Sunday, June 11, 2017

The longest prisoner email in history,and how we handled it poorly

I made a mistake.  I brushed off a prisoner who is mentally challenged.  Now I’m struggling with guilt feelings.

It all began when the guy wrote to tell me about a sinister plot…a prison physician had secretly implanted a chip in him, and he was worried.  But his communication with HFP didn’t end there.  A couple days later, he sent the longest email message ever received by this office.  I’m thinking it probably broke every record through JPay, the prison email system.  The letter totaled 8,400 words!  Will said that it took him 9 hours to write that message, supporting his fears!

And that’s precisely the point where our staff must sit back and take a closer look.

Instead, because of record-breaking numbers of messages from prisoners, their families and their loved ones, we simply explained to him that we were not equipped to handle issues like that.  On to the next guy, and problems we can better deal with.  That wasn’t quite fair. 

What we keep forgetting, and what I think the state keeps ignoring, is that we have a critical mental illness problem in our prisons, and these people deserve our attention. The US Department of Justice, for example, says that more than half of all prison inmates have a mental health problem compared with 11 percent of the general population, yet only one in three prison inmates receive any form of mental health treatment.

We’ve discussed this so many times in the past.  Those of you who are older will remember when we started closing down Michigan’s mental institutions and, wonder of wonders, as that population diminished the prison population increased!  Think there’s any connection?

Here are some questions for Michigan officials, which I just lifted from THE JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN ACADEMY OF PSYCHIATRY AND THE LAW: 

Are our prisons' rehabilitative services set up to provide comprehensive mental health and psychiatric programs to deal with the increasing population with such severe psychopathology and impairment? Shouldn't standards of care of psychiatric disorders be respected in the correctional setting as they are in other community provider settings? Shouldn't inmates have access to the same standard of treatment consistent with the principle of equivalence?

Shouldn't access to specialized diagnostic procedures and assessment protocols, including general and neuropsychological testing, be available and applied to identify neuropsychiatric and behavioral consequences of brain injury and other organic disorders? Are states willing to allocate sufficient budget and manpower resources to meet the needs of mentally ill and substance abusing offenders? Are legislators and administrators willing to take a serious look at the criminal justice process to determine how to refer mentally ill arrestees and offenders to various treatment programs?

I’m not dropping Will’s case.  HFP can and must do better.

So must the State of Michigan!


Robert Bulten said...

Excellent point, Doug. Keep it up.

Unknown said...

Yes, yes and yes. Even when inmates are on meds that ends with their release. Thus, the revolving door continues. Incarceration is the result a huge shortage in mental health beds. Often could be paid for by private insurance. Michigan refuses to build more psych beds to prevent medicaid expenses. In the meantime they create bed shortages for those with private insurance too. If someone had cancer and they were told we have a 5000 psych bed shortage, no treatment for you. As a result Michigans mental health death toll climbs. By their own admission 65% of those incarcerated are MI or autistic. How barbaric to jail, imprison, torture, solitary confine, taser, and kill the Mentally ill and autistic. We would never do this to your mother with Alzheimers. Even though MRIs show serious Mental illness affects the same parts of the brain. Imagine being sick and tortured. Kevins law is lip service without beds, and fund cuts. CMH is concerned about patient rights, not stability. Most of CMH is Social workers. They are not able to treat a brain disease. We need hospitals and doctors. The amount of fines, court costs, phone, food, jail, lawyer fees is extortion from families of loved ones. After all it is Michigan's largest economy. Families are slaves to this injustice too. The MI are guarenteed employment for the DOJ. Most Mentally ill and autistic simply needed a hospital bed for 3 months to stabilize their medicine. Instead they are offered incarceration for their psychosis.

Grandma Kimmy West said...

Actually I wrote above post, but Grandma Kimmie did not show up! I'm not afraid to claim it! So mad at Michigan using the DOJ to inflate jobs numbers. Using the suffering of families and inmates with Mental illness and autism, is a grevious crime. Extortion is a crime too! #abedinstead