Are we getting better at treating the mentally ill in prison? I don’t think so!
Years ago, with overwhelming evidence about mistreatment of mental patients in the Women’s Huron Valley Facility, we filed a complaint with the U. S. Department of Justice. It led to a lengthy investigation.
Evidence included numerous signed affidavits smuggled to us by trained prisoner observers whose job it was to keep an eye on the mentally challenged. They scribbled their signed statements on scraps of paper, courageously revealing shameful details of food deprivation, water deprivation and even hog-tying.
With our evidence, the ACLU prepared a pages-long letter to the Michigan Department of Corrections and specifically to that facility, demanding that the practices be stopped and the procedures be changed.
There may have been some improvement in care of acutely ill. But then a few days ago we received this message from another of our trustworthy informants, about one of the same patients from years ago:
“It is now going into years that she has been locked in a room with nothing. She no longer even sings, raps or talks. She just makes noise. Four days ago an officer withheld her food because she would not get up. He yelled down the hallway (which is on camera), ‘You’re not getting your food unless you get up.’ The observer on duty said that in her time there, the food was never delivered. Years of being locked in a cell with nothing has made her worse.”
For the record, this young woman is only 28 and should have been released years ago. But, because of continued issues, the Parole Board refused. Then she assaulted a prison employee, got charged again, and now is not eligible for parole until 2024. Can’t anyone see the real problem here? Besides not giving this woman proper care and treatment, guess what it’s costing to keep her there!
Half of the people in Michigan prisons are mentally challenged. Because many of our mental institutions have been closed, many of the mentally ill now wind up behind bars. And corrections officers are the wrong people to care for mental patients.
Here’s my point. If we’re going to wait for the US government, like the DOJ, to do something, we can forget it. We saw what happened there. Same thing for going to the ACLU. They do a lot of good things, but other than a strong letter, we got no additional help from them and I don’t see any more coming. So, it’s back to my previous blog. It’s up to you and me. It’s election time, and if those persons in office aren’t willing to help the mentally ill, it’s time to throw the bums out! And before we choose replacements, it’s time to find out where they stand.
Please don’t ignore this just because it doesn’t affect you personally. The next time it could be your mother, or sister, or daughter.
It’s time to do something. Silence and inaction are not options.