2 Wrongs Don’t Make A Right Even In California

Voice of OC (Orange County) covered community response to Kelly Thomas being beat to death by the police in an article with the heading, Families of Mentally Ill Question Supervisors in Wake of Police Beating Death.

On Tuesday, more than two-dozen relatives of people facing mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, which is what Thomas suffered from. They challenged supervisors to better tap into statewide mental health funds — through Prop 63 – and get services to the mentally ill living on the streets.

I have no problem with this suggestion; Prop 63 is a 1 % tax on citizens of California with incomes of over $1,000,000 for mental health funding. Other states ought to consider enacting similar legislation.

I do however take issue with the suggestion that Kelly Thomas had schizophrenia. I will believe that Thomas suffered from schizophrenia when you can bring me the schizophrenia bug. In my understanding of the matter, no schizophrenia bug has ever been found to date. Whatever “ill” Kelly Thomas had, I would imagine, could be debated for some time to come.

Family members spent the entire day at the meeting, commenting on mental health and waiting till nearly 5 p.m. to call on supervisors to enact Laura’s Law — a 2002 measure that makes it easier for families to get help with forced treatment for their relatives with severe mental illnesses.

I also have a problem with this call for more police state type intervention. Didn’t Kelly Thomas’s death result from some sort of police intervention in the first place? Laura’s Law is an outpatient commitment law. Outpatient commitment usually means forced drugging. Drugging, forced or voluntary, can have damaging consequences.

Thomas’s father, Ron Thomas, has said that his son’s homelessness stemmed from his inability to stay on his medication.

His father, concerning these drugs, says “inability”. Unfortunately Kelly Thomas isn’t around any more to explain whether his was “inability” or disinclination. Ron Thomas, I imagine, lives in a house. He could have offered his home, at least temporarily, as a living space for Kelly. Making housing contingent upon drugging is a way to keep people homeless.

Supervisors are calling for a report to be drawn up in 30 days time explaining why Laura’s Law should be implemented in Orange County.

A man gets beaten to death by the police. This happened because he wasn’t forced to take drugs by law. Alright, that explanation sounds very fishy to me. Perhaps the problem needs another look. Do we have to wait for somebody to get beaten to death who is taking psychiatric drugs for these people to start looking into police culpability?

Anybody interested in learning more about the beating of Kelly Thomas should read the story at Mail Online, Caught on tape: Police beat and taser ‘gentle’ mentally-ill homeless man to death. One word of caution though, it isn’t pretty!

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6 Responses

  1. “It’s all about giving people choices. Take our drugs or we’ll beat you to death.”

    • Given a choice between two more or less equally undesirable options is what we call a dilemma. Dilemma’s want resolution. Psychiatric drug use versus death by cop is not the kind of choice anybody needs to make. It’s not even a choice that makes sense without the NAMIesque Big Brother illogic of condescending family members being applied. The gist of the matter is that these people seem to think their son would have been in a better situation were he taking psychiatric drugs. This better situation is entirely speculative. In other words, maybe, maybe not.

      All one has to do is look at the photograph of Kelly Thomas after he was beat to within inches of his life in the second article linked to above. They’re going to blame his not taking drugs for what the cops did to him? What a complete travesty of justice that represents!

      The family members seem to be laying the blame on the victim (“he was off his meds”) rather than on the guilty (“the police beat him nearly to death”). His life hanging on by a thread, he died. Ahem! Somebody needs to slap these family members in the face with a bladder bag. Forced drugging is not going to curtail police violence and impropiety. This is about police brutality and murder, it is not about suicide by cop. Police brutality is the issue here, and not managing the so called “mentally ill”. Beating people to death is wrong. Beating mental patients to death is wrong, too, because mental patients are people. I don’t think the cops asked Kelly Thomas if he was taking psychiatric drugs before they started pounding on him. If he had been, it wouldn’t have made any difference.

      All one has to do is look at the picture of Kelly Thomas after he’d been beaten to within inches of his life in the second article mentioned above. It doesn’t make sense to blame him for what the cops did to him. He, despite any psychiatric labels, didn’t beat himself up. Duh! Furthermore, police violence should not be used as an excuse to further restrict the civil liberties and human rights of people impacted by the psychiatric system. Again, duh!

      The Constitution of the USA used to mean something. Activists and advocates for the human and civil rights of people impacted by the mental health system need to be very forceful in making that point. We need those amendments to the Constitution, aka the Bill of Rights, to be taken seriously the way they once were. Treating mental patients as sub-humans is not the right thing to do. Murder is, to put it mildly, inexcuseable. This case is about homicide, this case isn’t about negligence in pill popping.

      Laura’s Law, like Kendra’s Law in New York, is a forced outpatient treatment law. Forced outpatient treatment is an unconstitutional violation of the rights of US citizens. Neither California, nor any other state in the union, needs such a law. We should not forget that we are dealing with human beings and US citizens in these instances. It should be remembered that I say this after the fact, apparently this sort of collective amnesia comes all too easily.

  2. I suspect also that one of the reasons the pigs kill the so called mentally ill is because they know it’s bullshit. The cops are as guilty as hell of course but ultimately the blame lies with the shrinks.

    • The police have been known to kill people simply for acting odd or strange. I think this is because they see any suspicious individual as a possible threat to their own lives, and as a possible obstruction to the performance of their duty. We had an incident in our city of Gainesville Florida recently where a man was shot dead by a police officer simply for acting strange. I don’t know that this man had had any psychiatric label applied to him in the past. He was known to have had a problem at work; he failed a drug test. Undoubtly, if the cops had taken a living body into custody the judge would have probably “mandated treatment” of some sort.

      While I wouldn’t blame psychiatrists for crimes committed by police officers, it is true that the mental health authorities and the criminal justice authorities represents auxillary branches of federal power. The problem here is Mental Health Law. Mental Health Law is all about coercion, and it represents an collaboration between the government and mental health authorities against the citizens of the country governed. In my opinion, the feds should get the hell out medicine. The feds, in fact, have no more business meddling in medicine than they do in religuous matters. Mental Health Law should be repealed. The rights and liberties of people in psychiatric treatment want protection. The rights and liberties of people who would refuse psychiatric intervention must be protected as well.

      There are always going to be people who are going through personal crises. Shooting the person going through a personal crisis is not a good way to deal with such matters. The police need crisis intervention training in order to better deal with such people. They also need to be found accountable for their actions when they shoot unarmed civilians regardless of those civilians’ mental states. It must be established that the police are not to be held above the law that they have sworn to enforce.

  3. “I have no problem with this suggestion; Prop 63 is a 1 % tax on citizens of California with incomes of over $1,000,000 for mental health funding. Other states ought to consider enacting similar legislation.”

    I must respectfully disagree.

    I’ve already done the numbers on Prop 63. It was never anything but a Trojan Horse. Those numbers, and the harm they’ve caused, are in this post.

    http://psychroaches.blogspot.com/2010/10/dr-fg-lu-sf-mental-health-board-june-13.html

    “The power to tax is the power to destroy.”

    • It would have been preferrable if you’d given us a good dose of those numbers you’re speaking about. It is difficult to make out the substance of your complaint from such a rambling blog post. I’m still at pains to see the harm caused by taxing the rich. Tax breaks are a way of taxing the poor in my opinion. All this energy spent trying to stimulate the economy hasn’t paid off very well, has it? For some time now our country has had a 9 + % unemployment rate. There was a time when a 4 or 5 % unemployment rate was completely unacceptable. What we really need is a job program to get that almost 10 % of the population working again. Robbing from the poor to feed the rich is not getting our nation working. Just look at the statistics! Providing people with jobs, in my opinion, is more important than feeding the rich.

      Alright, Prop 63 is not a jobs program, but it has the potential to become one in many ways. Let’s look at the numbers you give:

      Prop MHSA/63 imposed a 1% Tax on Million Dollar Incomes. It was projected to take in $750 Million to ‘Diagnose’ & ‘Treat’ up to 2.9 Million Californians to a Serious ‘Mentally Ill’. At 2.5 Million that’s $300 per head per year. MHSA/Prop 63 also postures about Stigmatization of those 2.5 million, by the remaining 34.5 Million Californians.

      You should look at the amount of money the state is paying for those 2.5 million anyway, and then try to figure if they are not saving even more money with this tax. Institutionalization costs big time. If the money went towards deinstitutionalization the state could be saving money.

      $750 Million would provide a whopping $21.74 per head to Stigma Police those 34.5 Million potential Stigmatizers through all 365 days of potential Stigmatizing, with ZERO left over for Diagnosis & Treatment of the prime 2.5 Million Stigma Targets with a Serious “Mentally Ill.”

      I’ve critiqued the use of that maligning and insulting term stigma on many occasions. If we replace the word stigma with the words prejudice and discrimination, then we have something we can work with. Prejudice and discrimination are words used by the civil rights movement, and that’s just what we have here, a civil rights struggle.

      I do think the idea of using the funds to hire people in the public mental health system can have a way of backfiring. On the other hand, if you hired people to work in the public mental health system to help procure jobs for people outside of the public mental health system you’d be getting somewhere. This is the real stickler, to get the mental health system to see that its interest lies in shrinking rather than expanding. When people leave the mental health system (i.e. recover from “mental illnesses”, life crises, bad situations, whatever) that system is working.

      At one point there is an objection to this tax because the money would be mandated to pay for new programs. Sometimes the old programs are a big part of the problem–old programs representing concrete examples of a broken system, slow to change.

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