Why did his son kill himself

I have been reading facebook posts promoting suicide prevention and talking about the need to look after one another. The need to offer support, empathy and resources. But there are so many places where vulnerable are most at risk.

Youths are at risk, people in mental hospitals are at even more risk and the most at risk of violence are in prison. I just read a story in the New Yorker about the story of a young man in the New York state prison system whose father was preparing to send of him a care package only to discover he had been buried 6 weeks earlier. The article by Jennifer Gonnerman, told how Lonnie Hamilton II learned that his son had died on March 18, 2016 when he went to the prison website. His son, Lonnie Hamilton III, had hung himself after becoming increasingly depressed in the Marcy Correctional Facility.

This is a story about an involved father who worked long hours to provide for his children only to lose one of them to crime and seeing his son torn away from the community. It is a story about failure to notify the next of kin about what was happening. There were signs especially self mutilation that should have set off a thousand alarm bells. I don’t think that the prison tried everything possible to assist Lonnie.

These kinds of tragedies happen all too often. I don’t think the prison was set up to meet the needs of a deeply troubled African American young man so he became a casualty. This is a cry for help, action and a replacement for the deconstruction. I would hate for this to happen to one of my nephews and hope people will use these stories

Re incarceration without conviction

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I was looking for a class today at the First Unitarian Society of Milwaukee about ecological health  and had bought the book and was diligently studying it. However while I was waiting a friend from the Black Lives Matter group told me about a meeting regarding re-incarceration without conviction. I had read an article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel about a black man who was on probation and was driving a car and was stopped by the police. It so happened that the man has a white girl friend who is a gun enthusiast and has pictures of herself with her friends on social media holding their guns. All of which were duly registered with the State of Wisconsin. But he did not know the gun was in the car and was was charged with being a felon in possession of a weapon. Fortunately a jury found him innocent but his probation officer revoked him on the grounds he was a danger to the community.

The man had roots in the community including a small transportation business and a child. Instead he became one of the more than 4,000 people who are sent back to prison in Wisconsin without having committed a crime. The Wisconsin Department of Corrections has wide latitude in deciding whether to revoke people but this case has something in common with many others in that the person  considered dangerous was a black man even though he had a spotless record and was taking tangible steps to improve himself.

The two speakers at the meeting, one white and one black, are also examples of trying to fight the odds. The white speaker was Mark Rice, who is a candidate for a doctorate from UWM, told about his battle to overcome being revoked. He had a history of mental illness and had previously lived in Madison where his probation officer had a background that allowed him to understand his situation. But when he moved to Milwaukee his probation officer had no such training and revoked him for an incident resulting from him mental illness. His former probation officer went to bat for him which helped him return to the community.

The black speaker told of being revoked 3 times and being homeless. One of his revocations resulted from a malfunction of the monitoring bracelet that he wears on his ankle. If you you use a cell phone, are late for an appointment, accept a job without permission, leave the county or violate any of the other rules, Wisconsin can and will send your most often black or brown body back to prison.

It would be value to learn more about Ex Prisoners Organizing for Statewide Penal Reform (EXPO) and do what you can to stop the trend of mass incarceration. If you follow this link you will find out more about this group :Phone: 414-831-2070 Email: wisdomforjustice@gmail.com
Address: 2821 N. Fourth Street, #537, Milwaukee, WI 53212

 

 

 

I am the fortunate son

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As many people know, mental illness runs in the family.  All of us in my family have experienced different types of illnesses, including depression, schizophrenia and manic depression. I was more fortunate than my brother in being able to recover and develop resources. I have friends who struggled along with their siblings cycling in and out of the hospital including forced treatment.  i was never subjected to a mental hospital or picked up on the street for engaging in some bizarre behavior. Instead, I recognized that I was not the person who I had been told I would become.

I saw all the warning signs and decided to heed them. Again, I see a positive in my deciding I didn’t want to live like that. Recognizing that you need help and then actually need help can be painful. Some people literally may need to crash into a wall. And others unfortunately, may crash through the wall, leaving their loved ones behind to cry and wish that there something more they could have done. I am a peer support specialist certified by the State of Wisconsin and I can help see you through the woods.

Step one of the discussion

I returned to my blog this week mainly in response to a training session I participated in regarding the impact of whiteness and the ideology of white supremacy on our mental health work. I am also reading a book that I checked out of the Milwaukee Public Library. My blog entries have reached a few people in different settings: on WordPress, twitter and Facebook. I welcome responses and would be interested in knowing what people think of these ideas. Today, the news was focused on the vote in the United Kingdom to leave the European Union. A driving force behind the vote was said to be a sense of unease among white people that England is becoming too brown due to immigration. The chants of We want our country back were similar to those who began opposing President Obama not after he was elected the first black President of the United States.

Some people believe that the slogan of one of the presumptive major party presidential candidates is a disguised call to make America white again. Dr. Moore pointed out that the growing number of black and brown people we see is no accident. There are more of us here every day. It’s our country, too. We are competing for jobs, housing, education and other resources with everyone else who came here. One of the barriers we face is the sense of entitlement that people of European American ancestry feel.

People are coming to America. And the people who were already here have different attitudes about topics such as race. Which means more interracial relationships. I see young couples in the stores, parks and everywhere else. I am also involved in an interracial relationship with a woman who caught my attention several years ago. Although it took some time, we found we were ready to make a life together. We match one another’s quirks most of the time. We have learned to talk that talk.

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So, if any of this discussion about race, whiteness and pluralism sounds like something you could participate in, drop me a message.

The devil is in the details

There is a mind numbing array of details in Evicted. the stories of the negotiations carried out with the few consumers who go to Room 400 of the Milwaukee County Courthouse. And the racial breakdown I mentioned in an earlier post. Eviction is eating away at neighborhoods.  The evictions follow people through the courts and the credit bureaus and have a ways of snatching people back down into the gutter when they attempt to make something of their lives, get better jobs, buy cars and otherwise re-establish themselves.

There are the rent collection agencies ready to try and garnish. There are the Eagle Movers with their huge business going through poor neighborhoods. And there is the feeling that never goes away the humiliation of the eviction. There are the huge percentages that rent takes out of people’s income 50% or more. And of course there were the words of the landlords pleading their cases in front of court commissioners.

It is ironic that Milwaukee has experienced a boom in luxury apartments and condominiums. Commerce Street is filled with ugly buildings too expensive for the people I have been discussing. What used to be a leisurely ride along the street has become treacherous with cars lining either side of the narrow street.

There are more such monstrosities downtown. The city has gained in tax base. So, to hear of poor depressed areas sounds eerily like you’re discussing the 2 Americas that were predicted long ago. The growing housing gap between rich and poor was not mentioned in the recent elections for mayor, common council or county executive. I tell people that they need to wake up and make certain to vote for these various circuit court judges because you might face them one day.

But when you’re struggling with every day details of life, it seems hard to absorb something that seems so remote. “Hey children, watch that sound, everybody look what’s going down.” For what it’s worth, still relevant today.

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Devil’s Advocates

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I just started writing again after taking a break for a few weeks and now I am getting visits from a different group of people. Two of the most different have a blog called Devil’s Advocates. They are a lesbian couple who practice some form of Satanism. I thought the idea was very strange but when you read about the women, Sophie and Cassie, they sound quite ordinary. Their self description makes them sound like a very educated couple devoted to family life. Their blog attempts to dispel the myths about Satanism. I am an atheist, which is of course very different from Satanism. I don’t believe in any god and nor do I believe satan exists. I believe that both were invented as a means of social control when we knew a lot less about how the earth actually functions.

Some of the things I have seen Christians write about Satan can be hysterical. I wrote a blog entry Not Today Satan mocking these Christian fundamentalist writings. It might be interesting to see what the actual Satanists have to say about themselves and their lives. Believe me, this is not for everyone. But I think it is important to write about the people visiting and reading me. It’s possible that Sophie and Cassie will respond after seeing this and respond. I will write something about it if they do.

 

Girl Scout Cookies!

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America, where are our Girl Scout cookies? It has been about 4 weeks since Liz and I ordered from the young woman who brought her children with her to charm their way into our hearts. We were instantly smitten. We wanted, no needed, our fix of Thin Mints for the year. It would be a few weeks before we would be savoring their goodness.

Girl Scouts are one of the traditions of late winter and early spring you can count on. Like the basketball playoffs, football player drafts, flowers and buds on the trees. Girl Scout cookies help us to regain the pounds we foolishly claimed we were going shed during those new years resolutions we made under the influence of some intoxicants.

We have heard that people in our community have been receiving their cookies. And to make matters worse, some little cherubic girl scouts were at the grocery store plying their wares. No orders for you little tots. We have sworn our allegiance and our bellies to those three urchins who disappeared into the darkness.But perhaps, if our order has not arrived by next week we will cheat on our little friends. We will buy those store displayed cookies and spend the day indulging ourselves until we are too full to go for our Sunday afternoon stroll.