Monday, March 12, 2007

Whatever Happened To.....

I hate when a news item catches my attention then just goes poof. No follow up, no conclusion, not even a mention. Sometimes I just have to go look it up and see if I can figure out why.

I was interested in the news about David Brown, the inmate from New York's Rikers Island who was arrested for allegedly offering to pay an undercover officer $15, 000 to decapitate NY Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly. Sounded kind of cheap to me, something smelled funny.

I understand now why some people might not want this story to grow legs because if the real details of this case were to become much publicized, quite a few people will be looking plenty foolish.

Turns out Mr. Brown is a) mentally ill b) confined to a wheelchair and c) penniless. I do not dispute that he is indeed a "danger to self and others" but considering he was already incarcerated in addition to all other factors, I have to ask: why was a mentally ill, wheelchair bound offender locked up in Rikers and not in a facility designed for violent and/or dangerous mentally ill persons?

Nope, instead the state of NY in it's infinite wisdom sent him to a penal facility where he could in turn be victimized by other inmates, then, acting on a tip from another inmate police sent in an undercover officer posing as a hitman to get a taped interview....with an insane person. Pure genius.

I worked with the "violent and dangerous" mentally ill for many years. They say things like this and are fully capable of appearing coherent and rational while trying to convince you that Vladimir Putin has planted a listening device in their closet or that they are the leader of a terrorist organization and are going to kill the president.

Contrary to the general public misconception, most mentally ill people do not rant, rave and drool 24/7. Some never do at all but they are still very much out of touch with reality and anyone who has ever worked in the justice system would know this and would have known this man was severely ill.

Crime must be slow in NY.

I hope Mr. Brown ends up in a secured treatment facility where he would be held until he could be deemed "no longer a danger" by a court. In cases such as his that is usually a very, very, long time if not forever. There is no "determinate sentencing" in the mental health system so a person may be detained as long as needed, whether that is 1 year or 100 years. They also are likely to receive much better treatment (no, it isn't all that cushy, just far more humane than prison) which works out better for the public. When you send a mentally ill person to prison he or she is far likelier to be released sooner and to be even more violent and potentially dangerous upon that release.

Where is the ACLU when you need them?



pissed off patricia said...

The headlines about this tried to make it seem like some foiled terrorist attack. So they used the headlines and sort of forgot to tell the rest of the story.

Thank you so much for this info. I won't hold my breath until it is cleared up in the MSM.

cls said...

You are right about mentally ill people seeming normal. I used to work in a restaurant in Palo Alto and we had our share of certifiably mentally ill people who came into the establishment. At one moment they would be sipping their tea and telling you all about the new pair of shoes they bought at Payless, and then, glancing at the patron who just got up to leave the counter, would casually inform me that "that guy has been following me since 1968."

You'd think New York authorities, of all people, would know better.

Not Your Mama said...

When you consider that a MINIMUM of 1/3 of incarcerated inmates are verifiably suffering from some type of mental illness, factor in the conditions they survive in while in prison and are then turned loose onto the it any wonder we have one of the highest violent crime rates in the so-called civilized world?

Not Your Mama said...

Cls: it gets even more complicated than that when you add in the thousands with severe "personality disorders". They almost never show any sign of psychosis but their thinking is just as non-productive and potentially dangerous.

Remember the guy who drove through the front of the state capitol in CA a few years back? He filed for a "restoration of sanity" hearing and exercised his right to a jury trial. The jury did not believe he was mentally ill based on his lack of psychotic symptoms and cut him loose against the advice of all treatment professionals.

We just shook our heads and were thankful that he did not manage to kill anyone except himself but this sort of thing happens all the time.

Which was why I had to laugh when there was the big public outrage here in NV a few years ago with the guy at Lakes Crossing. People were "outraged" that the attending physician stated the guy showed no evidence of psychosis. Doctors cannot lie or invent evidence that does not exist. He did NOT say the guy was cured or that he was not still dangerous. Active psychosis is not the final and definitive definition of mental illness.

TomCat said...

Good article, NYM. It reminds me of another disappearing news story. I was watching CNN when Saddam invaded Kuwait. CNN reported that Saddam had consulted with the US prior to invading, and that US Ambassador April Gillespie had assured him that the US had "no interest" in a potential conflict between Iraq and Kuwait. Effectively, she gave him a green light. That story aired ONLY one time. Then it was gone from subsequent coverage.

I do volunteer work in prison to help prisoners prepare for the transition back into society upon release. So I can back up what you said both about prisons being used to warehouse the mentally ill instead of giving them appropriate treatment, and about disorders that are not psychoses. Part of what I do involves helping present and former prisoners learn to recognize and correct thinking errors.

If mentally ill people do not rant and rave, how do you account for Bush? ;-)

Not Your Mama said...

If mentally ill people do not rant and rave, how do you account for Bush? ;-)

Lack of appropriate treatment ;).

Women on the Verge said...

As a resident of New York, I can sadly assure you that this wasn't blown out of proportion cause it was a slow news day... it was because ignorance is unfortunately rampant here...