Ethics Quote Of The Day: Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick

“Whether or not the alleged institutional abuses are ultimately proven, the reality is this: A severely ill young man wasted away, smeared in his own feces, under the watchful eyes of multiple health care workers, corrections staff, and other inmates. His death will force no accountability and will bring about no change. The illness from which Jamycheal Mitchell suffered could have been better managed through medication, proper treatment, and simple respect. The illness that allows the rest of us to jail great masses of dangerously sick people and mistreat them until they die? It is increasingly seeming to be untreatable and incurable.”

—-Slate’s legal pundit Dahlia Lithwick, writing about the case of 24-year-old Jamycheal Mitchell, who was found dead in his cell at Hampton Roads (Virginia) Regional Jail in Virginia.

Jamycheal Mitchell: Almost nobody thinks his life mattered.

Jamycheal Mitchell: Almost nobody thinks his life mattered.

There is a $60 million lawsuit being filed by Jamycheal Mitchell’s family over his death as a result of an astounding combination of incompetence and negligence. Mitchell suffered from schizophrenia and a bipolar disorder, and was arrested four months prior to his death for stealing a can of Mountain Dew, a Snickers bar, and a Zebra Cake from a 7-Eleven.  He was allowed to waive counsel despite his mental and emotional impairments, and bail was set at $3,000  for stealing less than five dollars worth of junk food. A judge twice ordered him moved to a state mental health hospital, but no beds were available, so he was allowed to languish, and starve to death, in jail.

The videotape of his last days in prison were also erased forever, because, officials say, they didn’t show anything irregular. I was asked if this qualified as spoliation, the intentional and illegal destruction of evidence when a court proceeding is looming or and investigation is underway. No, because spoliation can only take place when a legal proceeding is inevitable or in process, and also because government institutions are remarkably unlikely to ever be held to account for the practice. This was not technically spoliation, because there was no legal proceeding yet, though one could have been predicted by an idiot. Similarly, Hillary Clinton destroying 0ver 30,000 supposedly “purely personal” emails  before they could be demanded by a Senate Committee (and hearings are not legal proceeding) were not technically spoliation. Ethically, it is a distinction without a difference.

Writes Lithwick,

“Despite years of scandals and exposés, the shortage of beds in mental health hospitals in Virginia still hasn’t been redressed. When I wrote about the case in September, various investigations were being launched, but their results are either secret, partial, inconclusive, or arm-waving and vague. Mitchell’s story upsettingly never became the national scandal that it should be.In the year since Mitchell was arrested, two separate reports by state agencies have blamed a series of “systematic failures” for Mitchell’s continued detention when he should have been in a mental health facility for treatment.”

Of course, blaming “systems” are a classic dodge for government managers to avoid individual accountability. The lawsuit names 31 state employees, including Gail Hart, a clerk in the admissions department of Eastern State Hospital. The Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services investigation determined that when she received the judicial order for Mitchell to be transferred to the hospital,  Hart stuck it into a drawer in her desk and forgot about it. The paperwork only turned up after a guard found Mitchell lying dead in his bunk, his feces smeared all over the walls of his cell and his urine in puddles on the floor.

The Behavioral Health report, released in March of this year, catalogued failures across the system far beyond the mishandled transfer order, such as lost messages, misallocated and inadequate resources, overwhelmed, incompetent and underpaid staff, but could not not explain why no action was taken as Mitchell’s  condition spiraled into death while he was in the state’s charge.  Douglas Bevelacqua, a former state inspector general who has investigated mental health services in Virginia, told Lithwick,  “Regrettably, after reading [the reports], I cannot answer the basic question of how did corrections staff and mental health workers allowed Mitchell to waste away in plain sight for 3½ months.”

Oh, I can: they didn’t give a damn. In addition,  the federal government doesn’t give a damn, the public doesn’t give a damn, and the news media doesn’t give a damn. This is an across the board cultural disgrace of long standing: unless the mistreatment of prisoners and neglect of the mentally ill can be attached to an attractive and sympathetic victim with appeal to voting blocs and news media consumers, it doesn’t matter how cruel, negligent or unjust a particular incident is. This is a Presidential campaign year: has any candidate raised this issue? Does Black Lives Matter think that Jamycheal Mitchell mattered?

Mitchell’s family has  made a formal request to the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division to open an investigation. It is absurd that they should have to ask. The Virginia situation is a scandal of long-standing affecting many thousands of the most vulnerable of citizens, many of them black, almost all of them poor. This should have been high on a rational and politicized Justice Department’s list of priorities. Ah, but Hillary Clinton crony and Democrat Terry McAuliffe is the Governor of Virginia. What this Justice Department considers the highest priority it has are the public bathroom problems of a infinitesimal  percentage of the population being inconvenienced by an admittedly hysterical and dumb North Carolina law…because there a votes and contributions and talking points in it. The news media follows the same path.

It is estimated that about 350,000 mentally ill prisoners are in state prisons, and another 250, 000 are living on the street. Being able to use the public bathroom that makes them most comfortable is not their most pressing problem: staying alive when they are considered a societal and institutional nuisances is. They don’t vote, and they aren’t sympathetic, photogenic victims, however. Thus our epically political, supposedly non-partisan Justice Department concludes that bathroom issues of the estimated 700,000 transgender Americans are far more important and urgent than the fates of people like Jamycheal Mitchell, especially when allows it to pick a fight with conservatives in an election year.

Brava to Lithwick for shining much-needed light on the dark and shameful aspect of U.S. political and societal priorities.

________________________

 Pointer: Fred

 

35 thoughts on “Ethics Quote Of The Day: Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick

  1. Thank you for having the ability to see and the courage to report this travesty in our “politically correct” but ethically corrupt society.

  2. Many, many years ago, we had places to put the insane but most were closed because if they were not harming society, they should be set free. Then when they did cause problems to society, the police are called in to remove them and if they resisted, they were sent to jail. Many people now blame the police/jailers when something bad happens to them when in their custody. The police/jailers are in a no win situation.

      • Prisons became mental institutions after the UN took control of the world. Only the names of the institutions and patients (“inmates”) were changed. Public access to communicate with patients (“inmates”) has been increasingly restricted so public awareness of the problem is limited.

    • Yeah, I found the BLM jab weird. For all their faults, this is exactly the type of story BLM activists rally around, and bring to the mainstream media’s radar.

      • That’s obviously untrue. I mean… You look at the cases BLM have brought to the forefront in the timeframe we’re talking about, they chose different battles. Losing battles.

        They picked the Michael Browns and the Eric Garners, ignoring the Tamir Rices (at least until it was a year old and mostly over), the John Crawfords and the Jamycheal Mitchells. It’s weird. BLM has a point, but they go about bringing it up in the most ass-backwards way, with the most odious people at their head, and with the kind of toxic messaging you’d expect from a racial supremacist group. It’s designed to fail. It’s like they didn’t WANT to succeed, or that they think their success should be determined by the rules of a system that doesn’t exist.

        • I put up links to show that they were talking about Mitchell pretty much right after it happened. Tamir Rice was a hotbed issue pretty much right after it happened. Crawford was an issue right after it happened. Without BLM publicizing these cases and causing them to trend in the mainstream media, they would have never been known at all. What you assert is objectively untrue.

          • Come on deery, you and I, we know those names because we talk about these issues, and we’ve been talking about them since before BLM existed.

            I’ll give you that BLM sets the tone on these issues…. But think about what the public has seen; the hoodies, hands up, don’t shoot, I can’t breathe. If BLM wanted to focus on the cases that were winners; the Rices, the Crawfords, the McBrides, they’ve done an AWFUL job of it, and that goes to my point: Even though BLM has a point, it’s like a nugget of gold in a mountain of shit, they’re just incapable for whatever reason of getting that point across intelligibly.

            • I’ll give you that BLM sets the tone on these issues…. But think about what the public has seen; the hoodies, hands up, don’t shoot, I can’t breathe.

              Those were the first three major cases that BLM became involved in. Mitchell, Rice, Crawford came afterwards in the timeline. I think they have focused a lot of attention on Rice and Crawford as the mainstream became more involved, which provides a nice feedback loop. But there are a lot of cases out there unfortunately. And not every one of those cases gets media attention. Without video, which the news people love, a lot of these injustices never see the light of day.

              • “Those were the first three major cases that BLM became involved in. Mitchell, Rice, Crawford came afterwards in the timeline.”

                Except Michael Brown was shot four days after John Crawford, August 5th and 9th, 2014. And let’s be real…. Garner was in July, Brown and Crawford were in August, and Rice was in November. We’re talking a spread of 120 days.

                “Without video, which the news people love, a lot of these injustices never see the light of day.”

                Excuse me? Three of the largest cases that BLM focused on (Martin, Brown, and Gray) weren’t on video, Rice and Crawford were.

                But none of that refutes my assertion that BLM is chronically bad at getting their message out. You’re inadvertently reinforcing it. Would it kill you to just give that the nod? Just be honest enough to say: You know what, you’re right, they’re awful at PR? They have a point, but they’re poor at communicating it? Does you really believe that these guys are GOOD at communication?

                • But none of that refutes my assertion that BLM is chronically bad at getting their message out. You’re inadvertently reinforcing it. Would it kill you to just give that the nod? Just be honest enough to say: You know what, you’re right, they’re awful at PR? They have a point, but they’re poor at communicating it? Does you really believe that these guys are GOOD at communication?

                  Hmmm. Actually, I think the opposite, they tend to be excellent at getting their message out (if not 100% at it, though no one is). Keep in mind, BLM isn’t really a formal organization as such, it’s more of a movement, made up of thousands of people. And they have been able to get media attention using not professional media spokespeople, not press releases, not pr firms, but twitter hashtags and Facebook mentions. The method has its drawbacks of course, anyone can tweet out anything and attach #blacklivesmatter to it. And they don’t have nearly as much control over which subject matter will catch the media attention and spark a national debate. They, much to the frustration of many and despite many attempts to persuade them otherwise, are mostly apolitical, refusing to endorse political parties and work within the government apparatus.

                  But for an amorphous movement that, it would seem to my cynical eyes, could easily be taken over by any agent provocateur, as there is literally no gatekeeper that would prevent them from doing so, it is doing far better than I expected. I would have thought that it would go the Occupy Wall Street path by now, and it hasn’t, much to my surprise. It seems to be lasting and growing in strength, and it is affecting real change in policing, sentencing, and governing. I don’t know how much more anyone can expect out of a hashtag.

                  • “Hmmm. Actually, I think the opposite, they tend to be excellent at getting their message out (if not 100% at it, though no one is).”

                    For the love of. You know what? What is the BLM message? Because I’d have a hard time putting my finger on it, but you’re a proponent, you should be able to enunciate it, right?

                    Except that if you did, I could spend an afternoon linking thousands of contradictory views and policies coming out of the movement, on a spectrum from the well intentioned and on point to the downright hateful and racist. And you know it. You even said why: It’s a bloody hashtag movement, no one can control who gets on the train or who says what. You seem to be saying something like: “Well, for something that’s on an innately flawed media, they’re pretty good at what they’re doing.” Which is kinda like being said, “Well, despite this pie being made from horseshit, it’s pleasantly fragrant.” I’m just saying, I still wouldn’t eat it.

                    • For the love of. You know what? What is the BLM message? Because I’d have a hard time putting my finger on it, but you’re a proponent, you should be able to enunciate it, right?

                      You know they have a website now and everything? 😛 http://blacklivesmatter.com/ You can read all about it, if you are so inclined. BLM is deliberately decentralized, so what you see as a bug, they see as a feature. After reading about COINTELPRO, and the way the government deliberately tore apart the last civil rights movement, I don’t think it is necessarily a bad strategy, or at least I can see the thinking behind it. There will be thousands of contradictory things linked to BLM, by any idiot with a cell phone and a twitter account. But the things that catch on with the broader community end up being what is commonly accepted as Black Lives Matter. Crowdsourcing the movement, in a way, with the good and bad that go with it.

                      And like I said, BLM has been fairly successful so far. They have changed policies. They have some politicians running scared, and lead the outrage that caused others to go down in flames. They have spearheaded changes in policing in cities nationwide, and dominated headlines since pretty much the inception of their organization, which is only about three years old. There are organizations that have been around for a hundred years that would kill to have that type of influence and press. Whatever they are doing, by whatever crazy method, it’s working.

                    • So… Just to recap… You’re answer to “What is the BLM message? Because I’d have a hard time putting my finger on it, but you’re a proponent, you should be able to enunciate it, right?”

                      was:

                      “You know they have a website now and everything?😛 http://blacklivesmatter.com/ You can read all about it, if you are so inclined. BLM is deliberately decentralized, so what you see as a bug, they see as a feature.”

                      Did you actually mean that to be an answer to what I wrote, or was that a dodge?

                      But have you even clicked on that link?

                      I mean… Please. It’s kind of funny. Start with the “What We Believe” section, and try to find anything about body cameras. It reads like a regressive circle jerk. Black women, trans affirming, queer affirming, diversity, intergenerational… I mean… Anyone who actually supports black lives matter might leave this website wondering when their movement got co-opted by (I’m having a really hard time with a label here…. It’s like every group I hate came home to roost in this website; The LGBT alphabet soup mafia, radical feminism, regressive Marxists, SJWs, and bleeding heart liberalism. I couldn’t satirize the phenomenon of professional grievance culture better than their attempt to put forth their held beliefs.

                  • ” I would have thought that it would go the Occupy Wall Street path by now, and it hasn’t, much to my surprise. It seems to be lasting and growing in strength, and it is affecting real change in policing, sentencing, and governing.”

                    Occupy fizzled when it did because it got cold, and slacktivists aren’t famous for their endurance. I think BLM has already reached its peak, and we’ve already started to see a decline. I mean, let’s be real… The cases we talk about are from 2014: BLM has generated all the political currency it will ever have, and has to spend it wisely on the changes it can buy, while the currency is still viable.

                    • Occupy fizzled when it did because it got cold, and slacktivists aren’t famous for their endurance. I think BLM has already reached its peak, and we’ve already started to see a decline. I mean, let’s be real… The cases we talk about are from 2014: BLM has generated all the political currency it will ever have, and has to spend it wisely on the changes it can buy, while the currency is still viable.

                      The Occupy Movement fizzled due to extensive surveillance and infiltration by government agents and banks.

                      It was more sophisticated than we had imagined: new documents show that the violent crackdown on Occupy last fall – so mystifying at the time – was not just coordinated at the level of the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, and local police. The crackdown, which involved, as you may recall, violent arrests, group disruption, canister missiles to the skulls of protesters, people held in handcuffs so tight they were injured, people held in bondage till they were forced to wet or soil themselves –was coordinated with the big banks themselves.

                      The Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, in a groundbreaking scoop that should once more shame major US media outlets (why are nonprofits now some of the only entities in America left breaking major civil liberties news?), filed this request. The document – reproduced here in an easily searchable format – shows a terrifying network of coordinated DHS, FBI, police, regional fusion center, and private-sector activity so completely merged into one another that the monstrous whole is, in fact, one entity: in some cases, bearing a single name, the Domestic Security Alliance Council. And it reveals this merged entity to have one centrally planned, locally executed mission. The documents, in short, show the cops and DHS working for and with banks to target, arrest, and politically disable peaceful American citizens.

                      The documents, released after long delay in the week between Christmas and New Year, show a nationwide meta-plot unfolding in city after city in an Orwellian world: six American universities are sites where campus police funneled information about students involved with OWS to the FBI, with the administrations’ knowledge (p51); banks sat down with FBI officials to pool information about OWS protesters harvested by private security; plans to crush Occupy events, planned for a month down the road, were made by the FBI – and offered to the representatives of the same organizations that the protests would target; and even threats of the assassination of OWS leaders by sniper fire – by whom? Where? – now remain redacted and undisclosed to those American citizens in danger, contrary to standard FBI practice to inform the person concerned when there is a threat against a political leader (p61).
                      https://web.archive.org/web/20140402194133/http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2012/dec/29/fbi-coordinated-crackdown-occupy

                      So you can see why the BLM is wary about centralizing.
                      Perhaps the BLM movement has reached the limits of what it can do. I have no idea. I know many of the more prominent activist are starting to be lured by the mainstream media, and many of the things they protested about in the beginning are starting to just be accepted wisdom now (e.g. police body cameras, tracking shooting deaths, erasing sentencing disparities, de-militarizing the police, ending mass incarceration). So in that sense, the fire might have gone out from the movement.

                      Now authorities tend to be a bit more savvy when reacting to police shootings. Once the video is out, they announce the investigation, suspend the officer even. Sometimes they might even charge the officer. That also dampens outrage and protests when those steps are taken.

                    • “The Occupy Movement fizzled due to extensive surveillance and infiltration by government agents and banks.”

                      Please. The Occupy Movement fizzled because it had no leadership, was incoherent, encompassed a lot of tag-along malcontents, never put forth serious or practical proposals, had no leadership or incompetent leadership, and made a mockery of its own “movement” whatever it was.

                      I don’t admire BLM, but at least it has an identifiable point of view and objective. It believes that no blacks ever commit crimes, or if they do, they should be allowed to resist arrest without consequences, and that if a white police officer kills a black suspect or perp, or kills a black citizen by accident of mistake, it is a presumptive race-based killing. That’s at least something we can understand.

                    • Please. The Occupy Movement fizzled because it had no leadership, was incoherent, encompassed a lot of tag-along malcontents, never put forth serious or practical proposals, had no leadership or incompetent leadership, and made a mockery of its own “movement” whatever it was.

                      I don’t admire BLM, but at least it has an identifiable point of view and objective. It believes that no blacks ever commit crimes, or if they do, they should be allowed to resist arrest without consequences, and that if a white police officer kills a black suspect or perp, or kills a black citizen by accident of mistake, it is a presumptive race-based killing. That’s at least something we can understand.

                      Did you read any of the links I posted, or is this opinion based on something solid anyone can follow along with? I have never heard anyone from BLM assert that black people do not commit crimes, nor that every police shooting is unjustified, nor that one should be allowed to resist arrest without consequence.

                      They have correctly pointed out the over-policing in minority communities, and the deliberate targeting of minorities by the police, like in the stop and frisks in NYC as an example. They are aware that police must subdue suspects who might be resisting arrest and committing other illegal acts, but “subduing” is not a license for abuse, and such efforts should be commiserate with actually putting the person in custody. Police should not be allowed to continue to physically punish suspects once they are in custody and confined. They protest the notion that the police narratives of what occurred during a shooting should always be taken at face value, rather than be investigated by independent 3rd party officials. Which notion do you disagree with?

                    • You and Chris really are revealing your creamy Alinsky center, these days, aren’t you?

                      I watched Occcupy in action; I pronounced it hopeless and a wast of time and attention immediately, and I was 100% correct. The fact that the group was also fighting authorities who regarded it as a nuisance was merely a symptom of the larger reasons for its demise. The links are interesting, but they elevate OWS to a victim status it never deserved. It killed itself.

                    • You and Chris really are revealing your creamy Alinsky center, these days, aren’t you?

                      I don’t know Jack. I think it is you who clearly reveals his biases here. This whole side conversation started from an unwarranted swipe at BLM for not getting involved in Mitchell’s situation, when it turns out that they had done so more than 10 months ago, well before anyone else in the media.

                      It is you who is resorting to ad hominem attacks. I try to support my statements with facts and links, so that anyone following along can draw their own conclusions from the facts presented. If you come with a different conclusion than I do from that, so be it. But I try not to just pronounce things from on high and declare it so. It tends not to lead to a very good conversation.

                    • Ugh. You do not understand what an ad hominem attack is, and I am really, really sick of explaining it.

                      I have no biases regarding Zimmerman at all. None. What bias? He was the victim of bias, that’s all: you can read my entire coverage of this disgraceful incident, and I have been correct and objective on the law and the ethics. I have said from the start that Zimmerman was reckless, irresponsible and hyper-suspicious, and launched a needless event that spun out of control into tragedy. That did not make him worthy of being a national pariah, and he was cynically and cruelly turned from a jerk into a monster for political gain. He broke no laws, and Marin also behaved recklessly and foolishly. He ended up dead, and George ended up a ruined man.

                      Only bias causes people to still be angry at Zimmerman. They wanted…want… to tar him as a racist. In USA Today, a letter writer says she believes that Zimmerman shot Martin because he wanted to. No evidence. No logic. Just “narrative.” Only ideology can make you or anyone adopts such a fictional interpretation. He was punished for his bad judgment far beyond what the law and fairness dictate, and yet whole swathes of the Left will not accept facts, admit they were wrong, and and stop.

                      My Alinsky comment was based on your absurd victimization theory and martyrizing of OWS. Hell, I could have made their movement work. Anyone with any political or organizing skill could have. It was incompetent. Don’t blame anyone else. It was one of the most embarrassing, sloppy, self-absorbed, navel-gazing protests of all time. Make them be accountable.

                      As for BLM, as long as they include the Mike Brown shooting and Martin’s in their litany, I know they are liars, and racists, and not interested in justice but in political leverage by victim-mongering.

          • BLM didn’t publicize Mitchell sufficiently for it to pass my desk, and I’m looking. The fact is, it is hard to make Mitchell look like a racist incident. African Americans were also involved in his mistreatment.

            • BLM didn’t publicize Mitchell sufficiently for it to pass my desk, and I’m looking. The fact is, it is hard to make Mitchell look like a racist incident. African Americans were also involved in his mistreatment.

              So first they didn’t say anything. Now its they didn’t publicize it enough for your tastes. OK. http://www.dailykos.com/story/2015/08/31/1417080/-The-horrifying-story-of-Jamycheal-Mitchell-who-starved-to-death-in-jail-after-stealing-a-Snickers The fact is, they wrote about it and publicized it way before anyone did. I don’t think anyone is alleging direct racism in this case. Perhaps systematic racism, where things involving black people are automatically devalued and discounted. But I haven’t read anything about racism, just institutional indifference and neglect.

              I have no biases regarding Zimmerman at all.

              ?
              I don’t think I’ve mentioned Zimmerman.

              My Alinsky comment was based on your absurd victimization theory and martyrizing of OWS. Hell, I could have made their movement work. Anyone with any political or organizing skill could have. It was incompetent. Don’t blame anyone else. It was one of the most embarrassing, sloppy, self-absorbed, navel-gazing protests of all time. Make them be accountable.

              So, after reading the documents linked above, did it occur to you, even for a second, given the infiltration efforts by the government into influential positions within the Occupy movement, that perhaps deliberate sabotage to make that way may have occurred? Look to the past and their efforts within the civil rights movement and the American Indian movements as examples of how that happened. If nothing else, contrary to government statements, COINTELPRO has not disbanded, just merely rebranded.

              As for BLM, as long as they include the Mike Brown shooting and Martin’s in their litany, I know they are liars, and racists, and not interested in justice but in political leverage by victim-mongering.

              Ok. So all efforts to make police more accountable to the citizens they serve, to question the disparities in policing, to curb police abuses all should be discounted because you disagree with their stance on two of the (many, many) injustices they have pointed out, as well as systematic failures? If they took both those cases out of their litany, and no longer referred to them, would you suddenly become a BLM supporter?

              • “So, after reading the documents linked above, did it occur to you, even for a second, given the infiltration efforts by the government into influential positions within the Occupy movement, that perhaps deliberate sabotage to make that way may have occurred?”

                1. The assertion you made was that these efforts are what sunk OWS. My assertion is that this is nonsense. I never said they did or didn’t occur. A mob is camping out in the middle of parks and making it hard to remove them: I would assume authorities would have various strategies to break their resolve and support, to avoid violence if for no other reason. The fact is that the reason OWS failed is that it was incompetent. As I said. As I predicted.

                2. I don’t know what you think I’m biased about, then (the post was about Zimmerman, and my position was based on objective analysis. I have no problem with flagging misconduct from George, and no stake in his reputation or public image.

                3. “Ok. So all efforts to make police more accountable to the citizens they serve, to question the disparities in policing, to curb police abuses all should be discounted because you disagree with their stance on two…”

                See, this is where you discreedit yourself and reveal ideological, yellow-tinged spectacles. I don’t “disagree.” The facts, as determined by parties who were determined to find racism and animus in both bases, show that neither Brown nor Martin were murdered out of racial animus. It’s not a disagreement. It is one group, apparently including you, that intentionally perpetuates a false narrative for political advantage. It doesn’t matter how many real example of excessive police force or systemic bias there is: if a group is incapable of distinguishing between real bias and animus and cases where a these factors are not involved, then that group is untrustworthy and not worthy of attention, credibility or respect. If it intentionally ignores fair findings of fact to continue disinformation and divisive rhetoric, that’s far worse. Two is plenty to make that call. If an expert witness is found to have lied on the stand once, it doesn’t matter if he was honest and right a thousand times. BLM lies, or, in the best spin, can’t tell an innocent man from a racist killer if he’s the wrong color. When it stops using Martin and Brown to rouse the troops (and Garner; and Rice—there are a lot more than two false narratives), I’ll reconsider my contempt for it.

  3. A number of years ago, the State of Texas revised it’s Mental Health Code to reflect the changing times. This was in the late 70’s, early 80’s, and a large number of “back wards” were closed, and it became untenable to keep someone in one if they were not “a danger to themselves or others”. This was defined as being overtly aggressive, or actively suicidal. At no time was the person’s ability to support him/herself to be considered, because, after all, they had the right to take the same risks you, I, or anybody else had. Unfortunately, going along with the law of unintended consequences, most of the folks directly affected by this sea change had no survival skills at all, and many had no actual way to stay alive. The original concept was that the residents of the “back wards” would be released into the custody of county mental health agencies. The only catch was that the counties had no funding to deal with this massive influx of ‘patients’ and had no place to put them. The proponents of this measure didn’t care…the “poor, downtrodden ‘inmates’ were at last released from their durance vile and allowed to live their own lives. No matter than in those ‘back wards’ they were safe, fed, had a place to sleep and a roof over their heads…they were no longer being held ‘against their will’. They were FREE.

    I am almost certain that there will be those who disagree vehemently with this analysis. I could likely predict who they will be. However, I would point to several statistics to bolster my argument…the population of homeless burgeoned, street deaths among the homeless likewise burgeoned. What did not was the degree of involvement of the proponents of this measure. They, apparently, walked away once it was passed. Many years later, I had the opportunity to work with a corporation that had bid on and was awarded a contract to attempt to deal with this problem. After 5 years, in approximately 2008, the county in which I live was FINALLY able to come up with enough funds to provide services for these people. Unhappily, deaths among the mentally-ill homeless are still too high and too many of the people who would ordinarily be safe, secure and well-fed in a ‘back ward’ are living under an Interstate bridge, with little or no hope, and only a wild guess as to where their next meal will come from.

    I suspect that this is much of what happened to this young man…he attempted to solve his ‘next meal’ problem and that attempt was fatal to him. I regret that I have little faith remaining in a system based on ‘compassion’ unless it looks at all facets of the problem, including individuals ability to participate in that system. I suppose I am more interested in a system, whatever it’s faults, that promoted individual survival.

    • Agreed. This is one of my pet hobby horses. Advocates (formerly known as pressure groups) militated for the rights of the mentally ill back in the ’60s. (I think the Kennedys were big on this, maybe because their father had their sister lobotomized because she was a little rebellious.) So for decades, the streets have become our mental institutions. Brilliant.

      My best friend from high school was our valedictorian and went off to Princeton (of all places) on a scholarship and promptly came down with full-blown paranoid schizophrenia. He lived under a bridge for fifteen years or so because he wouldn’t take his medications because, well, he was paranoid. He was convinced the drugs were intended to kill him. Last I knew he was living in a house provided by his mother and his siblings. Just anecdotal evidence, but I’m big on anecdotes, personally.

      And speaking of families, where was this guy’s family when their son and brother was sick? I guess only the government is our brother’s keeper these days. They’re certainly all on the same team when it comes to managing their suit for damages. I wish they’d been as diligent in getting a social worker involved on his behalf.

      In any event, I think undiagnosed and untreated mental illness is probably the biggest problem we face as a society.

      • And speaking of families where was this guy’s family…

        They knew he was in jail, but as he did not have them on the visitors list, they were denied any visitation despite their efforts. He did not have them on the list because he was mentally ill and was not stable enough to do so. A very ugly, and thoroughly preventable situation.

          • Where was his family when he was so hungry he had to steal some food at a convenience store?

            He is mentally ill. He probably did not “have to” to steal from the store to eat. And, if you have experience with the mentally ill, they often run away and disappear from family because they don’t want treatment, they feel the family is conspiring against them, or they become such a danger or so volatile that members of the family cannot have them around safely.

            I don’t see the need to villianize the family. They made numerous attempts to see Mitchell and look to his well-being, and were denied at every turn. And this was well before there was any money in it for them.

            • Trust me. I know mentally ill people are difficult. But because they have rights they can’t be committed without an act of congress. That’s why most homeless people are mentally ill. Somebody asked them whether they wanted out of a mental institution and whether they’d rather not take their medication. The inmates are literally running the asylum.

              This guy’s situation is not news. It’s not even newsworthy. The left wants government to take care of everything, then it makes it impossible for government to do so, and then it wants to sue the pants off the government when it screws up so a destitute family can become part of the one percent and so liable defendant governments will be punished and learn they shouldn’t screw up. Brilliant.

              • Letting someone starve to death in jail isn’t news? Ok. I’m pretty jaded, but even for me, this seems like an egregious action.

                Yes, I do think in the past we committed way too many people to institutions who could have functioned perfectly fine on their own. We also committed people for the sin of being quirky, when there was nothing wrong with them at all. But I notice that people bring up side issues. This guy was ruled incompetent and ordered to an institution, where everyone agreed he belonged. He was not sent to one because there were no spaces available. And that’s a funding issue. If people don’t want to pay more in taxes to ensure there is sufficient beds available to treat the mentally ill, even ones we all agree are mentally ill, I doubt there will be much movement to increase funding for people who dont think there is anything wrong with them.

                • “Letting someone starve to death in jail isn’t news? Ok. I’m pretty jaded, but even for me, this seems like an egregious action.”

                  I wonder how often it happens and we don’t hear about it?You’d figure with 2.2-something million people in jail, it’s happened more than this. That’s not to say this isn’t newsworthy… But is this the point where we’ve decided to start caring? And if it is, have we only decided to care when the victim is of a certain demographic?

                • Exactly. We’re using our prisons as mental health facilities right now because mental institutions are, for the most part, luxuries for the wealthy.

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