One particular headline in The August Chronicle caught my eye today: Courts, doctors may disagree on definition of mental illness. This is troubling as sometimes the courts use the mental health system to inflict cruel and unusual sentences on people who otherwise would have been released long ago.
The case comes from the appeal of a man who pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to an assault charge and has spent the last six years in the Northwest Georgia Regional Hospital in Rome. The state is closing that hospital in September, and Ladale Alexander Dupree is just one of a dozen remaining patients.
Unfortunately I was unable to find any particulars regarding this assault Ladale Dupree is accused of having made. I don’t know whether anybody was actually hurt, and if so, to what extent. In Florida it is assault to touch a police officer for instance. People sometimes, as Ladale seems to have done here, plead NGRI to get out of prison sentences only to find more of their time wasted in a state hospital than would have been wasted in a jail.
There are many people in the psychiatric survivor and mental health consumer movement who argue against the use of the NGRI plea, and chiefly because it is prejudicial to people who have done time in mental hospitals. It also represents a blurring of the distinction between medical science and police science. The argument goes that criminals, alleged to be possessed of a “mentally illness”, should be “treated” in criminal justice facilities instead.
The hospital’s director of the program that treats patients under court order testified at the hearing Dupree requested that he suffered from schizo-affective disorder, antisocial personality disorder and paranoid personality disorder. Dr. Julie Oliver said the schizo-affective disorder was a mental illness being successfully treated by medication and that he no longer presents a risk to himself or others.
The hospital’s director apparently had serious issues, one might even call it a grudge against him, with this individual.
His doctor, Julie Oliver, explained that the two personality disorders are not mental illnesses and cannot be treated with “medications”.
The Supreme Court concluded the personality disorders were indeed mental illnesses. Justice David Nahmias, writing for the majority, pointed to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual used by medical professionals, which he said characterizes the personality disorders as mental illnesses.
Psychiatrists aren’t apparently the only idiots, excuse me, intellectually challenged people, who take the DSM for their bible. It’s seems to be way up there on the shelf of supreme court judges as well. Let’s hope they can still manage to give a little more weight to the US Constitution and it’s Bill of Rights. I seriously doubt that this particular judge has managed to do so in this case.
Ladale Dupree is one of only a dozen patients still held at a state hospital that is slated for closure. The state of Georgia will apparently move Ladale to another institution when it closes in order that he may serve out the duration of his continuing “illnesses”, according to the court, an indeterminate sentence.