A Tragic Need for Equal Justice

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Hmmm. It’s apparent to me that at least in this country there are severe deficiencies in the way justice is dealt to those mentally ill who commit crimes, as an example from (Click This Article) shows:

In 1999 California executed a decorated yet traumatized Vietnam War veteran, who’d been turned in to police by his brother, Bill Babbitt.
On Tuesday Bill Babbitt said he’d hoped his brother — who had post-traumatic stress disorder and paranoid schizophrenia — would receive treatment for his mental illness after he assaulted an elderly woman, who then died of a heart attack.
But Manny Babbitt spent 20 years in prison before he was executed in California on his 50th birthday.

As someone personally familiar with mental illness, and a ‘flaming lib,’ I naturally find this and similar cases of injustice disgusting.

Only through reforms in our criminal justice system can we be truly equal in the eyes of the law, reforms that those opposed to any change in ‘business as usual’ have continuously tried, and to some extent succeeded, to thwart.

Some people do like their comfort spots and privileges…even at the expense of those who serve as targets for their lack of compassion and bigotry for ‘undesirables,’ with or without a psychiatric diagnosis.

It’s easy to not want things to change, to not care…until it just happens that the shoe’s on YOUR foot.

After all ‘society doesn’t need them,’ does it?…

4 thoughts on “A Tragic Need for Equal Justice

  1. I remember those old PSA spots “insanity, it’s how we treat the mentally ill.” It gets really complicated when you look at the entire spectrum of how MI is dealt with by society. On the one hand you Tom Cruise & co out there claiming that MI doesn’t exist and that psychology is just a pseudoscience that criminals use to get off scott-free. And yet there really are people, especially children, being given psychiatric medications for for pathologies they clearly do not have. I feel strongly about issues.

    Lately I’ve noticed a vocal contingent within the skeptical-community who wish to go out and “debunk” the disease concept of addiction and they really do start to sound like mental-illness-denialists.


  2. This sounds like another badf episode like the one with Marcia Powell (no relation) link: http://virginianopinions.wordpress.com/2010/09/05/where-is-the-murder-charge/
    and link: http://virginianopinions.wordpress.com/2010/09/06/update-where-is-the-murder-charge-the-death-of-marcia-powell/
    I have often heard the term “….they are put away there.”. I’m sorry, people with mental illness are not criminals who need to be put out of society, nor are they “toys” or some other inanimate object you can set on a shelf and feel good about. People with mental illness are still people. Skeptic Cat is also correct in that mental illness fills a L O N G spectrum from fully functional to barely cognizent (sic?). Not many people today are aware of Central Virginia Training School and Hospital, or have even heard of it. During the period I would go there with my folks, it had its problems, mostly caused by underfunding, but it served its purpose well. I’ll admit there were some treatment problems there too, but again things change with time. Your MD probably doesn’t bleed you for a migrane anymore either.
    I have comne to beleive there ar some people who are simply not happy unless they have some “cause” to be pursuing. Some way of saying to their friends, “I’m not like THOSE people, I’m working to make THEM change what they do. It’s for their/the public’s own good.”. Basic troublemakers.
    Through the 1970s and 1980s there were numerous attempts through legislation, additional pressure for defunding, court actions, and asking for federal intervention, to have CVTS&H closed. I have heard similar actions were also going forward against Eastern State Hospital and Western Hospital. In the 1990s, VA started closing most operations at CVTS&H and moving the residents into the “community”. It was praised all around. Much backslapping occurred.
    The reality was that several hundred residents, who were living in various types of housing according to their abilities, were all except for the very worst sent out into large cities to live in half-way homes and assisted-living settings. So, insted of living in Madison Heights, where the police knew who they all were generally, and knew how to handle them, and had somewhere to take them for ready treatment if needed, they are now living amongst the general uninformed in such nice places as downtown DC and downtown Portsmouth. Here, if they got into a problem they were generally picked up and considered to be an addict or dangerous, and taken to general intake and usually held in cuffs in jail until somebody from their home came looking for them.
    Many of the residents held jobs in Lynchburg, where employers worked with CVTS&H to try and give the residents activity and purpose. Activists said this was wrong and forced the employers to have to pay them minimum wage and benifits, which most could not afford for the jobs being done, putting the residents out of work. Activists said that the neighbors of the residents whe moved could not be made aware of their status, due to HIPPA regulations. LYnchburg knew of the school and how to treat the residents from there, Portsmouth treated them as “weird” or “touched” or worse, not knowing that they were indeed patients.
    Then we get to the courts, in Lynchburg, the residents that for some reason were picked up by police, some for as simple as being out after dark, or wandering lost, were brought back to the administration building, much like a cab service. There Smith Center orderlies would figure out were the person was supposed to be and see them to their home. Done. In Portsmouth, the officers don’t know how to handle the situation, intake isn’t equipped for the situation, and worst of all, if is a problem of ‘missed meds’, the Sheriff’s are forbidden to find out what is needed or dispense any medication.
    So yes, let’s just keep shoving the mentally ill off on the judicial system, and see how many more we can kill. “it’s better for them this way….”. The activists said so.
    Yes, I have a bit of anger about this subject. My sister Linda died at age 55 in Portsmouth at a Hope home of a heart attack, suffering from chronic depression and obesity. She left CVTS&H approx 7 years earlier, happy and in good health. In Lynchburg she worked at a cafeteria rolling utensils everyday until she was forced to quit. She continued walking through Lynchburg until she was forced to move by the state to Portsmouth. She couldn’t walk there because she was told it was unsafe.
    Right the changes sure improved her life.

    Sorry for the long rant. For the curious or morbid, she had permanent brain damage from an overdose of Dialantin in the early 1950’s when it was the new drug for seizure control before they knew of pairing it with Phenobarbitol.


    • Yes, while some change in terms of actual progress has been made in treatment, and I think some reform needs to be made, a lot of the pushing for deinstitutionalization is misguided.

      Sure, some of the MI are functional without hospitalization and with treatment, but many don’t follow up on their treatment program and have to be hospitalized, or even re-diagnosed when an earlier psych-eval proves mistaken.

      The worst thing that you can do to someone in a situation like that is put them in an environment where they are more likely to aggravate their condition and not receive proper treatment, like low-rent urban areas, etc.

      By all means, they should be in a place where the best treatment is most quickly available, and while some changes should be made, change for its own sake should not.

      I recall hearing from one of my employers of rather disturbing examples of failed ‘reform’ with tragic consequences for all involved.

      If reform needs to be done, it should be done on those things that DON’T work, not the things that do.

      Activism just to feel good about oneself and not do genuine good does no good. Some activists are just sadly mistaken.

      I think that many pushing for those changes are just as ignorant of the MI as the rest of the general public, and I think that better public outreach by those who really understand these disorders and their social impact is needed.


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