The horror

I am reading a long article in Mother Jones magazine by Shane Bauer an investigative journalist who took a $9 per hour job as a corrections officer in a prison operated by Corrections Corporation of America. Bauer details under-staffing motivated by profit, neglect of inmates, neglecting inmates mental and physical health and conditions that would shock any caring person. Bauer looks into the company’s history arising from the swamp like a primordial beast. The opportunity for profit created by mass incarceration needs to be eliminated permanently.

I remember how republican lawmakers howled when President Obama began allowing prisoners access to federal Pell grants to help further their education.The idea was elegant in its simplicity: educated prisoners will be more likely to obtain jobs, and benefit society. There are other proposals aimed at eliminating some of the draconian 3 strikes and your out laws that helped fill prisons. But one of the first places to look for reform is by shuttering the private prison industry and driving it out of business. We cannot continue to abuse our fellow citizens this way.

I urge people to read the article by Bauer and other stories and join groups like the ACLU that are helping to defend prisoners.

Stop profiling people with mental illness

Th . New York Times published an op-ed article recently regarding the profiling of persons with mental illness.  The author, Andrew Solomon was denouncing the shameful treatment of a Canadian woman by the Department of Homeland Security.

Ellen Richardson was denied entry into the United States last month while attempting to visit the Caribbean. Her plan had been to board a cruiser leaving from New York City. How relaxing that would have been. Instead she was told she was told she would be allowed to enter the US without medical clearance from one of three doctors approved by the DHS. All because she had been treated for depression last year.

My question is, how did DHS obtain her private medical information? Who are they to reject the judgment Ellen made with her medical professionals about her recovery? And how far does this mental health exclusion list extend?

I have received treatment from mental health professionals. It was my recovery that lead me to become a certified peer specialist. Will those nosy S.O.B’s look into my records and take away my right to travel? Or, if I leave the country, will I be barred from returning? Are the medical records of rich people more protected than those of ordinary citizens?

I believe that the United State and Canada owe Ellen Richardson an apology and a free cruise to replace the one she was unable to experience. Stop profiling people with mental illness. Respect our privacy the same way as it would be protected for a physical illness.


Mind freedom wins victory over forced electroshock in New York State

Update 18 April 2012


Forced Electroshock of Glen K. in a
New York Psychiatric Institution Halted!

Within 48 hours of the launch of a MindFreedom International Alert Campaign, the Attorney General for New York State announced today that Glen K. will receive no more forced electroshock under his court order. Rockland Psychiatric Center was giving involuntary electroshock over and against Glen’s expressed wishes.

Glen has been told. He is thrilled.

He won! Thank you to everyone who spoke out for Glen!

Glen’s attorneys got a call from the NY Attorney General earlier today. Under the guise that Glen is doing so well, the Attorney General said they are no longer defending the court order to give Glen electroshock, and are withdrawing that order.

Glen won’t be forcibly shocked any more under this order.

Given this Attorney General decision, Glen may be creating an advanced directive to help protect him in the future.

MindFreedom contacted Mental Hygiene Legal Services, which has defended Glen and a number of other New York psychiatric survivors against forced shock. We spoke with Glen’s attorneys Dennis Feld and Arthur Bear, who made this public statement:

“We feel that our client has been vindicated, and what we thought was one of the most onerous for forced treatments we ever saw has now been nullified.”

And there’s no need to go to Brooklyn for Glen’s hearing tomorrow, 19 April 2012, because Glen won!

MFI director David Oaks said, “Thank you everyone for your quick response on this campaign. Keep contacting Governor Cuomo and ask him to issue a moratorium on all involuntary electroshock in New York State!”

BELOW are other updates from the last two days, including how to hear a brief recording of an interview with Glen conducted yesterday by MFI.

For live links and the original alert go to:


Updates from yesterday, 17 April 2012:

** You can now hear a nine-minute MP3 audio excerpt of a phone interview conducted today with Glen K., by MFI. You may also read the text notes of the interview. [Find links at


** The first 24 hours of Glen’s campaign already had an impact. MFI received a call from John Allen, director of Consumer Affairs for NY State Office of Mental Health, who claimed: “While we can’t comment on this individual case, we have suspended and are reviewing policy and procedure that would lead to these kinds of circumstances in the future.” While this is positive news, MFI will wait until Glen or his representative declare victory.


Update 16 April 2012:

Glen K. has reasonable objections to on his forced electroshock, and states:

“ECT causes profound memory loss, it causes universal brain damage , and it is a harsh, harsh treatment…”


BELOW is Excerpt from Original MindFreedom Alert that Apparently Helped Glen Win His Campaign to Say “No!” to Forced Electroshock

Thank you everyone! Congratulations Glen!

“No one is tired on victory day.” – ancient Persian expression


MFI News Exclusive

April 16, 2012

Your Tax Dollars At Work:

Does Governor Cuomo Know His NY State Institution is Forcibly Electroshocking Glen K.?

by MindFreedom International

It’s in the public record:

Glen K. is being forcibly subjected twice a week to electroconsulvive therapy (ECT), also known as shock treatment, in a New York state mental health institution – Rockland Psychiatric Centerphoto on right – where he is being held involuntarily. These shocks are administered to Glen K. over his clear and consistent protest, under the authority of a court order which authorizes a series of 120 shock treatments over a period of 12 months.

This order also authorizes the hospital to chemically restrain Glen K. with involuntary psychiatric drugs, when he refuses medical procedures in preparation for ECT. On many occasions, the hospital has also employed physical and chemical restraints to overcome his resistance to ECT.



What is the evidence on anti-psychotics

Earlier this week I wrote about an article I found in Mad In America about the use of anti-psychotics. Today I read summaries of important studies that looked at the outcomes of people using these medications compared to those who do not. The studies showed that outcomes of people who became long term users declined compared to those who never used them or weaned themselves off the medications. All of this continues to poke holes in the theory that people who have had experience of mental illness suffer from a kind of chemical imbalance in their brains that must be corrected.

If anything, the opposite of what is currently believed may be true. That is, powerful psychiatric medications may be creating chemical imbalances in brains that worsen over time. Falling in love, developing close friendships, living in a supportive environment and getting regular exercise are far healthier and enjoyable.

So, check out these studies and let me know what you think.

Wikipedia: N is the fourteenth letter in the ISO basic Latin alphabet.

Re-designing mental Health

I was at a meeting last week to discuss the redesign of the mental health system in Milwaukee County. I had been one of the key informants interviewed by the consultants hired to produce a report  on ways to fix our broken system. Many positive trends can be seen in the way that quality supportive housing has been built to assist people with severe and persistent mental illness live productively  in the community.

Mental health is one of the major responsibilities of Milwaukee county government. The re-design comes at a time when there will be a large turnover on the board of supervisors. And our county executive Chris Abele will be seeking his first full term of office. Boxed into a corner by previous county executive Scott Walker he has faced sniping from right wing Sheriff David Clarke. Clarke seems to think that he is an entity unto himself and no one can tell him anything. Added to that problem is the fact far too many people with mental illness become involved in the criminal justice system. Not the kind of dramatic and violent episodes sensationalized in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel but more mundane things resulting from inappropriate behavior. This can result in being saddled with hundreds of dollars in tickets and killing any chances of obtaining employment.

I have found that having a significant role in society has been a powerful force in my recovery from distress. The change from self doubt to confidence has been profound and one that I constantly seek to share with others. I feel we do people a disservice when we numb their minds to a point where they can barely find the strength to shuffle to a community support program several times a week. At some point mental health needs to mean being out in the world, tending a garden, helping a friend move his or her belongings, sharing a movie and making good choices.

That is why I have been encouraging the consumers I assist to join the conversation about re-designing the mental health system. Although I work in the system, I was never a patient. I never sat in the Psychiatric Crisis Center early in the morning waiting to be seen, although I have heard about people, talked wit survivors and assisted them. Because I am a veteran I had a whole range of alternatives available to me. My unique perspective is valuable to the re-design process, as well. I learned the language about person centered processes with attending Milwaukee Area Technical College and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. I am excited to hear others passing it along. Implementing the approach will be a whole new animal and one that will engage people in this county for years to come. Now we must roll up our sleeves and get to work on creating a more humane and fair system.


Murder, Most Foul: Who Killed Nick Christie?

This morning I saw a picture of a body,  that of Nick Christie, bright orange after being pepper sprayed, stripped of  his dignity, denied medication, kept in restraints until his body gave out. The story by reporter Radley Balko in the  Huffington Post noted that Nick Christie’s wife of 40 years, Joyce Christie, had contacted police before he left on his trip. She told them that he was 62, suffered from several problem including emphysema and was having a mental breakdown.

She wanted them to arrest him and get him the help that he needed. They arrested him, all right, but the pattern and practice in the Lee County Jail all contributed to a massive assault that Nick Christie could not survive.  These included being placed in restraints, sprayed while being restrained and kept in the massive soup of pepper spray for several hours. While Joyce Christie was at the jail, her husband was being killed.

Is it any wonder that outrage and shock have risen as the news of Nick Christie’s murder has spread? The State’s Attorneyhas found no fault with the investigation into the case. Now the only remedy for Nick and Joyce Christie is for the Obama Administration and Attorney General Eric Holder to launch an immediate investigation into civil rights violations. Radley Palko’s article in the Huffington Post noted that there have been other instances of improper spraying and use of restraints on prisoners, many of whom were mentally ill.

We must stop the murder of prisoners by those who are sworn to uphold the law.  We must seek justice. It is now for President Obama to repay the faith that the American people displayed when they elected him based upon his call for hope and change. The change that we need is to uphold basic human rights.  I recommend checking the links to articles I have included in this blog and help spread the news.

More than a year after the murder of Nick Christie, I noticed that the blog post I wrote about his case had found one viewer last week. So I decided to find out whether there were any more developments. On February 17, I have found that there was a settlement in the family’s lawsuit. The Huffington Post article about the case pointed out other examples of unnecessary force. The money to be paid from the settlement will come from the taxpayers not the brutal officers. It will provide some source of comfort for Christie’s family but it wont ensure that another foul murder will not take place. Here is a link to the story. Let us fight to ensure equal justice under the law includes peop[le like Nick Christie.

English: Official portrait of United States At...
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refused to over the hop


We Have the Right to Violate You!

English: New York City Police officers being d...
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English: An NYPD Command Unit.
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Imagine that you have reported wrongdoing  to the people at the top of the agency and in return you become investigated. Your higher ups come to your house and have you sent to a psychiatric ward without your consent and without a psychiatric evaluation. Your family does not know where you are. Is this a story about psychiatric abuse in the Soviet Union? No, it is  abuse of power by the New York City Police Department. The very institution charged with enforcing the laws is in fact a lawbreaker. And even after being exposed for their venal behavior, the police routinely visit a police officer on leave far away from the city where they have no jurisdiction and demand that he “act  like a man” and return with them for even more abuse. As if to tell him, “we have the right to abuse you.”

On September 10, 2010 the public radio program This American Life aired a series of stories  under the theme “you have the right to remain silent” about  a groups of individuals who at great personal cost spoke up about injustices they witnessed being committed. The most gripping story was about Adrian Schoolcraft, who exposed a widespread practice among his fellow officers of police inventing reasons to stop and arrest people. Such concerns as probable  cause, evidence and constitutional rights were thrown out the window in this reckless effort to enforce so-called “quality of life” issues. At the same time more serious crimes were being ignored or downgraded.

The Village Voice series that broke Schoolcraft’s story, written by Graham Rayman, is here. Schoolcraft’s website looking for other cops to come forward is here.

My concern is with the psychiatric abuse part of the story. If  you listen to Schoolcraft’s story, you will hear a recording of the incident I referred to in the introduction to this blog. His superiors came to his apartment under false pretenses and decided that his refusal to leave with them constituted mental illness. In my work as a peer specialist the police I have seen are scrupulous in informing mental health consumers of their rights. There are very strict procedures to be followed when declaring that someone is exhibiting dangerous behavior and must be transported to an institution. But the New York City police felt they were above this law. That is the most dangerous part of what happened to Schoolcraft.

What if others are being locked away under similar circumstances? We must continue to advocate for the right not to be violated. Employers can not be allowed to manipulate our minds, the way that the police attempted to manipulate Schoolcraft’s. We must be vigilant. Schoolcraft could be anyone. Say no to mental abuse.