Food for Thought Prt 52


Abusing Mentally Ill Prisoners:


          It’s about a daily occurrence that we read in the paper or hear a news report, about some kind of gun violence, massacre of innocent people, much too often children in our  schools or other locations and a big percentage of the time the person responsible is mentally Ill, that somehow got  a gun, guns and tons of ammo.

          Many concerned citizens continue to call for common sense gun control laws, background checks, etc. and the National Rifle Association. (NRA) and other pro gun rights groups continue to make excuses why there isn’t any need to put any tighter restrictions on guns or the people buying them. Now, you can make a good argument in regard to either side of this issue, but I’m sure all can agree that a mentally disturbed person can get access to funs no matter how tuff gun laws are passed, because friends or family members can purchase guns legally, which they can have access, so maybe the focus should be more on the mental illness itself. Here is where politicians, prosecutors, Judges etc. are talking out of both sides of their mouths. Some keep up the same old talking points, saying it’s not the guns, it’s the people  using them that need to be punished and still most of them recognize the fact that the mentally ill are part of the problem, but are in denial about who helps create the mentally ill or add to their deterioration of their mental state.

          Prisons all across America are routinely holding thousands of mentally ill men and women in cruel, isolated and torturous conditions that worsen their mental state, often leading to suicide attempts, sleeplessness, hallucinations, paranoia and self-destructive actions. Judges and courts turn a blind eye to complaints by prisoners even when represented by Lawyers and human rights groups, trying to give the various prisons in the states more latitude to run their own institutions, but society ends up paying a severe price for it later on down the line, because most of these prisoners will be released someday and in worse condition than before they got locked up; unlike state hospitals, prisons are not equipped to treat and handle people with mental health issues. They are not qualified to take on this task and should not be given that role. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist or Harvard graduate to understand that a person suffering from mental illness isn’t going to get any better isolated in a restricted housing unit, in a prison, especially when they aren’t properly treated with meds and whatever other treatment that is required.

          In June or July of 2013 the justice dept. issued a report on its 18 month investigation of one of Pennsylvania’s prisons (S.C.I Cresson) and found that this solitary confinement of people with serious mental illness was I violation of the U.S constitution, cruel and unusual punishment and the disabilities act. They also said the psychologically damaging condition of long term solitary confinement deprives them of mental health care. As a result of the investigation of that prison, they ended up investigating all the state prisons of Pennsylvania. I read the report which included several individual cases and it would shock the conscience of any normal person, it makes you think how they can get away with treating another human being in this matter!!! It told of mentally ill prisoners banging their heads against steel doors, walls and many other types of self-mutilation causing injuries to themselves, due to the torture going on in their heads and inflicted by those that are supposed to be paid to supervise and confine them.

          Around the same time period that the federal investigation by the U.S Justice Dept. was jumping off, there was an independent investigation and lawsuit files by the “Disability Rights Network of Pa. (DRN) which is a non profit organization designed by the commonwealth of Pa. to advocate and protect the rights of Pennsylvanians with mental illness. There are 2,400 prisoners in the (RHU) sections in the state prisons in Pa. that’s  one third of over 800 that have been diagnosed with mental illness. The restricted housing unit includes death row, administrative custody and disciplinary custody (the hole) Death Row and the other sections of RHU the lights stay on 24/7 which is another form of psychological  torture, similar to what jumps off at “Gitmo” (Guantanamo Bay, in Cuba, where the U.S. holds terrorist and war criminals, etc. Anyway as a result of the lights being kept on 24/7 it makes sleep difficult and disorienting and a host of other psychological problems. This not only affects the mentally ill, but those of us that aren’t crazy yet, but are trying to maintain some sanity.

          As I mentioned earlier, this is not only jumping off in Pa. but all over the country. Similar lawsuits have been filed in Virginia, Colorado, Indiana, and New Mexico. Mentally ill prisoners often act out in psychotic behaviour, which gets them punishment and misconducts, resulting in more hole time, instead of  getting them the needed medical care. A federal court recently ruled that the prolonged isolation under these extremely harsh conditions exacerbates their mental illness and the prison officials know this or they are deliberately indifferent to the fact.

          As part of the investigation, they came here to S.C.I Greene in September 2013. Now, they separated those that have a history of mental illness. They put tables in their section, so they can have “Block Out” and play cards and other board games because most of them don’t go to the yard like the rest of us. The tables are bolted down and the guys have to be shackled to the table. I can see that section from my cell door. This may help some, but nobody wants to be mentally ill on meds just to get those so called benefits.

          There are smorgasbords of constitutional violations in these egregious actions of the dept. of corrections in their treatment of the mentally ill. The policies and practices of prison officials systematically violated the 8th amendment to the U.S. constitution and should trouble the average citizen. There are too many people out there already that are suffering from mental illness, without prison officials creating more or making people worse than when they came to prison, especially knowing they are morally wrong and these people will be released one day.

TO BE CONTINUED… The struggle continues