The Myth of The Jail and Prison Treatment Facility

One Deinstitutionalization Is Not Two Deinstitutionalizations

Much bad ink has been spilled over calling the nation’s jails and prisons mental health facilities because of the number of people within their walls who have also been given psychiatric labels. The latest report along these lines claims there are something like 10xs more mental patients who reside in criminal justice facilities than in state hospitals. These numbers come from a study conducted by the Treatment Advocacy Center, the USA’s number one lobbyist for more forced psychiatric drugging, and the National Sheriffs Association. The culprit in this debacle is said to be deinstitutionalization.

Let me start off by saying people don’t go to jails and prisons because they are sick and because they wish to receive medical attention. People are sent to jails and prisons by the courts to receive punishments because they broke the law of the land. Second, state hospitals have traditionally been psychiatric jails and prisons. Merely trading this kind of prison for the other kind of prison doesn’t make a hospital in actual fact. I would say that, given the prison overcrowding problem that comes of three strikes laws, America has grown increasingly intolerant of difference, and law crazy itself. If your way of dealing with bizarre behavior is to outlaw it, your jails and prisons are going to fill with people behaving bizarrely. Bizarre behavior may be a crime, but it is only a disease by a wild stretch of the overactive imagination.

Statistics tell us their own story. For statistics, before we look at those coming from the recent study, let me refer to the Preface of the 2006 book crazy authored by journalist Pete Earley. Earley is another apostle of this blame deinstitutionalization religion. According to Earley, in 1955, there were 560,000 people in state mental hospitals. He speculates not about the numbers of people who might have been referred to as “mentally ill” in prison or jail at that time. Between 1955 and the year 2000, the population jumped from 166 million people to 276 million people. Given this population increase, and no change, the numbers of people in state mental hospitals would have been something like 930,000. Earley gives the present number of people, from maybe a 2002 or thereabouts survey, with “mental illnesses” in jails and prisons at 300,000. He gives the present number in state mental hospitals at 55,000.

Hmmm. Something peculiar is going on here. 500,000 people are unaccounted for. These are the people who, with the population increase figured in, would be in the state mental hospital system if we were still doing business the way we had in 1955. 500,000 people is more than half the number of people we are dealing with in the stats for a later year. You add 55,000 to 300,000 and you are still lacking 205,000 people from the 1955 figure. This is not the kind of figure that supports the contention that deinstitutionalization was a mistake, or that it was a disastrous failure. Instead it would seem to indicate that more and more people described as “mentally ill”, if not fully recovering, are being better integrated into the communities from which they came. This is a coup for least restrictive care, and least restrictive care is something that nobody receives as a prisoner on the locked ward of a state mental hospital.

According to the TAC and NSA research, there are 35,000 people in state hospitals, a 2012 stat, and 356,000 in jails and prison. Wow. We’ve got 20,000 fewer people, referencing the Earley stats, in state mental hospitals than we had 10 or so years earlier! If we’ve got more in jails and prison, too, part of that increase can be explained by population increase. What Earley gave us was something of an estimation based on statistics anyway, but we’re still minus a great number of people who would be “hospitalized” in the year 1955. All in all, I’d call deinstitutionalization a major success story. We’ve still got a lot of people in jails and prisons, given stiffer sentences and overcrowding, who don’t need to be there. One deinstitutionalization success story doesn’t justify an increased amount of institutionalization for another sort of institution.

Blaming violence on “mental illness” is the latest media and political trend. I’d like to remind people that the court of public opinion is not a court of law. We have a supply of the kind of acts, in the present climate, that the media circus demands. Should we look at the number of violent acts committed by people with no experience in the mental health treatment system, I’m sure that those crimes are not decreasing dramatically in number either. Violence is not a symptom of any “mental disorder” in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM). When it comes down to it, death is much more likely to be a result of gun fire than it is to be a result of any psychiatric diagnostic label in a mental health professional’s repertoire. I suggest that we will have more success with the problem if we deal with the causes, and I don’t see “illness”, physical nor mental, as one of the primary causes. I would, on the other hand, do something about the climate of suspicion, hatred, and indifference that breeds crime, hardship, and troubles. Here, I think we can actually make a difference if we tried, and that is exactly what we should do.



Selling Mental Hellth

The issue is mental illness, and it’s an abstraction rather than a reality. Physical diseases are real. Mental diseases are in the head, just like leprechauns and dragons. The idea presented by the mental health movement is that we need to take it out of the shadows, that is, talk about it, as if talking about it were more healing than silence. Actually, this talking is a matter of positioning that tin cup for a government handout. When it comes to any funds drummed up in this fashion,  maybe we should call it dragon protection money.

The mental health movement is all about mental illness. As this is the case, I think it would be better to change the spelling of mental health from mental health to mental hellth. You can’t talk about mental illness, in excess, without selling it. The Center for Disease Control has already got it, mental illness, spreading to epidemic proportions. Why? People want money so they can treat mental illness. Treating mental illness is what we call mental hellth.

Alright, first premise of mental hellth:  Mental illness is real illness. We’ve got an abstraction here, sure, and it’s a real abstraction. The mental hellth movement wants this abstraction to have a physical presence, and so they are calling it physical. In fact, they wouldn’t have it be an abstraction at all, they’d have it be a medical condition. This leads directly to The Thousand Diseases project, or the DSM; in other words, the labeling of ordinary behaviors as diseased because it puts bread and butter on the plates of mental hellth professionals.

Second premise of mental hellth: People possessed by mental diseases are not able nor capable of mature actions. They are beyond, so-to-speak, the practice of self-control. These people possessed of the mental illness bug have thus been rendered, by this bug, incapable of making mature decisions and, therefore, their position as free moral agents is considered forfeit. Other people, or the state, must make their decisions for them. This forfeiture means essentially that such people are not to be covered by the bill of rights to the US constitution.

If  wisdom were health then this sort of misperception would transform folly into illness. There is no need to correct fools when if you can hospitalize/imprison them, is there? The big issue is whether this implied wisdom doesn’t actually represent the compounding of folly with further folly. The problem we’ve got here is that wise people can be sick, just like the mentally hellthy, and foolish people can be healthy, just like the mentally sick.

Selling mental hellth is not, make no mistake about it, selling health. Selling mental hellth is selling mental illness. As most mental hellth treatment involves harming the patient, it is often thought, falsely, that there is a relationship between mental illness and physical disease. There isn’t. The relationship is between mental hellth treatment and physical injury because that is what mental hellth treatment actually is, physical injury.

Of course, there is no way mental hellth could sell injury as a curative agent without a sleight of hand, without deception. This deception involves implying that the injury was actually caused by the impugned disease, and not by it’s treatment. Mental hellth is big business. The more “sickness” perceived, the more injury inflicted,, the more severe the perception of the typical cases, the more job security, and the more the industry is a growth industry.

Injury as a growth industry presents us with a pretty perplexing conundrum. Generally messes are things we’d want cleaned up rather than exacerbated. This is not true where injury is thought to produce mental hellth. The mental hellth the injury produces is coupled and confused with mental illness. Getting people out of the treatment program , out of the system, is not the major concern of mental hellth professionals. Providing for families and lifestyles at the expense of mental patients, that is the major concern of mental hellth professionals.

They’re gonna kill, kill your kids

A news item out of Portsmouth New Hampshire runs, Story of patient without available bed all too common. I’d say the story of patient with available bed all too common as well, but get a load of the example used!

“My son is 22 years old and he has had 11 jobs since the age of 18 because of substance abuse and mental illness. He has been going to the doctor since the age of 4. We literally had to fight the system for eight months to help him get assistance,” one member of the F Group said during a break-out session facilitated by a person with Portsmouth Listens. “In April he went to the state hospital. It was very difficult for me. I can’t imagine a person with mental illness getting through the system.

 Emboldened emphasis added.

 How many fingers?! Four! Isn’t that kind of young to receive a “mental illness” label and all the abuse that goes along with it? Not to mention…drugs? Just two years after the terrible twos, while passing through his fearsome fours, whap, right on  the butt cheek, “illness”.

This brings us to our next point, passing through. A person with a “mental illness” label who doesn’t “get through” the system, isn’t passing through the system. He’s stuck in the system. Perhaps permanently. Staying in the system is not recovery from an alleged “mental illness”, nor is it recovery from intervention and its consequences.

 They said their son was diagnosed with oppositional defiant disorder at 4, but it took until he was 21 to get help.

Their son was disobedient and defiant. Their son was a rebel. Their son was a child. Duh. Therefore, psychiatric label and drugs, and the consequences of labeling and drugging. At 22 years of age, this arguably adult kid, who initially was merely rebellious, as many kids are, especially when they reach their pubescent teens, would be described as a “chronic” head case.

 The article goes onto “describe ODD” seeing it “as a pattern of anger-guided disobedience, hostility, and defiant behavior towards authority figures which goes beyond the bounds of normal childhood behavior” as delineated in the shrink’s bible, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

 My point, if you want a really, really, really bad child rearing manual, turn to the DSM. All the kids found in this manual are crazy by definition.

 “Thirty-five years ago you couldn’t say the word ‘cancer.’ It was a dirty word. It meant you were going to die. Now you can’t go a day without seeing a fundraiser or a run for cancer,” [Jim] Noucas [co-chair of Portsmouth Listens] told all of the participants at the beginning of the session. “It is time to take mental health out of the shadows and that is why we are here today.”

 Long hush.

 Given the men and women in their spanking white lab coats, I wouldn’t step from the shadows if I were you. Not just yet.

 Perhaps we are turning the world into a carcinogen. Additionally, give me a rhyme for carcinogen. Oh, yeah. Loony bin works. I think the pollutants, both chemical and cognitive, can seem pretty oppressive at times.

Overcoming Namby Pamby Disorder And, With It, The Psychiatric Nanny State

Iranian born Dr. Nassir Ghaemi in a MedScape piece, Fallacies of Psychiatry, actually only succeeds in revealing his own bias.

His first conjectured fallacy, the psychological fallacy, he would answer with a fallacy of his own. Namely, the flat earth fallacy. If enough people think a person “needs” psychiatric “help”, in other words, it must be so, and this makes the difference between a biological basis and a psychological, social, or psycho-social origin for “mental disorder”. If the person makes his way into the doctors office, at his friends and associates bequest, his or her “illness” must be biological.

These psychological judgments are essentially made on the basis of common sense. But if common sense were enough to explain things, then our patients would have convinced themselves, or been convinced by their friends and family. If a patient crosses the threshold of a clinician’s door, then common sense has failed — no need to keep using it. What is needed is scientific sense, which is quite different than common sense.

Suddenly because a doctor has entered the picture, we’ve got science. Really? Conventional wisdom may not apply here, but reason doesn’t cease to apply. I wouldn’t be beyond suggesting that our mad doctor’s uncommon sense was a little tainted with an unreason of his own.  If a pseudo-scientific credentialed elite says it is true, it must be true. Right? I’d say, reasonably, that it isn’t true until it is proven true. Here we have one theory in competition with others. The winner is only a poser. The scientific method is about disproving, not proving.

Dr. Nassir would then debunk such a biological reductivist view for certain “mental illnesses” that, in his view, have a psycho-social basis. This creates an even more serious dilemma for our doctor because now we have two entirely distinct species of “mental illnesses”, those with a primarily biological basis, and those with a primarily psycho-social and environmental basis. I would suggest that if “mental illness” is not actually “brain disease”, but erroneous ways of thinking, you don’t need two species of “illness” at all to explain it. Simply put, removing consciousness from the equation does not, at the same time, remove consciousness from the organism.

The doctor’s view is a pretty conventional one, but it asks many serious questions about the profession of psychiatry today. He establishes the psychiatric divide. His examples of biologically based disorders is pretty orthodox, as are his examples of more psycho-socially based disorders. On one side we’ve got schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and major depression, the holy trinity of the “mental illness” belief system, and on the other side, we’ve got PTSD, adult ADHD, and borderline personality disorder. I’ve seen this divide presented before. Recently I encountered a person attributing minor disorders to stress factors and major disorders to heredity and biology. In psychoanalytic theory, what has become the divide between major and minor “mental illness”, constituted the division between psychosis and neurosis. If these “disorders” existed on a continuum–big if, but they could–you’ve still got the psyche in psychosomatic. I don’t think it has, by any stretch of the imagination, been proven that they don’t exist on a continuum.

Big problem, little problem. Major “disease”, minor. The big secret is that diagnosis doesn’t represent the eternal biological curse that some professionals would have it represent for people given serious diagnostic tags. Some people manage to get out of the system, and to cope, and even to flourish, despite the cynicism of professionals. The devastating statistics actually represent a systemic challenge. When you’ve got a system based on unequal power relationships, that’s what happens. The success and independence of professionals is based on the failure and dependence of patients. Step back a little bit, and consider, the success of the professional actually depends on failing his patients. You’ve got more job security when your job is keeping a junkie supplied with dope (and this dope could be methadone, heroin, haldol or clozapine) than you would have if your job was getting him or her off drugs entirely.

Initially asylums were set up to segregate and imprison lunatics, i.e. people believed afflicted with any earlier version of the holy trinity in the psychiatric belief system. The advent of psychoanalysis expanded that field a great deal to include people suffering from more minor afflictions and offenses. General anxiety disorder, for instance, is in many ways the mental health equivalent of a skinned knee. Recently, psychiatry has been accused, due to the absolutely absurd number of “diseases” proliferating in the DSM, of pathologizing “normal”. Since the genesis of psychoanalysis, utilizing professional services has been put forward as a way of life. I’d suggest that there are other roads to take besides that of treatment, and maybe we’d better look to them. Take the case of what used to be called hysteria, or the case of what used to be called hypochondria, when a crutch is imaginary, perhaps a person would do better to get along without it.

R. D. Laing and the Politics of Liberation

I am not a Laingian psychotherapist. The spirit of the Pasha of Kingsley Hall can guide other disciples on a lifetime regimen of therapy to its wispy heart’s content, not me. I don’t see losing one’s way as a lifetime endeavor I would wish to pursue. I’m not an apologist for R.D. Laing excesses. Leave that to those of his associates who have survived him and their associates.

I have no aversion to being called Szaszian. Thomas S. Szasz was, from beginning to end, against psychiatric oppression. Dr. Szasz, in fact, supported the abolition of coercive psychiatric practices. R.D. Laing’s position on the same subject was much more circumspect, except where specifically stated, and then rarely. I think it important for doctors to take sides as advocates on this matter, and Dr. Laing, when he wasn’t practicing non-coercive psychiatry, seems to have, wrongly in my view, taken the other side.

I don’t want to bash Dr. Laing entirely. Credit must be given where credit is due. He did much good. He humanized the face of madness, he discerned that there was often a hidden reason to it, and he put it in a social–mainly familial–context. He also inspired the initial Philadelphia Association experiments that have in turn spawned whole generations of successors, most impressively the Soteria Project, still with us today.

When the BBC would discredit R.D. Laing, that is one thing, when Thomas S. Szasz would do so, that’s another. The BBC just wants to finish the reactionary establishment job of making this Maverick psychiatrist mud that his heart attack on a tennis court along the French Riviera started. Thomas Szasz, on the other hand, wanted to show that this Maverick psychiatrist was actually not so much a Maverick psychiatrist after all, and certainly not the Maverick psychiatrist he was taken for.

Perhaps, as has been indicated, R.D. Laing’s position hardened over the years. Dissident psychologist Seth Farber in his recently published book, The Spiritual Gift of Madness, makes a great deal out of Laing’s The Politics of Experience. Laing himself, near the end of his life, in a series of interviews with Bob Mullan, published as Mad To Be Normal, refers to this same book, The Politics of Experience, as a mistake. R.D. Laing, also in Mad To Be Normal, speaks about how disturbed the people he dealt with were, something he might not have done way back when The Politics of Experience was published quite so explicitly.

The thing I’m trying to stress here is that you don’t equalize the field merely by donning informal attire. At Kingsley Hall, behind the illusion that there was no illusion, all residents weren’t on an equal footing. They played at being on an equal plane, but without the assent of the psychiatrist residents, there was no equality. When R.D. Laing in his memoir, Wisdom, Madness, and Folly, rationalized forced institutional psychiatry as necessary, he turned poser and hypocrite. There is something hypocritical, after all, in reattaching the chains Sunday that you had removed on Monday.

Historically there are parallels. Take the much lauded casting off of chains at the beginning of the movement for moral management in mental health treatment. Restraints may have been removed in some cases, but these restraints were being removed from people who were quite literally prisoners. If any problems ensued, they could be quelled simply by throwing the prisoner into solitary confinement. The moral management movement created an asylum building boom, and thus raised the rate of people being held captive by the state for alleged “mental illness” substantially.

Given that R.D. Laing, by his own admission, considered psychiatric hospitals necessary, I wouldn’t rank him up there with the great liberators, and if he was not a liberator, he was a collaborator with the psychiatric plantation system. Perhaps there were two faces to him as far as R.D. Laing was concerned; if so, I guess you can choose the face that most pleases you. I much prefer honesty and integrity myself. It is, quite frankly, less deceitful.

ACTION ALERT to Free Alison Hymes!

Free Alison Hymes From Western State Hospital… We were asked to post the following updated alert for Alison by her friend, Frank. Please address any questions you may have directly to Frank at:

Alison Hymes

Resident and longtime MindFreedom member Alison Hymes, on Wednesday, 7/3/13, had a re-commitment hearing. This hearing marked the 6 month, 1/2 year point, in her imprisonment at Western State Hospital in Staunton, Virginia.

The result of this hearing is that she was given another 45 days in the hospital after which she will be given another hearing. The result could have been worse as potentially she could have had to wait another 6 months for a hearing.

The bad news, according to Alison, is that the staff at the hospital are not talking about releasing her. She wishes to return to her condominium, her community, and the life she was living before imprisonment at Western State Hospital.

Talking to her over the phone it is not always easy to understand what she is saying. Her words are slurred and garbled. She claims that this is so because the hospital staff won’t return  her dentures to her. Dentures they took from her.

In a previous alert we claimed she was taking lamictal rather than a neuroleptic. Following a previous hearing with her treatment team this is no longer true. Apparently her doctor thought it necessary to put her back on the drug prolixin. She is receiving shots of prolixin, a long acting injectable, every two weeks. She is also still receiving a daily dose of anti-convulsion drug lamictal.

She had gained much weight since being put on seroquel, the atypical neuroleptic she was receiving during her last hospitalization, and she is very sensitive, as you can well imagine anybody would be, about this issue. She doesn’t like the effects of the prolixin, she understands it is a harmful substance, with a potential for doing her a great deal of damage, and she wishes to be taken off it.

Alison was the recipient of a kidney following lithium poisoning after a previous incident of psychiatric malpractice. Her friends and allies worry that keeping her at Western State Hospital
for any length of time will only further endanger her health. She says the medical staff at Western say she needs an operation, on an ulcer, but that the hospital is slow to get around to operating.

Asked what she would tell other members of MindFreedom she said, “I need to get out as soon as possible. I need to get out.”

Direct Actions

Please, contact the following state officials, and urge them to free Alison Hymes from her confinement and maltreatment at Western State Hospital.

James M. Martinez
Director, Office of Mental Health
of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services
(804) 371-0091

Senator Tim Kaine
(202) 224-4024

Senator Mark R. Warner
(202) 224-2023

Delegate David Toscano
(434) 220-1660

Delegate Rob Bell
(434) 975-0902

Sample message. (In your own words.)

I am writing (or calling) to complain about the forced drugging and false imprisonment of Charlottesville resident Alison Hymes at Western State Hospital in Staunton, Virginia. She is a danger to no one. She has been detained at the hospital for over 6 months now, and her continued detention serves no purpose. She is also being given periodic injections of prolixin, a powerful  neuroleptic drug, that is affecting her health in negative ways. Please, stop the abuse, release her from her confinement to WesternStateHospital, and allow her to return home to her community, her life, and her friends.

Update on Alison

Alison Hymes reports that she recently had the 45 day hearing she had been
scheduled following her 6 months hearing. She was at this hearing given another
two months. “Two months”, she says, “is too way too long”. She is appealing the

Suggested direct action

If you haven’t written the commissioner and representatives from Virginia,
please, do so. Also Alison would ask that you write or call the present Governor
of Virginia, Bob McDowell, to express your dismay at her confinement, and
to demand her release from Western State Hospital.

Governor Robert F. McDonnell

Mental patient forswears hospitalization for punishment in prison

If anybody thinks the horrors of forced psychiatric treatment over blown, Las Vegas Channel 13 ABC News has a story about a man who prefers prison. In fact, so chagrined at his treatment was he that he confessed to murder. I imagine if this man had had a little more patience, he would have been released back into society, eventually, no questions  asked.

The heading to the story reads, Man confesses to murder to get out of psychiatric hospital.

On July 9, a detective with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department received a phone call from [Henry] Perez.

Calls to police stations are fairly common.

Perez told the detective that he wanted to confess to a murder that had occurred several years ago on Calcaterra Circle.

Phone confessions of murder, not so much.

Perez also told the detective that he wanted to confess to the murder because jail was better than being in a mental facility.

There, you’ve heard it straight from the horses mouth. If he has any reason for lying, it isn’t because life is a breeze in the mental hospital.

Perez was being held at Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital. This is the same Rawson-Neal Hospital that received a lot of bad press recently for dumping, via bus ticket, discharged patients in the neighboring state of California. Rawson-Neal actually lost its accreditation over patient dumping incidents.

The under story here is that in the psychiatric hospital, where forensic cases are concerned, that is, where somebody pleaded Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity, the lengths of stay are usually longer than if the prisoner went into a jail, or than if a patient were admitted by the commitment hearing. Cruel and unusual punishment has not become the issue it should be where that cruel and unusual punishment is interpreted ‘treatment for diseases of the mind’.

Apparently, somebody has their civil and human rights work cut out for them.