I write this not from the standpoint of a formal education but from experience and from my heart.
Imagine having a mental illness or mental disability of some sort. That could be depression and anxiety, ADHD or a number of other things.
Imagine that in your angst, you find something that brings you respite, if only for a few minutes or hours – something that makes you feel good for a change.
That would be drugs or alcohol. You may have what they call an allergy to the alcohol in that in addition to that relief, you develop a craving you can’t control and want more. You’re not like most people.
Imagine that in your pursuit of those good feelings you get into trouble with the law and get thrown in jail. Next thing you know, you have a record and are assigned what seems like a never-ending list of demands you have to meet in order to stay out of trouble.
You didn’t just wake up one day and say to yourself “I think I’ll fuck up my life”. You are dealing with compulsions and mental anguish that are now exacerbated by your use of the substance. You lose your license, job – take your pick, and now it’s more difficult than ever to satisfy the requirements of the court and you make another mistake which gets you into even deeper trouble.
You find yourself behind bars again, more depressed than ever and deprived of the provisions of the law for people with disabilities such as a mental health and disability evaluation that is mandated. The people who mete out the law demand that you comply but they are hypocrites as they don’t follow it themselves and you are helpless to do anything about it.
There are other people like you who are lost and unable to defend themselves who are assigned so-called legal representation. That representation is a joke. You are really just a number to them – and to the jail staff and medical personnel.
You are set up for failure as this group of so-called professionals neglect their duties to the public. They mess up your paperwork and cause legal complications that you are always blamed for and are expected to fix. They are rarely held accountable in a system where oversight is unresponsive and apathetic. Many of these people are corrupt morally and ethically.
God forbid you speak up for yourself or correct a mistake they’ve made. They will assign nefarious motivations to your actions and claim you aren’t taking responsibility. They may say you have a victim mentality. They are programmed to doubt anything you say in your defense. You need help but instead you are treated like the most hardened of criminals.
I have been in these situations and I’ve seen people go through these experiences and it makes me sick. I’ve fought for those who haven’t been able to defend themselves. America’s justice system is broken and our most vulnerable are the real victims in the end. I once read that up to sixty percent of the people who are incarcerated are mentally ill or have disabilities.
I was waiting for my turn in court in Issaquah Washington when I heard a public defender confer with a disabled veteran who made noises he couldn’t help. After his client left the building, this so-called public defender went up to the clerk’s window and proceeded to make noises like his client and said to the court clerk “can you imagine spending an hour with that”? His name is Shawn McCully.
I complained to the state bar about him and nothing happened. Rarely have I seen an oversight system that is actually honest and responsive. I’ve seen racism by jail officials and heard probation officers lie. I’ve seen medical care denied and multiple incidents of medical malpractice. One jail official once told me “jails are not hospitals”.
Our system is broken when the people who should be behind bars are the one’s running the show while the legal and civil rights of the vulnerable are neglected.
Disability laws regarding incarceration need to be followed and enforced. They sure as hell aren’t currently. Emphasis needs to be placed on community support for people with disabilities and co-occurring substance abuse issues. Programs to help them back up are few and far between. So many lives are being squandered.
Our oversight needs oversight. I’ve lost faith in government for a good reason. This isn’t just me writing in generalities. I could write another post with example after example of legitimate complaints being ignored and of illegal retaliation. I worked for the government and I know the law is supposed to be your guide.
I’ve had enough. I’ve seen enough. My heart breaks for those who are pushed around and can’t defend themselves. It boils my blood. I do not appreciate apathy and I don’t respect those who are so careless with the lives of others.
I hope this new era brings about real change for those who are currently caught up in a whirlpool they can’t escape – where they are swallowed up whole.