“mentally ill lighter sentences”

8 Nov

Aaghuhg.

Everytime something bad happens, be it this, or this, my first thought isn’t “throw away the key” like many other people. It isn’t “some people are just garbage”.

It’s “some people are broken, and need help”. Mercy. Compassion. Even when it comes down to sex offenders, I believe that there is a mental defect causing the issue, not any deep seeded issue in their moral fibre.

There should not be a “lighter” sentence for the mentally ill. There should be an entirely different resolution altogether. If a mother kills her babies while under the grips of Post Partum Psychosis, a disorder that no doctor looked for or asked about, or one that they thought “went away”, is it really all her fault? If a man is hearing voices that urge him to kill, to maim, and he follows their orders because the reality he inhabits involves voices, is it really his fault? Should the punishment for having something wrong with your brain really be jail?

It’s not about having a lighter sentence. It’s not about avoiding punishment. It’s about doing the right thing. It’s about preventing these things from happening ever again. It’s about fixing people, making them whole people instead of the shells their illnesses have made them in to. It’s about having the compassion and dignity to see them for what they are-not criminals, but sick people who have been driven by their illnesses, and left out by society, by a world which refuses to believe that anything invisible is real.

I fight daily with my own demons. The first few weeks after Rosalyn was born, I seriously considered killing her a couple of times. I was aware enough to know that these thoughts were wrong. But with less family support, a little less sleep…I know what could have happened. It keeps me up at night sometimes. I am one of the lucky ones-I got help-I recovered from my PPD, and I sought treatment for what turned out to be bipolar disorder. I got lucky.

Many, MANY individuals have no help. They have no idea how to get help, or may not realize anything is wrong, so stuck in their own reality they are. Our culture relies on sick people to get their own help, which is fine if you break your leg. But a psychotic break doesn’t usually leave you with the will and sense to know something is terrifyingly wrong.

When the mentally ill do anything, when they kill, when they harm, the full wrath of society comes down on them, multiplying the guilt and shame. Imagine having to live with the faces of your dead children forever, and the knowledge that you did this. I have only the guilt of wanting my daughter dead. I cannot imagine living daily with the other. It’s a punishment beyond belief.

There is no lighter sentence when you’re mentally ill. You’re castigated from your community, spit on, considered less than nothing. Because you’re brain is broken. You’re considered a criminal for something you may be unable to control, for something no one took the time to notice.

It’s time we all started to recognize the difference between criminal and sick.

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11 Responses to ““mentally ill lighter sentences””

  1. Mad Hatter November 8, 2007 at 10:31 am #

    This is a fantastic post, Thor. I think these things each moment the news continues its demonization of Gregory Allan. He’s the perfect bogey-man and so we have all taken the full license to turn him into one and strip him entirely of his humanity.

    I’m going to sneak this post into the JP list for tomorrow.

  2. palofmine November 8, 2007 at 10:42 am #

    Sorry I have been MIA from your blog, so much going on! Kids had alot of school meetings, I had some stuff going on, Hubby’s work is stressful, and I get the kids almost 24/7 when hubby is working . Needless to say I need a freaking vacation which is coming up Dec 8, my cruise! Hope you are doing well!

    I did manage to post a thursday post, come by and visit if you can. I will try to keep up on my blogs more!

    DEB

  3. Netter November 8, 2007 at 10:56 am #

    The problem is, at least in most states in the US, is that the standard for diminished capacity requires that the person committing the crime not know what they are doing is wrong. So, the person who is so psychotic he thinks he’s stabbing a pig instead of his neighbor is found insane, but the woman who is convinced that God is telling her she can only save her children from being ruined by a sinful world gets put on trial twice. She knows her kids are going to die, so she’s not crazy. The laws do not reflect the reality of the illnesses.

  4. Carin November 8, 2007 at 12:10 pm #

    I’m sorry to say this post makes me mad, but not in the way you’d expect. Yes, I agree that society likes to pick on the mentally ill when shit goes to hell. But sometimes, society does all it can for some people.

    I have done work as part of an agency that tries to help people with various mental illnesses get the supports they need. But if the person you’re supporting decides that, fuck you, I’m going to reject every support you try to hand me, what the fuck else am I supposed to do? Am I supposed to grab them and force them? No! Because they’re an adult and I’m removing their dignity! I watch them slowly descend, descend, descend, go further and further into a hole they dig for themselves through their ill-thought out actions. And then there are the ones who say they don’t have a problem even though they know they hear voices. Or the ones who say they do, but do diddly squat all to help themselves, even though those services are being held out to them on a plate. What are we supposed to do?
    I know it’s hard, and I know people don’t make it easy when you say you have a problem. I know doctors don’t want to refer you to a psychiatrist, and that is the cream of stupid. I know there are barriers. But society can’t always come to the rescue. Would you want them going the other way. “we think you’re a little off, so off to the psych ward you go?”

    And isn’t every murderer screwed up in the head to kill someone, unless it’s just for money? but even then, isn’t that a little broken?

    And what happened to the contempt you always held for sex-offenders? You always wanted to see their balls removed. Where’s the mercy and compassion in that?

    I’m sorry. This is most likely the product of a lot of seething frustration I have about a few situations going on…but I still stand by my words. I respect you and all the shit you’re going through. Hell I know it’s not easy. All I say is watch the pendulum you’re swinging.

  5. thordora November 8, 2007 at 12:23 pm #

    Oh, the part of me that has been abused says cut their balls of. The part of me who knows they have a mental issue that cannot be fixed with current methods says lock them away in a institution. But I cannot hate the person for a compulsion they do not fully control.

    When you’re mentally ill, you don’t KNOW you’re sick, not all the time. If I’m manic, I may think everything is awesome, while the people around me cringe in fear and worry.

    I’ve dealt with the system, and it’s one of the worst things to try and get help from if you do not know it. Even trying to get the number to the clinic I go to took me 20 minutes yesterday because it isn’t listed correctly.

    If you’re suicidal, or homicdal, or hearing voices, do you think your first thought will be about help? No-not unless the resources have been presented to you in a way that is easy to understand. Many of the mentally ill are poor, and many have learning disabilities or other comorbid conditions that further complicate things.

    There are those who kill for greed, for lust, for power. Those people are criminals. There are people who rape because they enjoy it. Those are criminals. There are those who abuse their children because they enjoy the power they hold over them. Again, criminals.

    But then there are those whose grip on reality is tenous at best. They fight the system because the system is scary-sitting in a mental ward, even as a voluntary admittance, was scary. Not imagine setting yourself up for involuntary admittance with no idea what might happen. Your voices might be telling you those people are evil, or that they might hurt you. If no one stands up and advocates for these people, BAD SHIT HAPPENS.

    Some people don’t take help because of the stigma. Ever told someone you’re crazy? They step back-they don’t even notice, but they do. Now say you’re unemployed, have some difficulties with normal living, and then you casually mention that you hear things or see things or think you can rule the world. Suddenly, You’re “one of those” people.

    I don’t know about you, but I can think of nothing I like less than that.

    Some people will never get help, and I’m sad about that. But there are many others who need it and have no idea where to start. The only way I was able to get a regular shrink was by committing myself. Otherwise, a year or two wait in some cases since I can’t afford to pay a private doctor.

    I think it’s shortsighted and wrong to blame the mentally ill for behaving as their disorders might have them behave. Do we sometimes refuse our meds? Yes, because the side effects are horrendous. Do we sometimes refuse treatment? yes, because treatment is scary. Do we count on our doctors to recognize crisis in the same way that a doctor would recognize a cancerous lump? YES.

    Until we TRULY view mental illness as an illness, and not a choice, nothing will change. People will continue to die, children will continue to be killed. And we’ll all sit around pointing fingers, saying it’s their own fault.

  6. Carin November 8, 2007 at 1:36 pm #

    I don’t want to point the finger because most of the time, I wish I could point a finger but my hands are tied. They’re tied by the things the very people who ask for help do. How do I know that something they just did is something they truly wanted to do or a product of their illness? How am I expected to know? Am I expected to read minds now? It’s hard enough to read someone’s mind at the best of times before it gets all muddled by whatever illness they have.

    And I’ve got news for ya. doctors of regular illnesses can suck too. I almost died because of one. Anything that is remotely vague gets hard to read. So, how much more vague can you get than a mental illness? It sucks, but it happens.

    I know that it’s hard to read and there’s a lot of other factors. But I really don’t know how we rescue people from themselves when the thing we’re rescuing the people from keeps morphing. I just don’t know. I totally agree that the system needs to improve. Hell, they just got an on-call psychiatrist in our ER. What took ya so long? Like come on! People can come in with meds problems and get sent home saying it’s vertigo! Vertigo? What the hell are you smoking? So I’m with you in the improvement of the system camp. But I don’t know how we’re supposed to rescue some people who when the help is offered, outright refuse it.

  7. radical mama November 8, 2007 at 2:48 pm #

    I agree with much of what you have said. I do think that people with real mental illness should be treated differently. But there certainly needs to be accountability after their release. Someone needs to be damned sure that those people are taking their medications. The rights of the mentally ill who commit crime are important, but they should not be sent out into society without making sure that the rest of us won’t suffer. The mom with post-partum pychosis, for instance. Someone needs to make sure that if she has another baby, she has help ASAP.

    Of course, a little prevention goes a long way. Like health insurance for everyone, including mental health.

    And I do have to disagree that sexual offenders suffer mental illness. They suffer from complete hatred and anger towards women. They do not need to have sex compulsively (castration would do nothing to solve the problem). They want to hurt women. PERIOD. No rehabilitation has ever proved successful. There are no drugs that can cure them. The same for domestic violence. It’s nearly impossible to change a man who beats his wife, to make him see women as worthy human beings. Those people do deserve to rot in jail. Because as soon as they get out, there are more victims.

  8. thordora November 8, 2007 at 2:50 pm #

    I’m thinking more pedophiles-but in either case, they cannot be rehibilited, at least not right now.

    And yes, HELL YES-someone follow up with these people. Maybe that’s all it takes, is someone to be there and TRULY advocate for them.

  9. radical mama November 8, 2007 at 2:57 pm #

    From what I understand of pedophilia, I agree that it is a disease. But, like you said, it’s untreatable. I do think there are better solutions than “getting what they deserve” in prison. (I don’t think anyone deserves what happens in prison, unless our ultimate goal is making people worse humans beings than they were when they went in.)

  10. Carin November 8, 2007 at 3:34 pm #

    If pedophiles got what they deserved in prison, or what other prisoners think they deserved, they’d be dead pedophiles.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. There’s just never enough justice to go around. « Radical Mama - November 9, 2007

    […] justice programs and rehabilitation centers like to think it is. Making no exceptions for mental illness, for instance.  Or making exceptions but not following through and making sure the offender […]

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