


WaterSprite, that is a fairly sophomore and shallow application of what mental illness is. And if it where indeed held as the standard then no one in prison would be said to be sane. Mental illness in of itself is such a friggen huge thing to be talking about in the first place, and the overwhelming majority of people with MI are not violent in any manner. But, generally what is being talked about here, in these specific cases, are individuals who have a diminished capacity to understand why what they did is wrong as opposed to the majority of individuals in prison who can recognize their evils whether or not they are repentant for it...
Now, if you really want to take the position that someone who is truly not responsible for their behavior, as deemed by the law, is just as culpable and morally equivalent as one who knowingly and maliciously commits the same act then there is no use arguing any more, as I don't think you are going to convince anyone who holds the opposite viewpoint that your argument holds water.
posted by edgeways at 8:31 PM on December 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


and upon preview, I am sorry for your experience. And, yes, people who commit acts of violence should be segregated from society, but they should not in turn be brutalized.
posted by edgeways at 8:34 PM on December 10, 2007


Progressive? 4 out of the last 5 governors were Republicans. Massachusetts rarely deserves the lefty reputation it gets.

Pfft, that tells you very little. A Republican in Massachusetts is a full-blow progressive almost anywhere else. It's not the fault of the voters that the Democrats trotted out a series of candidates who were completely useless.
posted by Banky_Edwards at 8:36 PM on December 10, 2007


and upon preview, I am sorry for your experience. And, yes, people who commit acts of violence should be segregated from society, but they should not in turn be brutalized.

Really? I hope you are never brutalized. If you are, ever, then I hope you get in touch with me.

There are the mentally ill, and there are the criminally ill. If you think the criminally ill are exempt from being punished, so be it. That's your opinion. Just remember there is me afraid to walk around any corner, afraid that some guy is going to rape me.
posted by WaterSprite at 8:55 PM on December 10, 2007


Really? I hope you are never brutalized. If you are, ever, then I hope you get in touch with me.

There's a reason we don't let victims of a crime determine the punishment for that crime. This is it.
posted by Justinian at 9:10 PM on December 10, 2007 [6 favorites]


WaterSprite, did you receive any counseling or therapy after being attacked? Not everyone who is victimised allows their brutalisation to strip them of their humanity. Your desire to punish, punish, and PUNISH people is indicative that you are yourself unwell. Seek treatment, please.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:11 PM on December 10, 2007 [8 favorites]


I should be a bit more clear so I don't sound so flip. I spent middle school being fairly brutally beaten at least once a week, and often times every day. My memories of that time are basically a smear of pain and misery, one big blur of suffering and humiliation and confusion. I've been brutalised. I was never raped, but I did spend two years alternating between being beaten up and being in such stark raving terror of it that being hurt was almost a relief. My point is that I know what it's like to be the victim.

And I'm not you. I find your position to be grotesque and horrifying. You have no understanding of mental illness or why people do what they do; you have nothing more than a desire to punish, to see people convicted of crimes suffer as harshly as possible. I'll tell you now that such an attitude will not help you at all. It will turn into poison inside of you and hurt you, make you suspicious and eternally angry and incapable of relating to other human beings in normal ways.

I’m not telling you to get over it. I’m not saying “Oh, you were hurt, just man up and get over it.” That’s a despicable attitude, and I’ve nothing but disgust for those who purport it. I’m telling you to get help. Get therapy. See a psychiatrist or a counselor or someone. Because you’re still being hurt, and it pains me to see a victim turn to the role of victimizer rather than getting some help.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:34 PM on December 10, 2007 [8 favorites]


WaterSprite, my car hit by a drunk and stoned 21 year old doing 105 on the freeway in a rental car and flipped twice down a 30 foot ravine. Should she be in jail for the rest of her life? If not, why the difference?
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 9:48 PM on December 10, 2007


WaterSprite, I am also the survivor of an extremely violent crime. And for several years I felt the way you do, that I wanted JUSTICE, which I eventually understood to be synonymous with revenge.

"I just want to ask, is any mentally sane person a murderer, or a thief, or a rapist?"

Probably not.

But the solution is not to seek revenge against people who are very, very sick indeed, but to rehabilitate them. If they are sick, they need treatment. If they are too sick to be out in society -- in other words, if they are a danger to others or to themselves -- they should be watched carefully, given the best care possible, and not left to fester in their own minds.

Have you ever been inside of a mental hospital? It is not unlike a prison. It is not a pleasant place to be. It is a terrible place, full of people who are in indescribable pain. Some of them are violent, and they are drugged or restrained. Some of them are suicidal, and they are watched even when they go to the bathroom. Some of them seem sane ninety percent of the time, and then suddenly they break bones in their hands punching walls.

Trust me. The devils inside a violent criminal's own mind are worse punishment than anything a prison warden could ever dream up. Have you ever experienced a serious mental illness yourself? Unless you have, unless you have been tortured by the chemicals in your own body, I don't think it's possible to fully understand what the kind of privation described in these links can do to worsen a person's mental condition.

No one should ever commit a violent crime. But nor should we ignore, legitimize or mandate what is essentially commiting crimes against the original offenders.
posted by brina at 9:51 PM on December 10, 2007


I'm on WaterSprite's side. Fuck 'em. 15 down, lots more to go.

WaterSprite, my car hit by a drunk and stoned 21 year old doing 105 on the freeway in a rental car and flipped twice down a 30 foot ravine. Should she be in jail for the rest of her life?

No. Executed on the spot. NO MERCY! Until my 3 billion target is reached.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 10:06 PM on December 10, 2007


Bah! Sorry. I was quoting Ambrosia Voyeur and this sentence should have been in italics:

WaterSprite, my car hit by a drunk and stoned 21 year old doing 105 on the freeway in a rental car and flipped twice down a 30 foot ravine. Should she be in jail for the rest of her life?
posted by uncanny hengeman at 10:08 PM on December 10, 2007


I think it's important to remember that resources are not infinite, either in Massachusetts nor anywhere else. If they've decided to focus their resources on the mentally ill who haven't harmed anyone, I think that's a defensible choice. You have to go after the low-hanging fruit first.

Mental health is still a taboo topic in many places -- there are a whole lot of people outside prisons who need treatment and aren't getting it, and if you start apportioning a bigger slice of the pie to people who've displayed criminal tendencies, the public may just decide to make the pie disappear.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:09 PM on December 10, 2007


Can we please not make this discussion about WaterSprite?

There is a pattern to these threads. A post is made illustrating some sort of prison abuse. Inevitably someone will then comment something to the effect of "It's ok because they're criminals." All constructive discussion is then suspended so that people can try to reason with someone who hasn't read the article/is beyond reason/is trolling. It gets us nowhere, and completely derails the thread.
posted by Doug at 10:16 PM on December 10, 2007 [3 favorites]


A government ought to spend its time and money reducing harmful activity and increasing useful activity. That's what it's for, that's the point of having governments at all. Tormenting the mentally ill increases their propensity to engage in harmful activity, and reduces their ability to engage in useful activity. Tormenting the mentally well makes them mentally ill.

You know how we look back on scutage and gleaning and droit de seigneur and slavery and indulgences and spontaneous generation and brideprice and suttee and all the other stupid shit our ancestors got up to, thinking it was normal and right and proper? That's how our descendants will see prison. Due to your disconnection from society and your lack of moral development and comprehension of consequences, you have done something that harms someone else. We therefore propose to spend a random period of time ramping up your disconnection from society into full-blown hatred of society, demonstrating to you the pointlessness of morality in any way at all, and forcing you to associate with worse criminals than yourself in order to make you more like them. Prison creates more and worse crime than it deters.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 10:44 PM on December 10, 2007 [6 favorites]


The mentally ill don't contribute money to political campaigns so what exactly is the upside to helping them?
posted by any major dude at 10:49 PM on December 10, 2007


I see that "criminal" is, for many, a mental category, like "terrorist," that invites a shrug at best, a degree of gloating glee at worst, when we hear tales that people in these categories suffer abuse.

We're supposed to be better than them. Especially since we are working with the support of the state, which can forgive itself for any abuse. Without ethics, without morality, and without compassion for criminals, we run the risk of being as vicious and criminal as they are, and, worse still, getting away with it, because our actions are done in the name of justice, and because we abuse people we collective think deserve it.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:01 PM on December 10, 2007 [5 favorites]


Collectively, rather.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:02 PM on December 10, 2007


Didn't Reagan empty the California mental hospitals onto the streets when he became governator?

This bio isn't clear on it (but it is clear that he said the University of California was a "four-year course in sex, drugs, and treason" and that he raised the UC budget 100% while he was in office. I finally understand why his face should be put on money).
posted by mullingitover at 11:52 PM on December 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


In my limited view, there is a degree of self-recognition and desire for change needed for any rehabilitation. If it is not there, no rehabilitation will be accomplished beyond the best wishes of society. Not to mention, most prison terms are in fixed years, not until rehabilitated; so sentencing is at odds with anything but punishment.

I'd also point out some of the worst abuses of others are done in the name of rehabilitation. Few things worse than a zealot on a mission to make even the most sadistic tendencies seem tame by comparison.

It would be nice if all crime were viewed from a mental health standpoint with a tacit understanding of how society sometimes is a co-conspirator in the crime.

And there are other instances where the most humane thing is to execute the person on the spot.
posted by quintessencesluglord at 12:20 AM on December 11, 2007


The problem is what exactly do you do with someone whose violent behavior is not their own fault but is going to make the lives of everyone around them miserable?

There's this mentally ill guy here in Chicago who walks around downtown slugging random women hard enough to knock them out because he thinks they're sending him evil vibes. They've arrested him countless times about him back on the street because he can't be in jail due to his mental illness and he can't be committed to a mental institution either.

It's hard to work up a ton of compassion for someone like that. The best I can come up with is: Better luck in your next life, buddy.
posted by Jess the Mess at 1:01 AM on December 11, 2007


It's hard to work up a ton of compassion for someone like that.

He's so thoroughly fucked-up that he goes around hurting people because they're "sending him bad vibes", and you can't "work up" compassion for him? I mean, having compassion for people who are so thoroughly fucked up that they can't stop themselves from hurting people isn't mutually exclusive with having compassion for their victims.

Jesus Christ, what is so fucking hard about having compassion for people who are acted upon by forces beyond their control?
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:35 AM on December 11, 2007 [3 favorites]


As a person diagnosed with schizophrenia, I can tell you that we definitely don't have a choice. It just doesn't work that way.
posted by malusmoriendumest at 2:38 AM on December 11, 2007


This is a helluva thread.
posted by telstar at 3:05 AM on December 11, 2007


A co-worker of mine made a great observation about mental health care provided in prison as opposed to in the community. We were talking to a severely mentally ill client who had just bounced out of prison (again) and trying to explain to him why he might want to consider taking medication, considering that he doesn't usually stay out of prison real long and his mental illness is a component in this. He was incredibly adamant about taking no medication, despite the fact that he was clearly responding to internal stimulus, hearing voices, seeing things.

My co-worker explained to him that the medications they've made him take in jail weren't necessarily meant to treat his symptoms so much as control his behavior, and that his experience with medication in the community would be totally different. I thought that was a crucial distinction, one that had never actually occurred to me before. Basically, if you're mentally ill enough to get pulled from general population and stuck in Detention Center (the mental health unit of the Philly prison system), it means your behavior is either threatening or somehow really erratic and of concern to the COs. So you get Haldol-ed into zombie land for weeks on end, and eventually released back into the general population with the understanding that if you act up again, you'll get more of the same.

This has a major impact on mentally ill prisoners in that they aren't able to make the distinction that this isn't really so much mental health treatment as behavioral control. They come back into the community thinking that all psychiatrists are going to do this to them. It makes providing adequate mental health care for ex-offenders in the community really, really difficult.
posted by The Straightener at 5:04 AM on December 11, 2007 [4 favorites]


There's this mentally ill guy here in Chicago who walks around downtown slugging random women hard enough to knock them out because he thinks they're sending him evil vibes.

I feel bad for this guy, I do. His life probably sucks way worse than the women he's beating up. But isn't it one of the basic principles that the government should protect its citizens from people like this? I don't want him tortured or brutalized, but you can't have random face punching people walking around endangering people. The women he punches lives are worth as much as his. I don't see how the fact that some of the mentally ill cannot be held responsible for what they do, but if a river kept flooding my house, I'd probably build a levy, you know? I think a lot of good comments have been made in this thread, but it's really irresponsible to allow people to continue to commit violent acts.
posted by fermezporte at 6:06 AM on December 11, 2007


Part III of the Globe report.
posted by rollbiz at 6:12 AM on December 11, 2007


Mayor Curley, I'm looking forward to sitting down with The New Asylums. Thank you for linking it.

This is definitely a nationwide issue, I focused on MA only because the Globe's special report was the bulk of my post. It seems to me like funding can be pointed out as some of the problem, but the cost of not putting someone into the normal correctional system ought to cover the bulk of that (I believe it's $48,000/yr. in MA).

In my view, a large part of the problem is the age old lack of understanding as to how to deal with people that are mentally ill and may not ever get better. Another obstacle is the eye for an eye crowd, as evidenced in this thread and elsewhere. It's certainly understandable for victims to react in the way they generally do, but punishing criminal insanity rather than treating or at least containing it really doesn't do anyone any favors as I see it.
posted by rollbiz at 6:33 AM on December 11, 2007


"I just want to ask, is any mentally sane person a murderer, or a thief, or a rapist?"

Probably not.


See, I disagree with this. Anyone who has ever stolen something is mentally insane? Unless you're trying to make the argument that "hey, the whole world is mad, I tell's ya'" (in which case, we should probably adjust our scale for sanity, anyway) then that just doesn't make much sense to me. I think you'd have to be using a very broad and ambiguous definition of "mentally insane." I feel like it must be a way to mentally distance such people from one's own self ("that person's mind is nothing at all like mine, they're insane"). But I think this is a cop-out. It arises out of a desire, albeit an understandable one, to avoid delving into the sometimes quite complex motivations behind a given act, especially when it is one we find abhorrent. It's easier to label them "insane." But, at the very least, I think it's important to remember that understanding is not equal to sympathy for the criminal (though, I would say it's still beneficial to exercise some empathy).
posted by the other side at 6:38 AM on December 11, 2007 [2 favorites]


There was a case here (SF/Oakland) a couple-three years ago where a (severely) mentally ill teenage girl slashed the throat of an elderly woman who was out for a walk. It was totally random - they didn't know each other or anything. I've lost track of what happened, but I remember (accurately, I think) that the court mandated that she get some treatment before standing trial. The problem was that as a teenager, and a female one at that, no one could figure out where she should or could be placed. Residential facilities for young people said they couldn't do it because she was either too violent or too mentally ill; adult facilities said they couldn't do it because she was so young.

Our system for handling the mentally ill who end up in the "justice" system is completely broken. "Titicut Follies" has simply moved from state hospitals to state jails.
posted by rtha at 7:05 AM on December 11, 2007


The mentally ill don't contribute money to political campaigns so what exactly is the upside to helping them?

If that's the case, how did Ron Paul get all that money?

NOT DERAILIST
posted by robocop is bleeding at 7:28 AM on December 11, 2007 [2 favorites]


Yep, there are more people in jail for non-violent drug and property offenses than there are for violent offenses against persons.

And the issue of mental health and criminal justice is a serious one. People who suffer from serious mental illness but are unable to get the treatment they need often end up in the criminal justice system when they self-medicate with controlled substances, become violent, or commit non-violent poperty offenses.

On the other side of the story, we simply cannot afford to continue the sentencing guidelines we currently have. It's a ticking financial time bomb that is going to force change sooner or later.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 7:31 AM on December 11, 2007


I'd MeTa, but I used my post on the meetup this week.

WaterSprite: I have the greatest sympathy for what you've gone through, but callous and hostile comments aren't going to help you heal. I am really greatly disturbed by the anger and venom you're showing here, and it's certainly not all relevant to the subject at hand. MeFi isn't an appropriate place to air your personal agenda, no matter how serious it may be.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 10:16 AM on December 11, 2007


WaterSprite writes "Yep. My compassion is for children of crack whores, and not the crack whores themselves. Also innocent children of people in third world countries. Certainly not the maggots who actually did the drugs, killed people, knowingly gave themselves that first needle... bring it on, Iwill not defend the druggies, murderers, etc. to the end! There is no reason for anyone to commit murder."

That doesn't work, though. I can understand the sentiment, but we shouldn't create public policy mostly based on sentimental reasons, but rather practical reasons. From a practical standpoint, throwing away the key or abusing inmates isn't effective, because most will be let out. If we make no effort to rehabilitate, we're setting ourselves up to fail, which is exactly what's happening now.
posted by krinklyfig at 10:16 AM on December 11, 2007


On another note... this is really creepy: "They told me, 'If the body's not picked up immediately, it goes to the medical school,' "

Geez. I thought we stopped dissecting executed criminals eons ago. I guess now we just use the ones who kill themselves. If we're to be judged by the way we treat our prisoners, we're a bunch of lousy scum.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 10:18 AM on December 11, 2007


I can't get all up WaterSprite's face, because she has a point. Maybe not directly related to the article but on general policy. Those who hurt society ultimately need to be removed from society.

Not everyone who is victimised allows their brutalisation to strip them of their humanity.

I think you miss the point that those people who brutalize the innocent have already had their humanity stripped, thus I don't treat them as a member of humanity. They are now a animal and will be controlled like one.
So the victim is not necessarily acting in a contrary manner to humanity by seeking to punish those who victimized them.

WaterSprite, my car hit by a drunk and stoned 21 year old doing 105 on the freeway in a rental car and flipped twice down a 30 foot ravine. Should she be in jail for the rest of her life? If not, why the difference?

Yes she should be in jail for the rest of her life or some similarly long period of time. My second cousin hit and killed someone while driving drunk, on a suspended license for driving drunk. I don't want to see him out in society again, he fucking killed someone thru his own conscious actions. That's not acceptable.
posted by MrBobaFett at 10:47 AM on December 11, 2007


MeFi isn't an appropriate place to air your personal agenda, no matter how serious it may be.

I think a brief perusal of MetaFilter will demonstrate that this is, in fact, where personal agendas get aired.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:01 AM on December 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


Um, excuse me, I may seem heartless. but some of these these people are MURDERERS.
posted by WaterSprite at 7:45 PM on December 10 [+] [!]


Ironysterical!
posted by Mental Wimp at 11:03 AM on December 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: an appropriate place to air your personal agenda
posted by Mental Wimp at 11:03 AM on December 11, 2007


I think you miss the point that those people who brutalize the innocent have already had their humanity stripped, thus I don't treat them as a member of humanity. They are now a animal and will be controlled like one.

Dude, the people who were brutalising me were teenagers. Looking back on it, they were just as confused as I was- except they chose to respond to that by brutalising people in order to establish control over something, even if it was just another kid who couldn't defend himself. The idea that people who commit brutal acts are inhuman is pathetic; it's just another attempt to avoid acknowledging the horrifying things that human beings are capable, a way of keeping what is bad and feared locked away from the "good" people. We tried your theory of deviance; it doesn't work, and it creates monstrous public policy.

So the victim is not necessarily acting in a contrary manner to humanity by seeking to punish those who victimized them.

The victim is acting in a manner that is certainly within the nature of humanity, but indulging in the desire to PUNISH PUNISH PUNISH creates massively more pain and suffering. In the 1600's, the punishment in Britain for petty theft was hanging; it did not create a safer or saner society.

Yes she should be in jail for the rest of her life or some similarly long period of time. My second cousin hit and killed someone while driving drunk, on a suspended license for driving drunk. I don't want to see him out in society again, he fucking killed someone thru his own conscious actions. That's not acceptable.

It's very cute that you think your not wanting to see someone in society is relevant or sane or meaningful in any way, but like I say- brutalising criminals- most of whom are simply people who've made a mistake rather than the slavering vicious monsters you paint them as in order to make it okay to hurt and brutalise them- does nothing to create a better society and in fact erodes the compassion and humanity of the society which behaves in that way.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:10 AM on December 11, 2007 [6 favorites]


I think a brief perusal of MetaFilter will demonstrate that this is, in fact, where personal agendas get aired.

I didn't say it DIDN'T happen, I said it SHOULDN'T.

It's supposed to be about the links! That's what the nice man said when I drank his Kool-Aid!
posted by grapefruitmoon at 11:10 AM on December 11, 2007


(For reference, plz see me in my office re: N00bs, this lawn that you are on, I don't think it belongs to who you think it does.)
posted by grapefruitmoon at 11:11 AM on December 11, 2007


2nd BlackLeotardFront on Mental Health Court. We’re working on it in Illinois. It’s going to be a big help when it comes through.


The vast majority of the mentally ill - even the criminals - are victims of crime. Study done at Northwestern U out here couple years ago by a team led by Linda Teplin found that, depending on the type of crime (rape/sexual assault, robbery, battery) prevalence was 6 to 23 times higher among people with mental illness than among the general population

And aeschenkarnos is perfectly correct when he says: “Tormenting the mentally ill increases their propensity to engage in harmful activity, and reduces their ability to engage in useful activity. Tormenting the mentally well makes them mentally ill.”

“Didn't Reagan empty the California mental hospitals onto the streets when he became governator?”

Yes. In fact deinstitutionalization is one of the primary causes of homelessness. A good chunk of folks who are homeless are mentally ill. I think about 35 to 45 percent of homeless folks have a history of untreated mental illness, so it’s at least the second largest cause of homelessness.

Out here Cook County Jail is the largest holder of mentally ill folks.
You get that? Most of our mentally ill folks here are in prison.
Now Dr. Alimo (guy who runs the mental health side of things there) does a good job and most of the inmates are separated from gen pop. Most.

So it’s freezing out. Right now we’ve got an ice storm. If you’ve got a mental illness, you’re not stupid, you want to get out of the cold. Well, maybe you’re also on the booze, or downers or something (because fuck if you can afford your meds, man, not with medicaid, certainly not with insurance - more on that in a bit) so you can’t get into a shelter unless you’re clean. Or maybe you just can’t sleep nights and need to yell every once in a while to drown out the voices in your head (I’m not mocking there, some bipolar folks do have symptoms like that) - or you don’t feel safe around large groups of huddled together people (maybe you have PTSD) so you can’t or won’t go to a shelter.
Well, you’re not stupid. So you commit an obvious crime to go to jail, or you break into some place - each so as not to freeze to death. Cops pick you up, put you in county.
So it’s a small time deal, night court cuts you loose and you’re out on the street in the middle of the night. You haven’t had your meds since you got into the joint (if you were able to afford them in the first place) and the county jail isn’t going to pop for a grand worth of Lexapro even if some of the folks there do care that you’re depressed or confused enough to off yourself. They don’t give you bus fare or a new suit like in the movies.
Meanwhile, you’re not in your own neighborhood, the neighborhood around Cook County Jail is a DMZ, and you probably don’t feel safe which is perhaps the most coherent and sane thought in your head at that point.
Now me, I’m a killing machine, and I can thrive in environments that would kill Nanook of the North in under two days, but I might even start feeling a little anxious at that point. And if I live out in the burbs, that’s a 35 mile walk I’ve got ahead of me to get back to get plugged into services. And it’s still probably cold.
So when I hear mentally ill guy commits crime, I tend to cut them some slack.

The most basic trait of human beings - the way we learn - is modeling. My baby girl is mirroring all kinds of things that I do. It’s one of our core functions.
It is at all surprising that people we show brutality and callousness mirror brutality and callousness?

The mindset that attackers, criminals, that these people are strong in some way because they can maybe overpower us physically or are willing to do things we aren’t is completely wrongheaded.

They do what they do because they are weak and ignorant and reflecting what they’ve been shown. They need to be shown the proper way to live. It might seem like we’re cleaning up someone else’s mess, and that is true to a point.
But we’re also preventing reiteration of it. Stop a child abuser from abusing and you help not only him, but future generations.

Now obviously if someone’s brain function is organically deteriorated to the point where they can’t be part of society ever, they need to be institutionalized.

But the money for that isn’t there either.

One of the big issues is insurance pairity. Insurance - and even government coverage - is pretty good about covering physical problems. Mental problems, nuh uh.

Out here Denny Hastert (who I switched from somewhat liking, to disliking to abject hating after he did this) blocked legislation that pretty much everyone was in favor for that would have provided equal coverage for mental and physical illnesses if the policies included both.
The bill had 69 f’ing sponsors in the Illinois Senate and 246 in the house. Everyone and his brother wanted this thing - many Illinois Republicans were for it even though the damn thing was named for (Dem) Sen. Paul Wellstone (out in Minnesota). The insurance companies jerked the strings on their boy and he took a vote off the schedule. Republicans leadership in the senate had to threaten to oppose anyone who voted for it next election (that’s zero money for you + lotsa money and support to oppose you).

And SSI (in Illinois) covers what - 1/2 your rent for a cheap apartment? (SSI is social security disability). There’s a study comes out every couple years called “Priced Out” talks about what it takes to live on SSI - it’s about 150% of your check to live out here in the burbs (I’m not talking about my neighborhood, but middle of the road to low cost housing areas).

So how are you supposed to buy medication that helps you keep your job?

Of, fucking, course people are committing suicide. Guys I talk to in the street, if they had the means, would do it in a heartbeat. They know a no-win situation when they see it.
That’s the only difference that I see - in prison you have more access to the means.

Providing adequate mental health care for ex-offenders in the community is difficult only because that’s the choice we’ve made as a society.

People see some guy short a leg or missing both hands and they have sympathy.
They see a guy punching women randomly and they don’t think that his brain isn’t working right, they just ask why the hell he’s doing that.

And it’s understandable, to a point. You can help someone across a street, you can help the guy with no hands pick up his backpack, the guy with the organic brain deficiency you’re not equipped to help them.

It’s that social stigma that is 1/2 the reason nothing gets done. Why people feel it’s ok to shit on the mentally ill.

There needs to be a long term rehabilitation process for mental patients and permenant supportive health - with the emphasis on supportive. The Fed’s emphasis is on permanent (they like building buildings) but they don’t want to put any people in them or give the people that are there the tools to care for people.

Hell, there’s a mental health facility that has a case worker ratio of 25 to 1. That’s 25 mentally disturbed people with (let’s face it) fucked up lives that one guy has to take care of. (And I haven’t even touched on veterans - nor how much much bigger the issue is going to get when Johnny comes marching home from Fallujah)

But they’re f’ed up because mental health issues become a downward spiral and the longer it doesn’t get taken care of the harder it is to fix. And most of the people the facilities see have already not gotten their help, have already ridden the couch express and gotten kicked out by their parents, their aunt & uncles, their cousins, and finally their friends go to a shelter or something.
That’s 25 people in extreme crisis one guy has to take care of. I don’t care if you’re Jesus Superman, it’s not going to happen.

There is a method called assertive community treatment which lowers that to about 1 to 10, that would help. Some states have funded that. Illinois, not so much.

Maybe this sounds too hippy for you, too ‘soft on crime’ but again, you’re paying for it anyway.
Homeless folks sleeping in your train stations, libraries, mentally ill folks requiring police calls or emergency paramendic services, being housed in jail, come out and do the same thing over and over again when it could be fixed by funding the stuff I’ve talked about.
But no, they scare us, they hurt us, they’re bad or evil or they choose to live in filth, eat garbage and listen to the urges that make them strike people for no reason, so we shun them.

The mentally ill, especially the homeless mentally ill are the modern lepers, everyone shuns them.
But at least the lepers had their own colonies. Ours are “released into the community.”
Yeah, how’s that working out for y’all?

I’ve been living by something I saw a while back. A London newspaper once asked for the help of its subscribers in addressing the problem of evil.
They invited their readers to send in their responses to the question: “What is wrong with the world today?”
One response, particularly brief, read: “I am.”
It was sent in by G.K. Chesterton (who came to the same conclusion as Solzenitzen).
What is wrong with the world today? I am.
posted by Smedleyman at 11:17 AM on December 11, 2007 [9 favorites]


HE SHOULD BE IN JAIL FOREVER, Who cares if he was mentally ill.

I think a brief perusal of MetaFilter will demonstrate that this is, in fact, where personal agendas get aired.

I didn't say it DIDN'T happen, I said it SHOULDN'T.

It's supposed to be about the links! That's what the nice man said when I drank his Kool-Aid!


OMG WAT U DID TO MY BEUTIFULL POST?!?!?11!??
posted by rollbiz at 11:24 AM on December 11, 2007


MrBobaFett writes "So the victim is not necessarily acting in a contrary manner to humanity by seeking to punish those who victimized them."

The question remains: is punishment effective? I guess if you want the effect to be suffering, it is effective. Other than satisfying the visceral desires of the victim, there is the question of the benefit to society - laws are passed for the benefit of society, not strictly for individuals. Does it help in any preventive way? Does it do anything to rehabilitate? So, who gets the most out of a system which locks people away, treats them like animals, and throws away the key, only to have them return over and over when they're let go? Society should have a say as well, inasmuch as what effect the system is producing other than satisfying the victim. Right now we have a system which doesn't rehabilitate, is hugely expensive, and houses more criminals (per capita and as a whole) than any other nation in the world.
posted by krinklyfig at 11:27 AM on December 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


MrBobaFett writes "I think you miss the point that those people who brutalize the innocent have already had their humanity stripped, thus I don't treat them as a member of humanity. They are now a animal and will be controlled like one."

Actually, this is the biggest problem we face, the idea that violence is somehow not human. It's inherently human. We do need to deal with it and minimize it, but we can't pretend that violent people aren't people. You should watch some Hitchcock films, who had a great understanding of criminal psychology. He knew that the capacity for evil resides in each one of us - even you.
posted by krinklyfig at 11:36 AM on December 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


Prisons don't rehabilitate anyone.

Nobody cares for the seriously mentally ill, because there's no money in doing so. It was cheaper for states (and patient advocacy groups) to move for deinstitutionalization of the mentally ill in the 1980s. The only problem was that all the promised services and group homes and half-way houses rarely materialized in the numbers needed to cope with the group of people "freed" from the homes. So then they became homeless. Something people rarely think or care much about.

The U.S. has one of the worst and declining prison systems in the civilized world.

The U.S. has one of the worst and declining mental health systems in the civilized world.

Apparently wars fought for questionable purposes on the other side of the world are more important than taking care of our own right here at home...
posted by docjohn at 11:53 AM on December 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


it's important to distinguish between insanity and evil. when someone takes off all her clothes at a wal-mart and hops up on the counter, that's insane. when somebody breaks into a daycare and slaughters all the children because of voices he heard, yes, that's insane, but it's also evil. you say he isn't responsible for these actions due to mental deficiency, but i'm not interested in hearing this line of argument, because it makes the situation all about the perp instead of the victims, soliciting us to care for and perhaps heal the perp. when society locks you up for slaughtering children, we aren't punishing your mental deficiency, we're punishing the evil and protecting ourselves from it happening again. while i'm opposed to gratuitous brutality toward inmates, they just aren't a powerful magnet for my solicitude. everybody has a tale of woe that would bring tears to the eyes of a sphinx.
posted by bruce at 12:06 PM on December 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


The belief in evil is the author of evil.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:17 PM on December 11, 2007 [2 favorites]


Locking up someone who's mentally ill because they've committed a crime isn't (for me) a problem. Locking them up, denying them treatment, and doing everything in the State's power to make them even crazier is a problem, and it's wrong, and, as many above have pointed out, it's seriously shitty policy: most of these folks are going to get out at some point.

Many of you seem to think that when someone says a mentally ill criminal "isn't responsible" for his/her actions we're also saying that they shouldn't be punished. No one is saying that. Please put your ears on (or your eyes in, in this case). We - unless I've terribly misread other folks in this thread - are saying that it's stupid and pointless to jail someone who's buttfuck crazy and deny them any sort of treatment. What do you get when you let them out? Someone who's even buttfuck crazier! That's the system we've got now: is it working for you?
posted by rtha at 12:20 PM on December 11, 2007 [2 favorites]


But but but providing treatment for them woud be wrong because that's treating them like victims and they need to be punished and die, not be treated in a way that benefits everyone!
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:31 PM on December 11, 2007


But but but providing treatment for them woud be wrong because that's treating them like victims and they need to be punished and die, not be treated in a way that benefits everyone!

Straight to jail for you, for violation of the No Sarcasm HTML Tags Act!
posted by rtha at 12:34 PM on December 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


rtha, exactly. Segregation from society is fine, correction is fine, hell...Punishment on some level is fine. But when you take someone who is already unstable, delusional, etc. and put them in isolation in a closet sized room and make them drink from a spitoon cup, well...That's torture, plain and simple, and it has no benefit for the incarcerated or for the society this person is quite likely to reenter.
posted by rollbiz at 12:37 PM on December 11, 2007


you say he isn't responsible for these actions due to mental deficiency, but i'm not interested in hearing this line of argument, because it makes the situation all about the perp instead of the victims, soliciting us to care for and perhaps heal the perp.

Captain, captain, the logic analyzer is jammed and ah cahn't get it to operate!!! The concepts just keep getting jumbled up without order or intent! It's goan ta blow!!!!
posted by Mental Wimp at 1:54 PM on December 11, 2007


the belief in evil is the author of evil.

once you acknowledge that something can be authored, haven't you acknowledged that it exists? you better get scotty (comment above) to fix those logic analyzers pronto!
posted by bruce at 2:02 PM on December 11, 2007


There is a method called assertive community treatment which lowers that to about 1 to 10, that would help. Some states have funded that. Illinois, not so much.

Yeah, I work on an ACT team in homeless services, it's basically fucking bonkers all day, every day. It's a never ending stream of crisis interventions, but then the team I work on deals with the hardest cases in the hard case pile. We actually lost one this morning. Well, the person jumped over the weekend but we only found out today. It's easily the hardest job I've ever had. I would argue maybe one or two points made up thread about the scope and availability of services to these types of consumers, but the fact is that I'm totally brain dead by 5pm ever since joining an ACT team.
posted by The Straightener at 2:19 PM on December 11, 2007


There's this mentally ill guy here in Chicago who walks around downtown slugging random women hard enough to knock them out because he thinks they're sending him evil vibes. They've arrested him countless times about him back on the street because he can't be in jail due to his mental illness and he can't be committed to a mental institution either.

Why the hell not?
posted by aeschenkarnos at 2:21 PM on December 11, 2007


Tuesday, 11 December 2007, 18:23 GMT

A prisoner released early as part of a government plan to reduce jail overcrowding went on to murder his girlfriend, it has emerged.

Yaaaaaaaaaaaay!! Let the loonies run free!
posted by uncanny hengeman at 3:34 PM on December 11, 2007


18 days!
posted by uncanny hengeman at 3:43 PM on December 11, 2007


Pope Guilty: "Dude, the people who were brutalising me were teenagers.

I'm not talking about teenagers, I'm talking about established adults who are fully responsible for their actions and decisions. However even as a teenager some things are unforgivable, if we are talking about a kid who rapes/kills and then eats another kid then they are too broken to fix. If they are idiot bullies getting into a scuffle with another kid, that's different.

But yes adults are treated differently than kids. If the same person who broke my nose twice in grade school picking on me tried to start a fight with me now as an adult, I would absolutely defend myself with deadly force if available.

The victim is acting in a manner that is certainly within the nature of humanity, but indulging in the desire to PUNISH PUNISH PUNISH creates massively more pain and suffering. In the 1600's, the punishment in Britain for petty theft was hanging; it did not create a safer or saner society.

No one is, well I'm not, asking for punishments that are disproportionate to the crime. Petty theft does not constitute death. Murder/torture/rape constitute death.

It's very cute that you think your not wanting to see someone in society is relevant or sane or meaningful in any way,

It's cute that you think I'm insane for having a different view point from you. The point of that unfortunate anecdote has to do with the inevitable point put to me when I talk about law enforcement and corrections policy that "you wouldn't say that if it was some you know/love." Bull shit, I hold those closest to me to higher standards than I hold the rest of society to.

but like I say- brutalising criminals-"

Locking someone up isn't brutalizing them. However yes some criminals should be brutalized.


most of whom are simply people who've made a mistake rather than the slavering vicious monsters you paint them as

OK you are talking about a guy who commits a snatch and run theft, a crime of opportunity. I'm talking about someone who willfully and knowingly commits a truly criminal act. Deliberate violation of the core rights of others in society.

Also punishment is not the same as rehabilitation. I know that, and I'm sure you know that, however you think you can only have one or the other. I think need both, punishment first, then rehabilitation if the person is fixable. If they are not fixable they do not return to society. Then there are two routes incarceration until they are incapable of hurting society, or death. Each must be determined on a case by case basis.
posted by MrBobaFett at 3:48 PM on December 11, 2007


Thanks for the comment, Smedleyman. I've had thoughts along those lines about the u-SOFA's treatment of our mentally ill, but neither the relevant experience or the... articulate-ness.... to articulate them.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 3:56 PM on December 11, 2007


I feel for WaterSprite. I am terrified to live in the same society as MrBobaFett.
posted by Pope Guilty at 4:01 PM on December 11, 2007



WaterSprite, you posted above that you want to help the children of crack mothers, not the crack mothers. This is impossible for two reasons. One is that many addicts are children of addicts, so the "victim" /"perpetrator" distinction isn't real clear. Many crack addicts *are themselves* children of alcoholics, crack addicts, etc. The vast majority of crack addicted pregnant women are victims of child sexual abuse and domestic violence and other traumas so horrifying that many sane people *would* take crack faced with such a life.

I'm talking situations like mom killed dad in front of daughter, stepdad molested daughter daily from age three onwards, sister was killed in a drive-by, daughter starts prostituting to feed remaining toddler brother because mom is now on crack, on top of the ongoing stresses of poverty and lack of education and chaos that such a life implies. I've interviewed these women and the stories of their lives are painful just to hear.

At least half of all addicts suffer an additional mental illness that they are trying to medicate with drugs-- drug addicts are not typically hedonistic pleasure-seekers who have a fun life that they want to make even more fun.

Second, if you want to help children, the best way to do so unless the parents are truly beyond help is to keep them with their families and give those families lots of support. The research is clear that in cases where the system didn't know whether or not a kid should be in foster care, the systems that were biased towards keeping the kids at home had much better results. The kids committed less crime, were less mentally ill, more employed, etc. So family preservation needs to be a priority and this is hard to achieve when you are busy locking everyone up for drug possession and minor sales.

Violent criminals should absolutely be locked up for long periods of time-- but if we make the conditions of their confinement dehumanizing and brutal, they will be worse when they come out and we can't afford to keep them in forever and go on locking up all the drug users.

I thought this series was well-reported, but I was seriously distressed by the lack of analysis (which may have been in a separate article, but I'm pretty sure I read through the whole thing). Where were the citations of the research on how solitary confinement destroys the mind? Where was the research on alternatives?
posted by Maias at 4:44 PM on December 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


because it makes the situation all about the perp instead of the victims, soliciting us to care for and perhaps heal the perp.

This is faulty logic. The situation IS all about the perpetrator, it wouldn't exist otherwise. The fact that you don't want this to be the case doesn't change anything. Turning attention to finding out why people do bad things (rather than using superstitious concepts like "evil", which gets us nowhere), and learning ways to prevent them from happening in future is the only way to actually more forward and accomplish something useful. Nobody is suggesting that this be done instead of helping victims, but a rational, humane, evolved person is perfectly capable of recognizing both the trauma experienced by victims of crime and their families, AND that vanishingly few people who arrive at a place in their lives where it seems like a good idea to commit violent crimes do so in a vacuum.

Punishment is not the most effective means of changing behaviours, we need to get over the idea that punishment is in any way useful in a humanistic, big picture sense.

MrBobaFett scares the hell out of me.
posted by biscotti at 4:46 PM on December 11, 2007


I terrify you? I'm don't have a problem with crack whores myself, I think we should help them and their kids. I don't know why we have all these pointless prohibition laws. I'm all for helping people. I just don't see why you think there shouldn't be penalties for violent crime. If there are no penalties for say murder, why shouldn't a person commit murder? Because it's wrong? Oh in that case why do we have a legal system we just need to teach people the difference between right and wrong.
People are selfish, they will do good if it is in their self interest. They do not do bad because it is not in their self interest to suffer the penalty of doing bad. Individuals can act altruistically however we can not depend on the individual selfless behavior of everyone in society to maintain the peace.
I'd be interested in continuing this in length elsewhere, but I doubt you would be interested in actually hearing any details about my ideas. Instead you can just categorize me and assume I'm a sociopath. Which in my experience isn't the case.
posted by MrBobaFett at 6:01 PM on December 11, 2007


Locking someone up isn't brutalizing them.

Did you RTFAs? Because we are both locking them up and brutalizing them. Yay us!

However yes some criminals should be brutalized.

Jesus fuck. You're talking about a revenge system, not a justice system. If that's seriously what you want, then you should time-travel back about 100 years in this country, or perhaps move to somewhere where feuds and revenge are what's used to "solve" crime.

I just don't see why you think there shouldn't be penalties for violent crime.

NO ONE HAS SAID THAT!

I and others in this thread have said that while punishment/confinement can and should be a consequence for committing a violent act, it should also include treatment, so the poor bastard isn't even more fucked up - and more likely to reoffend - when he's released.
posted by rtha at 6:43 PM on December 11, 2007


I'm talking about established adults who are fully responsible for their actions and decisions.

See, that's just it. In the cases relevant to my post, these are adults who are not fully responsible for their actions and decisions.

Did you read any of the links? One focuses on an "adult" who is regarded by friends, family, and the correctional system as a child in a man's body. Is he fully responsible for actions and decisions he made with the mind of a child?

And MrBobaFett, I'd personally love to hear your ideas, although I doubt I would agree with them I don't doubt they'd be interesting and informative. But I don't think anyone was arguing that their shouldn't be penalties for violent crimes. The problem here is that for people who are seriously mentally ill, our rationale doesn't apply. This can certainly be annoying and troublesome when devising a punishment or a solution, but they generally aren't able of following such logic. Without a doubt, one option is to attempt to teach these people right and wrong through the methods which are largely successful when applied to those in our society that are sound of mind. I doubt you will encounter much success with those who suffer from various mental issues though, and you'll probably make things worse.

When I was a young child, my father was the only witness to a murder in Sheffield, MA. He rented from the victim, an eccentric gay man who entertained a number of young men on his property. The victims house was the first property on a long dirt road, the rental property was farther away. My dad came upon the scene right after the deed had been done. He found the dude covered in the blood of a tryst turned robbery turned murder. He found this guy covered in blood, and grinning like a Cheshire cat, in the middle of the driveway as he was coming home one night. He was still holding the knife he used. My earliest memories of going to my dad's (my folks divorced early) are the time before they caught him, when my dad had a police detail following him so this guy couldn't kill him before he testified. I'm told he was caught attempting to do just that.

Said guy was tried and convicted, he's doing life right here in MA. He mailed my father for a long time, he may still mail him today. The mailings were filled with all sorts of ramblings, about how he killed the devil and how my father stopped him in his mission, how he stilll needed to kill the other demons, how my dad was now such a demon, etc. I only found out about this in adolescence, my dad keeps a scrapbook of the letters he gets. This individual is still imprisoned in Shirley, he'll probably be there until he dies.

Obviously, my father was not the victim here. But my family lived for almost a year in sheer terror due to this event. The perp was and is obviously disturbed in a big way. He's attempted escape numerous times, we hear about it generally after the fact because he still wants to kill my dad. He's got nothing to lose, he's doing life without parole. I certainly hope that he doesn't get released, but I don't wish torture upon him.

Where he really belongs is a facility that can treat and mitigate his mental issues as best as possible. Unfortunately, between our governance and the law and order folks in this state, there isn't much available for inmates with mental issues. I think a lot of the problem is related to those who want justice via what they consider suitable punishment. It's an empty pursuit, though. An eye for an eye doesn't work with disturbed individuals, and we don't have a method of dealing with the criminally insane much beyond that.

A lot of relatives figure that this guy was smart enough in his planning after the killing that they think he knew exactly what he was doing, that it was calculated in a way that you or I might write a grocery list. It's hard to explain that someone who isn't a simpleton and indeed seems very smart can also be a raving madman.

So I guess that shaped my thinking. I just think that the deinstitutionalizing of people who need help isn't effective, and that treating their actions as simply sadistic is totally counterproductive.
posted by rollbiz at 7:00 PM on December 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


It's hard to explain that someone who isn't a simpleton and indeed seems very smart can also be a raving madman.

Your whole comment is amazing, rollbiz. This particularly bit grabbed me - I know people who are smart as in "Holy f-in cow, this guy is a genius!" smart, who are, in many other ways out of their minds. (For example: I know a brilliant mechanical engineer who believes that G-d calls him on the phone.) I can totally see how a criminal who is smart enough to plan a crime in advance and pay attention to the details might be "insane" in other ways (such as believing, as in your story, that he was planning the execution of the devil).

I don't believe that all criminals are by nature mentally ill, but they certainly all need rehabilitation of some kind. Unfortunately, as these articles show, our system currently lacks the support necessary to provide rehabilitation to all prisoners and the mentally ill are the ones who suffer the most; prison is enough to make anyone go nuts, if you're mentally ill to begin with, you're totally fucked.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 7:58 AM on December 12, 2007


Reading thru some of the articles, there are a lot of sad stories in there. Clearly major mistakes were made. There needs to be an overhaul of the prison system in general. People don't need to just be filing out reports after some of these incidents, they need to be losing their jobs and/or be looking at jail time for criminal neglect. It's really too bad no one with power will stand up and see to it that these things don't happen again.
Hopefully more news agency's will also shed lights on these sort of blatant abuses.
posted by MrBobaFett at 10:56 AM on December 12, 2007


An eye for an eye doesn't work with disturbed individuals, and we don't have a method of dealing with the criminally insane much beyond that.

Not a believer, but for you Christheads out there:
You have heard that it was said, "An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth". But I say to you, do not resist an evildoer. If anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. (Matthew 5:38–39, NRSV)
posted by Mental Wimp at 11:46 AM on December 12, 2007


“he can't be committed to a mental institution either.”
&
“Why the hell not?”

Money. You can lock someone up for assault. But if they’re mentally ill - now what? Put them in Gen Pop to be brutalized? Segregate them? Ok, MacArthur, show me the logistics on that one when you’ve got prisoners sleeping in the halls and on floors as it is. The services don’t exist. Guy can’t help it if his brain doesn’t work right.

Let me put it this way - criminals have, in some ways, and put hypersimplisticly, a software glitch.
Mentally ill folks have a problem with their hardware which might cause - or be in addition to - a software problem.
The problem then becomes: do you address the criminal act first and attempt to rehabilitate them without addressing the mental illness which may well be the root cause or do you treat the mental illness knowing the dangers of criminal action?
Or rather, it’d be a nice problem to have since the system renders permanant treatment of mental illness almost a moot point in some cases.

“However yes some criminals should be brutalized.”

Whole lotta ‘Yikes!’ in that comment.

Penalties for violent crime aren’t necessarially brutalization. The whole “cruel & unusual punishment” thing. Cruel being debatable (although we all seem to agree jail is a reasonable penalty, ‘should be brutalized’ is open to other interpretations) and unusual being inherent in “some criminals” - that is - unequal justice in certain cases which is obviously illegitimate. Society must be subject to the rule of law, not the caprice of a given crime or the prejudices of men.
Doesn’t seem like that’s what you meant, but that is how “some criminals should be brutalized” reads.
posted by Smedleyman at 12:50 PM on December 12, 2007


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