Former Dover officer removed from Greensboro police staff after use of force reports surface- The Bad Cop Shuffle – kra
This is what often happens. A bad cop fired by one department is hired by another department! I read the trial transcript, and if the prosecutor in the case of Webster’s outrageous assault of Mr. Dickerson had not been an idiot, Webster would have been convicted!
AND NO THANK YOU TO THE BAD COPS!
Excerpts from the Article:
Thomas Webster IV, the former Dover police officer involved in the death of a young Eastern Shore man, is no longer an officer in Greensboro, Maryland. Greensboro police Chief Eric Lee confirmed to The News Journal that Webster is not employed by the police force, but declined to comment further. Webster’s conduct had been questioned throughout his tenure with Greensboro police, which began in April 2018, and his previous near decadelong stint as a Dover police officer.
Webster was removed from street duty in January when Maryland State Police launched an investigation into the death of 19-year-old Anton Black, who died after being arrested by Webster and two off-duty officers in September 2018 following a brief chase.
Body cam footage released by the Town of Greensboro shows arrest made by former Dover police officer Thomas Webster IV that resulted in the death of Anton Black. Courtesy of Town of Greensboro, Delaware News Journal
Black’s autopsy concluded there was no evidence his death was caused by his being detained by the Webster and the officers.
Three years earlier, while working as a Dover police officer, Webster was arrested for kicking an unarmed man, Lateef Dickerson, in the head, breaking his jaw. Dickerson, a 33-year-old black man, was getting into a face-down position on the ground at gunpoint on the order of Webster, who is white, while another officer looked on. The 2013 kick was captured on a police dashcam.
Dover announced an agreement with Webster in 2016, who was acquitted of assault charges a year prior, paying him $230,000 over six years to quit. As part of the agreement Webster was banned from ever seeking employment in the city again.
Greensboro Town Manager Jeannette DeLude said in February 2018 when the town made the controversial decision to hire Webster that he was the “best-qualified” applicant.
“Because he was found innocent of everything there is no history,” she said.
But Webster was again called into question in February 2019 when the state of Maryland learned of nearly 30 use of force reports that it was unaware of when Greensboro hired Webster.
The reports, accumulated during Webster’s time in Dover, include multiple examples of aggressive behavior on Webster’s behalf.
Yeah, yeah, I have heard it all before. We shall see whether she has what it takes. The test will be whether she hold officers and medical staff accountable for their wrongdoing, or whether she goes along with what I heard criminal, abusive staff say over and over and over: “We stick together”!
Time will tell.
Excerpts from the Article:
Claire DeMatteis officially replaced former Department of Correction Commissioner Perry Phelps in a swearing-in ceremony held at the department headquarters in Dover on Monday. Ms. DeMatteis, addressing DOC staff at the ceremony, said that rather than providing a list of her departmental priorities she wanted to reassure officers working for DOC on two questions: “Does she have my back?” and “Does she have what it takes?”
She promised to answer these challenges in the same way she said she has all the others in her life: with “leadership, grit and grace.”
The ceremony drew a large portion of DOC administrative staff, politicians, bureaucrats and other officials from throughout the state — including Gov, John Carney and the majority of his cabinet. Gov. Carney in his welcome speech rehashed Ms. DeMatteis’s qualifications for the position at the head of the 2,500-strong department. “Commissioner DeMatteis has worked hard over the past two years helping lead reform efforts at the Department of Correction — modernizing equipment and training to make our facilities safer, and helping recruit correctional officers to do one of the toughest jobs in state government,” he said.
The DOC has been struggling over the past decade with understaffing concerns, steadily growing overtime requirements and lawsuits claiming substandard inmate living conditions and medical care.
The department’s systemic ills lurched into the limelight on Feb. 1, 2017, when a riot broke out at the state’s largest prison, resulting in the death of a correction officer. Ms. DeMatteis was appointed in mid-2017 as Gov. Carney’s special assistant to help implement a list of “41 key recommendations” provided by an independent investigation team.
In the role she worked alongside DOC leadership implementing a series of reforms intended to strengthen security, safety, officer training, recruitment and retention, prison-based programming and services. Ms. DeMatteis is an Adjunct Professor at the University of Delaware and serves as a University of Delaware Trustee. She received her undergraduate degree from the University of Delaware and her law degree from Widener University’s Delaware Law School. Ms. DeMatteis was also former senior counsel to then-U.S. Sen. Joe Biden. Though the current presidential candidate didn’t make an appearance at the ceremony, Gov. Carney read out a letter from him extolling Ms. DeMatteis’s “exceptional” strengths.
Working together for more than a year, Mr. Phelps and Ms. DeMatteis claimed great progress has been made addressing the department’s ills, but that work still needed to be done — specifically with staffing numbers and overtime requirements.
“I just want to thank him for his tremendous support and leadership of this department,” said Gov. Carney. “He would often remind me that he could retire at any time. But I kept saying: ‘don’t even think about it.’”
The announcement of Mr. Phelps’s retirement came in late May. Two weeks prior to the announcement, the Associated Press had reported that Gov. John Carney refused to say whether he still had confidence in Mr. Phelps following allegations that contract medical workers were falsifying inmate treatment records.
Since then, it has been announced that DOC’s medical contractor is under investigation by the Department of Justice and both an inmate’s family and a former employee have filed separate lawsuits against the provider.
The day Mr. Phelps was sworn in on Feb. 1, 2017, the riot broke out in James T. Vaughn Correctional Center that would largely go on to define his career as commissioner.
Though the violent 19-hour hostage stand-off that resulted in the death of correctional officer Lt. Steven Floyd received only briefly alluded to during the swearing in ceremony on Monday, Ms. DeMatteis memorialized the officer in her speech.
“We will face challenges, it is the nature of the job we signed up for,” she said. “But with the memory of Lt. Steven Floyd, and the ultimate sacrifice he and his family made for us never far from our hearts and souls, we will meet every challenge and exceed every expectation because we have what it takes.
“We have what it takes to carry out the dual mission entrusted to us of public safety and second chances.”
This excellent article from our friends at the Human Rights Defense Center reminds us that the criminal justice system is biased and racist [I have written/posted scores of articles on that] and that new developments must be carefully monitored to ensure accountability. This technology certainly presents much opportunity for abuse, and I say beat the drum to get it REGULATED!
I cannot afford a subscription to CLN, but every now and then I get a tidbit like this one. I may draft a Letter to the Editor on this when time permits!
Excerpts from the Article:
Automatic License Plate Readers (“ALPR”), facial recognition technology, and predictive policing are some of the new weapons in the arsenal of the police state. And minority communities are caught in the crosshairs.
The failures of facial-recognition technology are widely known. According to a study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the three most advanced systems had error rates of 1 percent for light-skinned males, 12 percent for darker-skinned males, and a whopping 35 percent for darker-skinned females. Systems have even mistaken black members of Congress for criminal suspects.
Predictive policing uses algorithms that build on historical crime data. The programs suggest future crimes will occur in past high-crime areas. But historical data is biased because police in the past targeted low-income and minority neighborhoods. Because of the algorithms, there is increased surveillance of those communities to find the predicted crimes. This perpetuates the designation “high-crime area,” resulting in further surveillance.
And the ALPR create massive databases tracking people’s movements that are accessible by hundreds of police agencies. With almost no oversight, the potential for abuse is astounding. Members and friends of groups unpopular with law enforcement — such as Black Lives Matter — can be unknowingly tracked, false criminal evidence planted, or worse.
Technology can be useful in the criminal justice system. But there must be demanding standards of accountability. Criminal justice personnel must be made aware of its limitations, including its inherent ability to create and perpetuate racial biases.
This is what I send to most (I don’t have time to get it to all of them) new internet connections, on MeWe, LinkedIn, etc.
Thanks for connecting. You may want to subscribe to our weekly eNewsletter. Check out our website, loaded with useful (Enter “Practical Tip” in search bar!) and important information you will not see elsewhere!
Should you or any of your connections ever have any questions about any of these articles or about any problem with the criminal justice system, or about civil rights, don’t hesitate to call me. 302-423-4067. I work every day from 3 or 4 am until 10 pm. I get calls from all over the country about everything from grad students looking for guidance with their classes to freeing the innocent and others from prisons, calls about saving lives… etc., …and glad to answer them all. If I don’t know an answer, I’ll say “I don’t know, but let’s find out!”
Everybody is affected by our dysfunctional criminal justice system. Read these Articles to learn some solutions to the problems!
Porn star or not, read this! Practical Tip # 89 – Accusers face risks in breaking nondisclosure agreements – Don’t Sign a Nondisclosure! – kra With Letter to the Editor = http://www.citizensforcriminaljustice.net/practical-tip-89-accusers-face-risks-breaking-nondisclosure-agreements-dont-sign-nondisclosure-kra/
This is a MUST READ if you have not read it! Probation and Parole – a short Essay by Ken Abraham – With Letter to the Editor or Editorial Submission – Widely PUBLISHED = http://www.citizensforcriminaljustice.net/probation-and-parole-an-essay-by-ken-abraham-with-letter-to-the-editor/
Practical Tip on Pardons, Expungements, Commutations/Clemency – With fee agreement = http://www.citizensforcriminaljustice.net/practical-tip-pardons-expungments-commtations/
Report Bad Lawyers – Do it! – http://www.citizensforcriminaljustice.net/report-bad-lawyers-they-dont-just-screw-up-the-casethey-ruin-lives-every-day/
Prison Abuse – Why Massive Indifference is a Massive Mistake – kra = http://www.citizensforcriminaljustice.net/prison-abuse-massive-indifference-massive-mistake/
READ Crime Prevention Bill = http://www.citizensforcriminaljustice.net/crime-bill/
Know Anyone Associated With an Innocence Project Team? Practical Tip: Tell them “Get them out First” kra – http://www.citizensforcriminaljustice.net/practical-tip-pardons-expungments-commtations/
http://www.citizensforcriminaljustice.net/prosecution-imprisonment-will-stop-prison-abuse-demand-avoid-deaths-prison-guards/ = How to avoid the deaths of prison guards and inmates … or do you want to join the countless officials who refuse to acknowledge this huge problem called prison abuse?
http://www.citizensforcriminaljustice.net/the-power-of-advertising-win-the-war-on-dr = The Answer to the Drug Problem … or do you want to continue to waste about a hundred billion dollars a year, and get nowhere?
Letter to the Editor – Criminal justice system policies are changing for the better – by Ken Abraham – PUBLISHED – http://www.citizensforcriminaljustice.net/criminal-justice-system-policies-changing-better-ken-abraham-published/
Florida shooting: NRA sues as Florida enacts gun-control law – with Letter to the Editor – kra – http://www.citizensforcriminaljustice.net/florida-shooting-nra-sues-as-florida-enacts-gun-control-law-with-letter-to-the-editor-kra/ I just about fell out of my chair when a Pulitzer Prize winning author called me a minute ago and said: “Great letter, Mr. Abraham!” He now calls me Ken.
Letter from a concerned citizen, Pam Rehmer, about racism in the criminal justice system. Although polls show that 74% of Americans don’t think the system is racist, many, many studies show that it is. http://www.citizensforcriminaljustice.net/letter-from-a-concerned-citizen-about-racism-in-the-system/
http://www.citizensforcriminaljustice.net/how-the-war-on-drugs-has-destroyed-justice/ = I remember when the system worked well; justice nearly always was the result. Today it is a total train wreck – perhaps the most vivid manifestation is that we are imprisoning hundreds of innocent people every year. This is WHY it is a train wreck!
More Band-Aids won’t solve wave of drug violence! – http://www.citizensforcriminaljustice.net/band-aids-wont-solve-wave-drug-violence/
Politics – Politics is what destroyed our criminal justice system! – http://www.citizensforcriminaljustice.net/politics-politics-destroyed-criminal-justice-system/
Abolish the “Sex Offender” Registry! Learn the FACTS instead of all the “Sex Offender Hysteria” kra = http://www.citizensforcriminaljustice.net/abolish-the-sex-offender-registry-kra/
Got a Problem with the Criminal Justice System? CALL this Guy!
Practical Tip – Get Empowered! How YOU Can Create a Powerful, Effective Force for Reform of our Criminal Justice System -http://www.citizensforcriminaljustice.net/practical-tip-how-you-can-create-a-powerful-effective-force-for-reform-of-our-criminal-justice-system/
Please take a moment to join our Citizens for Criminal JUSTICE group on MeWe, the fast – growing social media platform positioning itself as an alternative to FB!
Yes, he was funny as hell, but also wise:
Feel free to reproduce anything I have written anywhere at any time, with or without attribution. The important thing is to share the information, educate the public, most of whom are clueless about what a disaster the criminal justice system is!
Want to debate any of this? Call any time; I work from 3 or 4 a m until I drop every day. Better yet, please invite me to a public forum to debate any of these issues!
Make A Difference
So many say “why bother, there’s nothing I can do!”
Well, I sure hope one of those is not you!
For you can be far, far more influential than you think,
All you need do is share some well-thought-out-ink!
READ http://www.citizensforcriminaljustice.net/practical-tip-how-you-can-become-a-prison-reform-advocate-here-is-how-do-it/PracticalTip: How YOU can become a “prison reform advocate” – or any ADVOCATE! Here is how! EASY as 1, 2 ,3 ! DO IT!
Why Am I Up in The Middle of The Night?
Why Am I Up in The Middle of The Night?
Because there is so much injustice in the justice system, it’s just not right,
So I rest when I can, but, largely, I fight, fight, fight,
I remember when the system did in fact work quit well,
But since our “war on drugs”, it’s gone straight to hell!
Learn neat stuff: The BBC series “Planet Earth – Dynasties”! Have you seen shrimps attack a starfish? Did you know that there are fish with jaws so powerful that they can bite through rock? Have you seen the astonishing transformations which cuttlefish use to disguise themselves? Did you know there is a predator which eats great white sharks? – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iC3hGfTI3ew
MAKE it a great day! Ken Abraham
Founder, Citizens for Criminal JUSTICE, (CCJ)
430 Kings Hwy., Suite 414, Dover, DE 19901
Founder, “Adopt a Prisoner” Church Reentry Program,
And founder of no more organizations this decade! 🙂
I’m a former prosecutor, and this is outrageous! They should fire and prosecute ALL lying officers! A list like this is good for challenging liars in court, but the next step should follow … nail them with charges!
Excerpts from the Article:
District attorney offices across the nation are adopting blacklists of officers whose testimony in court is untrustworthy. Referred to as “do not call lists,” “exclusion lists,” or “Brady lists,” D.A.s have stated that they will not prosecute cases or accept search warrant requests from officers on these lists.
Kim Gardner, chief prosecutor of St. Louis, Missouri, created a list of 29 officers whose cases she has refused or will not accept because these officers have been accused of lying, abuse, or corruption. The list is shared with other prosecutors, so all may be aware of those officers whose testimony could be challenged in court.
Law enforcement officials are concerned because they did not have any input on who goes on the lists. “Kim Gardner is saying that when you dial 911 you’re playing 911 roulette: You may get an officer who’s on her list and who can’t give you justice,” said Jeff Roorda, spokesperson for St. Louis Police Officers Association.
Police union leaders feared that names could arbitrarily be placed on the list from false accusations. Prosecutors stated that they investigated an officer’s credibility over years before placing him or her on the list. “As elected prosecutors, we have the discretion to choose whether to entertain certain cases from certain individuals. Our obligation is to evaluate the credibility of any witness, regardless of whether they’re police. We have people whose liberty is at stake,” said Gardner.
Challenges still exist with its successful implementation of blacklists. Information is not shared if an officer on one list transfers to a department in a different state. Some states do not allow D.A.s access to police disciplinary reports. Some forms of dishonesty occur at a level indiscernible because of the sheer volume of cases prosecuted.
Ronal Serpas, executive director of Law Enforcement Leaders to Reduce Crime and Incarceration, supports a “one and done” policy as he backed when leading the Nashville and New Orleans police departments. “You don’t need to have a ‘Brady no call’ list if the police department is terminating people,” he stated.
“They are fighting a war on drugs and engage citizens in paramilitary conflict on a daily basis. And the number of citizen casualties in this war is much higher than in the war on terror. That says a lot about our national priorities.” I would substitute the word “STUPIDITY” for “priorities. READ How the War on Drugs Has Destroyed Justice! = http://www.citizensforcriminaljustice.net/how-the-war-on-drugs-has-destroyed-justice/
We all remember this one! Black man ran because he had a warrant for child support; cop shot him in the back several times!
Excerpts from the Article:
More than 1,000 Americans were killed in 2017 by a particularly violent class of fellow citizens. Some of those killed by these highly trained gunmen were children, and many of them were unarmed. Are these shooters terrorists? Heavily armed gang members? No. They’re the police.
According to The Free Thought Project (“TFTP”), police killed at least 1,184 Americans in 2017. Terrorists, on the other hand, killed 12. Those sworn to uphold the law have killed nearly 100 times as many as those attempting to make a political statement through an act of violence on American soil.
The number killed in mass shootings, such as those in Nevada and Texas, are not included in this government tally of terrorist killings. But according to TFTP, even if the deaths from these mass shootings are included, police have still killed far more people than all the mass shooters in 2017 combined.
The tendency of police to kill so many Americans has vexed criminologists and sociologists. Some suggest that America is riddled with crime, but the numbers don’t support that thesis. In the United Kingdom, there are 109.96 crimes per 1,000 citizens. That is nearly three times the rate in America, which stands at 41.29 crimes per 1,000 citizens. But police in the U.K. killed only four people in 2017.
In fact, America stands out across the globe for its high rate of police killings. According to TFTP, American police killed more people in four days than were killed in all of 2017 by police in Germany, England, Spain, Switzerland, and Iceland—combined.
The Free Thought Project proposes two reasons why police in America are so deadly compared to the rest of the world. First off, American police are rarely punished for brutality and killing. Police killings are often investigated by other officers from the same agency as the shooter. Prosecutors, who work with local police on a daily basis, are loathe to charge cops with crimes.
But a far bigger problem in America is the militarization of the police force. Police are arguably no longer citizens on patrol, who protect and serve, but members of a standing army that occupies the nation. They are fighting a war on drugs and engage citizens in paramilitary conflict on a daily basis. And the number of citizen casualties in this war is much higher than in the war on terror. That says a lot about our national priorities.
Another incident of what clearly was an unnecessary killing of a black man by police. Here we learn that peoples’ biases affect what they remember of what they see, and they believe what they remember, even if it is not supported by the video.
Excerpts from the Article:
Stephon Clark, an African-American man, was killed by Sacramento police in his grandmother’s backyard last month, setting off protests and conflict over the police’s actions. Police initially said they thought Clark was armed. But after the shooting, the officers found no weapon on Clark, only an iPhone. The city’s police chief has been credited with responding quickly to the protests by making the officers’ bodycam footage available, in an attempt to help the public discern what really happened.
But bodycam footage is unlikely to solve every conflict. Why? We are psychology scholars whose research focuses on the legal implications of memory errors. Our research, and that of other psychologists and legal scholars, suggests that bodycams may not be the definitive solution to conflicts over police behavior.
The belief that bodycam footage will both unequivocally show what happened in critical incidents involving police and civilians and thus curb unjustified uses of force is shared by politicians, police departments, civil liberties groups and most of the public. The hope is that bodycam use will help untangle the increasingly conflicted accounts between police and citizens about what happened during a fatal or near-fatal encounter. That hope has prompted local and federal governments to spend millions of dollars ensuring bodycams’ widespread adoption.
Simply put, people trust what they see. So video feels like it should be the cure that will diminish the number of interactions between police and citizens that result in excessive force.
But psychological research suggests there are at least three reasons why bodycam footage will not provide the objectivity people expect.
First is a limitation of the technology: Bodycam footage typically provides a restricted view of an incident. What people can see is often ambiguous, because of the positioning of the camera at chest height on the officer’s uniform. Other limits are created by the camera lens and environmental obstructions. Importantly, people perceive ambiguous stimuli in ways that match their beliefs and preferences, a phenomenon coined “wishful seeing.” Applied to police footage, this means people’s attitudes toward police influence what they see. For example, when people watched video of an officer interacting with a citizen, those who were instructed to focus on the officer and who identified with police – that is, they reported thinking they had similar values to police officers or shared a similar background – viewed the officer’s actions as less incriminating. These people also tended to recommend more lenient punishment for the officer compared to people who focused on the officer but did not identify with police. So, if you trust police officers and believe you share their values, you see their behavior as more justified.
Second, the fact the officer is not depicted in the bodycam footage means people will focus only on the civilian’s behavior and actions. That can have significant consequences. For example, in police interrogations, when the camera is directed solely at the suspect, people tend to discount the detective’s role in the scene. Conversely, when they can see the detective, they think about how suggestive or coercive the interrogation tactics may be and tend to be more sympathetic to the suspect. This means the perspective of the camera literally skews the information people focus on. Likewise, because bodycams focus on the civilian, people may ignore important information concerning the officer’s role in the encounter. Indeed, some evidence suggests that a bystander’s recording of a police encounter can paint a widely different picture than the bodycam, leading to entirely different conclusions about what the footage shows.
Third, people’s general attitudes toward police don’t just influence how they interpret the police behavior in footage. Those attitudes also influence what they remember seeing in bodycam footage. We found that people who identified with police (again, people who thought the police were similar to them) were more likely to rely on an officer’s report to make sense of what they saw in bodycam footage. More specifically, they reported that the civilian in the video was wielding a knife – though no knife was in the video – because the officer said he saw a knife. Those who viewed the video were trying to make sense of the officer’s actions using information they had previously learned, even though it did not fit with the footage. In essence, the officer’s report served as a source of misleading information, and that is what people remembered seeing.
Unfortunately, research on misinformation effects such as this shows they are notoriously difficult to correct, even when people are warned the information is wrong or are given an explanation for why the error occurred.
All of these factors would pose less of a problem if people had the ability to acknowledge their biases and correct for them. But, they don’t.
Instead, people believe that what they see and remember is an accurate representation of the world, even if what they see and remember is incorrect.
Bodycam footage is enormously valuable because it will likely protect both officers and civilians from false accusations. However, it must be acknowledged that people’s visual and memory biases are more likely to emerge when evidence is ambiguous and people are overconfident in their objectivity.
So bodycam footage is unlikely to be the only solution to improve fraught police–community relations. The justice system is going to have to wrestle further with how to handle these problems.
NJ attorney general announces statewide initiative to strengthen police and community relations – a smart move! kra
Increasingly, politicians are seeing what many of us have seen for years: we must improve the broken down relationship between police and those they serve. Remember and read my article Most Cops are Good Cops.
Despite too many incidents of police abuse and excesses, this is the TRUTH.
New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal today announced a new initiative called the 21st Century Community Policing Project that was created in an attempt to promote stronger police-community relations. Town hall meetings, discussions and other events will take place in each county a minimum four times every year. The new website nj.gov/oag/2121 will be a clearinghouse for information about the initiative. More than 80 events are scheduled across the state in the next 12 months with a goal of strengthening the bonds between law enforcement and the broader community, Grewal said.
“Every day, law enforcement officers across New Jersey work closely with the members of the public to keep our streets safe,” Grewal said. “But that does not mean we cannot do better, and strengthening police-community relations in New Jersey is one of my top priorities. Despite the best efforts of many people, we know that divides exist in some instances between law enforcement and the communities they serve. In certain cases, these divides have been created by misunderstandings rooted in past events, and in other cases, they are based on misperceptions about law enforcement.”
Under the new initiative, each county prosecutor will be responsible for organizing and hosting a public meeting every quarter with community leaders.Before each meeting, the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office will provide the prosecutors with content and other material relevant to that quarter’s topic.
The meetings will be open to the public, and the county prosecutors will be asked to extend invitations to a broad range of community leaders, including representatives from local law enforcement, religious groups, civil rights organizations, high schools, colleges, universities, and
municipal alliance committees.
In the spring, the topic will be investigations of shootings involving police officers. In the summer the topic will be opioids. In the fall law enforcement officials will discuss immigration enforcement. In the winter the topic will be bias crimes.
The attorney general will attend at least one meeting in each of the 21 counties. A county-by-county schedule of events planned for Spring 2018 is posted on the 21/21 Community Policing Project webpage at www.nj.gov/oag/2121.
This rather lengthy article is in the form of an interview of Alisa Roth, about her new book, “Insane: America’s Criminal Treatment of Mental Illness”. It is excellent. As many of you know, the neglect of the mentally ill in America is an absolute disgrace and costs us about $444 BILLION dollars every year! See related articles on this website. During my five years in prison I SAW that mental health treatment is virtually non existent!
We need to treat the mentally ill, not just keep locking them up!
Excerpts from the Article:
In her career as a journalist, Alisa Roth has written about people in what she calls “forgotten communities,” such as immigrants and the poor. But when she began focusing on the mentally ill trapped in the U.S. justice system, after a friend’s brother was locked up, Roth discovered what she came to realize was the most forgotten community of all.
“I can’t think of a group that’s more reviled and more misunderstood,” she told TCR. In a discussion with staff writer Isidoro Rodriguez about her new book, “Insane: America’s Criminal Treatment of Mental Illness,” Roth, a former Soros Justice Fellow, describes how jails and prisons have become the nation’s principal institutions for treating mentally troubled individuals, and suggests that strategies for developing more humane, treatment-oriented alternatives have to begin at the state and local levels.
We talk about the issue of race in the criminal justice system, we talk about the issue of poverty in the criminal justice system, but we don’t talk about mental illness. These three intersect and overlap, but we can’t think about global reform without addressing the mental health question.
As I mention in the book, I have a friend whose brother developed a severe mental illness and committed a horrible crime. As I was thinking about this whole system, it kept coming back to him. If we as a society can allow him to see an alternative outcome, and not spend the rest of his life in prison, we can allow that for other people who have done less morally or criminally complicated things.
The criminal justice system is extremely closed in terms of access, in terms of data, and in terms of information. Likewise, the mental health care system is bureaucratic and complicated. So just figuring out where treatment is being provided, and who should be providing that treatment is difficult.
Then there’s the whole health care aspect. People are not allowed to, or are unwilling to, share information about treatment. And there’s the stigma question in both systems. There is still shame attached to having a mental illness or having a family member with mental illness. We march for breast cancer or AIDS, but we don’t want to talk about mental illness and we don’t want to admit it. So, getting people to open up and say “yes, I do have this issue” or “yes, my child does have this issue and these are the struggles we are going through,” is very difficult. I am very grateful to all the people who were willing to share their stories with me.
Unfortunately, we have abandoned the notion of reform and rehabilitation in our criminal justice system. We’ve moved back to the punitive notion. In some measure we think that people who are locked up in jail or prison deserve what they get. There is a dehumanizing aspect to the whole criminal justice system, and solitary confinement is part of that. If we don’t think of somebody as a full human being, then it becomes easier to do something really awful to them. If you think of this person as your brother, or our uncle, or your husband, it’s much harder to lock them in a box 23/7.
There’s also the fact that so many of us don’t know what goes on in the criminal justice system. The system as a whole is so abstract for such a large portion of our population, that we just don’t think or know about it. People have no idea that there are tens of thousands of people locked in solitary confinement on any given day. In a lot of places and for a very long time it’s just been how it’s done. It’s a very easy solution to put someone who is being unruly or difficult out of sight and out of mind. I think it speaks to a larger issue: We take people with mental illness, we lock them away, someplace we don’t need to see them. If we put them in jail or prison we don’t need to see them or step over them on our way to Starbucks in the morning. Solitary confinement is a reflection of that. But it makes everything so much worse.
As awareness of the problem of large numbers of the mentally ill in the criminal justice system grows, judges and attorneys are more attuned to it. It’s not that people don’t know it’s there, but it’s as much as about changing attitudes as anything else. I talk to a lot of judges and I’ve said “Hey, in a lot of cases you’re being asked to make what’s effectively a medical decision and you’re not a doctor; you’re a judge. ‘
In an ideal world, we would be able to keep everybody with a serious mental illness out of the criminal justice system. In an ideal world, we’d be able to keep a lot of people without a mental illness out of the criminal justice system. We lock up a lot of people very easily. I think that diversion is absolutely critical, but in order to make wide scale diversion possible, we can’t just look at this little tiny piece of the problem. We have to remember that we are operating in a very large ecosystem, not just of criminal justice but also of mental healthcare. We need to see wide-scale reform of both these systems so that people aren’t getting to the point where they’re so sick.
You see people in jail and prison who are sicker than a lot of people you see in psychiatric hospitals. We need to be catching the diseases earlier and treating them earlier. It’s great to train the cops to not arrest people, but if you don’t have some place for the cops to take them that’s not jail, they’re still going to wind up in jail. That’s what happened in San Antonio when they created their crisis center system. [They realized] you can train cops as much as you want, but they’re still going to take people to jail if there’s no other option. The other part of it is, as long as we are going to have people that end up in the criminal justice system, we have to make sure that when they’re there, they’re getting the treatment that they need and not just being warehoused in prisons.
We’ve started locking up way more people than we ever did…and when you cast such a big net, of course you’re going to pull in a lot of people with mental illness. When you break it down even further and look at co-occurring substance use disorders, a very large majority of people with mental illness in the criminal justice system have a co-occurring substance use disorder. So, if we’re arresting tons of people for drug possession, drug use, drug selling, drug dealing, it makes perfect sense that we’ll pick up people with mental illness.
The story of mental illness in the criminal justice system is as much a story of mass incarceration as it is of de-institutionalization. Using policing tactics such as “broken windows” and “stop and frisk,” allowed us to lock up huge amounts of people [and] made it easier to arrest people with mental illness…. we do have a severe lack of mental health care in the community and we have made it extremely difficult to get treatment for mental illness. But it’s not that everybody was getting treatment in a hospital and now they can’t get it, we just don’t have that and we’ve never had it.
I think we’re starting to move in that direction, very slowly. We’re seeing more people acknowledging an issue with depression or anxiety. We’re still not seeing a lot of actors come up at the Oscars and mention that they have schizophrenia, but I think it’s becoming more socially acceptable to talk about these things. We know that people can change, and society can change. There was a time that people didn’t talk about HIV or cancer, and now we wave flags for it. We need to get over the fear and stigma [attached to] mental illness in our society. The narrative in the media and in politics that links mental illness and violence is very damaging. And it’s hard to get over that stigma when every time something bad happens somebody is out there pointing a finger at mental illness.
Getting police to respond in a more thoughtful, more community/medically oriented way, instead of the tough, warrior way, is terrific. The big caveat is that if you don’t have the whole system set up to accommodate this it can only get you so far. You might deescalate a particular situation, but if you don’t have any longer-term solutions, you’re going to be back picking up the same person with no place to go. Often communities think CIT will be a step to solving the problem, but you have to think about how you’re going to divert, what’s the mental health treatment going to be, and how do we make sure we’re not picking people up again next week or next month.
The thing about criminal justice is that so much of it happens on such a local level that, on the flip side, a lot of reform can also happen on a local level. If I’m in Manhattan, and get arrested, it could potentially be a different outcome then if I’m in the Bronx or New Jersey. Because it’s so local, I think the federal question is almost irrelevant. Even the laws of involuntary commitment are handled at a local level. I think with a lot of laws, particularly with HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) and involuntary commitment, it really comes down to a very narrow line of navigating between civil liberties and safety for the person and the public.
Read the Whole Story:
Sheriff: It’s ‘financially better’ for cops to kill suspects than injure them – Of Course! Why didn’t I think of that?~ kra
What a doozie! This story was sent to me by my internet friend known as GellyBean. Thanks, Gelly!
Now this idiot candidate for Sheriff says he did not mean what he said. Uh huh.
Excerpts from the Article:
A California sheriff who’s trying to beat his chief deputy and win re-election is fighting back after the release of a 2006 video in which he says it’s “financially better” for cops to kill suspects than injure them. Sheriff Donny Youngblood, of the Kern County Sheriff’s Office, told KBFX Eyewitness News Monday the 12-year-old statements were misquoted.
“I stand by the intent of what I was trying to get across — that just because someone doesn’t die doesn’t mean we escape with less money or unharmed,” Youngblood said. “Do I wish I would’ve said it differently? Absolutely. When you listen to the verbiage, it doesn’t sound good. But I think the people of this county know that’s not what I mean.” He went on to say the department’s officers are trained “to shoot to stop the threat — not to kill.”
The video shows Youngblood, who was a challenger for the office then, sitting at a table during an interview with the Kern County Detention Officers Association, arguing it was financially better for the department to kill a suspect rather than injure them.
“You know what happens when a guy makes a bad shooting on somebody and kills them? Three million bucks and the family goes away after a long back and forth,” Youngblood said.
“Which way do you think is better financially – to cripple them or kill them – for the county?” he asked. A person, who was not seen, replied “kill them.” “Absolutely,” Youngblood replied. “Because, if they’re crippled, we get to take care of them for life. And that cost goes way up.”
Chris Ashley, the director of Kern County Detention Officers Association which posted the video, told The Guardian the group was “disgusted” by Youngblood’s comments.