“Can You Hear Me Now?”
by William Tony Julian #110970; Sussex I State Prison; Waverly, Virginia
Many of you have watched the wireless phone commercial. You know the one I’m speaking of. Every few steps the actor stops. Asks into his wireless phone, “ Can you hear me now?” He smiles at the instant response. Then walks on, only to start his scene over again.
Every time I see this marvelous invention, I am in awe. Not so much by the wireless phone, but rather man’s ingenuity. If it will make the world more convenient, a better place to live, work and play, then someone will give us another technological breakthrough in the form of a gadget. With each new devise we walk around in circles, mumbling to ourselves, “ how did we ever get along without this gadget?”
Coupled with this great ingenuity to make the world more convenient for living, working, playing and staying awhile, is the utopian utilities of false prophets. Visit with me yet another of man’s inventions- Prison! Another gadget for convenience.
In the late sixties, politicians began preaching the grand “deinstitutionalization” scheme, to rid the nation of our dark, dank and outdated mental hospitals . We were pitched the idea that a more cost effective way to treat the mentally ill was to establish community based mental health programs. The idea of this altruistic, cost effective scheme delighted all of us at the time. We were headed into a new era of mental health care. However, the concept never became a reality.
As soon as the mental health hospitals were emptied, the politicians were on a new soapbox. This time preaching a drug war. “Punitive anti –crime “ was born. This epidemical attitude by politicians sparked media frenzy. Citizens became worried sick that loved ones would step out the front door, only to return a few minutes later confirmed drug addicts.
This would change too, as our attention was diverted to yet another direction. The rising taxes! Rather than stem the influx of drugs across the borders into the US, it was geared toward the recreational user. Results were immediate. The rising cost of this drug war was causing the rising voice of discontent to rise.
Sweeping raids were showing needed results. Positive attrition was accomplished . But the recreational users were, along with the mentally ill, being rounded up. As quickly as they were arrested, they were run through the judicial system-. then to jails or prisons.
Citizens seeing these drugs arrests on television, began to feel confident in their communities. This is why no one was prepared for the consequences that were about to explode upon us- these thousands and thousands of arrests, flowing through the judicial system, filling up prisons across the nation.
Once more, politicians rose atop their soapboxes to preach the urgent , immediate need for more prisons. In 2004, the prison domination still continues. Only now, it’s privatized by corporations who deem crime as the new billion dollar business. All with the same rehabilitative void.
The conservative estimate of the number of people with mental disorders in US prisons is three hundred thousand. Their psychological disorders range from schizophrenia, depression, major depression, bi polar disorder, serious impulse control, paranoia, psychosthemia, serious suicidal tendencies.
“ A well disciplined institution facilitates correctional objectives, permits prisoners to live safely with one another. It allows them to concentrate on self- improvement rather than self- protection. This is the fundamental requirement for institutional order.” With this directive in mind, realize that our prisons and prison directors have exceeded this pre-preventive directive. As in constitutional violations. Especially toward the mentally ill.
The mentally ill prisoners are subjected to “chemical restraints,” chemical cocktails of psychotropics. This chemical cocktail restraint usually consists of an anti psychotic drug called “haldol”. So powerful to the nervous system, it can cause lethal reactions, mild strokes, heart attacks, convulsions and temporary blindness. To counter the above dangers with “haldol”, a pill is given three times daily. It is called “ Cogentin”. The drug is given to control the nervous system and helps to control muscle spasms and other Parkinsons-like symptoms.
Daily side effects to haldol are muscle aches (sometimes severe), deadened motor skills, clouded interpretational abilities, severe lack of ability to concentrate, a dead pan facial stare, no attention span and memory loss.
In 2000, the Bureau of Justice statistics reported that in Virginia there were 2,540 prisoners on “chemical restraints”- psychotropic drugs. Then a confidential report was released in California on the widespread use of Psychotropics. They were being used to control the mentally ill in the state’s eleven youth institutions. The report was released in conjunction with an investigation brought about by a class-action lawsuit. The report’s disclosure came one week after two more teenage boys had hung themselves. In February 2004, State Senator Gloria Ramera, who sits on the corrections oversight committee stated , “widespread use of so called “chemical restraints” is intolerable! This is not the 1930’s. Even in mental hospitals, I thought we had gotten rid of these practices long ago. We have a serious problem, and before another teenager commits suicide, the California Youth Authority has got to get it’s act together.”
“Intolerable” is too soft to use for this inhumane treatment. “Damnable” is more appropriate as well as “cruel and inhumane”.
Added to this is the placement of the mentally ill in supermax prisons. It is well established that prisoners with no mental illness have extreme difficulties coping with the stress, frustration, elevated harshness, negativity, idleness and boredom. Prisoners with mental disorders tend to have, in addition, extreme depth perception disorders, despair, anguish, confusion and a frightening loneliness.
For years now, prisoners have been trying to reach out to the world to explain these over the edge, harsh and inhumane treatments directed at them. But most of their pleas for help are drowned out by the politicians who preach that “they are bad guys just looking for sympathy.” Now though, it is realized through class action lawsuit investigations that the conditions described by many inmates are a terrible reality that can no longer be drowned out by politicians with evil to hide.
The only “gadget” to right these wrongs has been in existence since every human was born-conscience. It is time for this nation to take a real stand for democracy. Stop the fraudulent treatment of our own! Accountability! Then other nations will recognize that we say what me mean and do what we say on our own soil.
I was inspired to write this article by Andrew Skeeter #234061. A mentally ill prisoner at Sussex 1 State Prison, a maximum security prison. Andrew will talk to you and then ask, “ can you hear me now ?.” It should be noted that Andrew was diagnosed with mental illness prior to his conviction. He receives Psychotropics.