Broken Minds Broken Rights : Civil Rights Abuses Of The Seriously Mentally Ill In The USA

When one looks at the United States handling, prosecution and incarceration of those who have brain diseases such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder (both classified as serious mental illnesses under the NIMH) we find that it is impossible for the judicial system to provide such individuals their basic constitutional rights.

The system, thus has broken federal laws consistently across all states in an effort to criminalize those with brain diseases. Inmates have choked to death on their own feces, been boiled to death in showers, and strapped to chairs for days at a time resulting in atrocious deaths, not at the hands of other inmates, but those entrusted with their care. They are often left naked, un-medicated and in solitary confinement for sometimes years. This mess called a mental health system violates a few constitutional rights regularly.

We can start with the 6th Amendment.

Those with brain diseases that affect the frontal lobe of the brain, such as schizophrenia and or bipolar or individuals who have a disease that affects the neural transmitters of the brain, are impaired biologically to understand certain aspects of their own incarceration, arrests, questioning, or defense. These brain diseases attack the persons cognitive abilities of memory, recollection and even verbalization of events. Thus these diseases prevent those with serious mental illness from procuring a speedy trial. The average time for a person with SMI (serious mental illness) to be incarcerated is often 6 times longer, directly due to their diseases, making this an unethical unconstitutional practice. Much of this time will be spent behind bars before even being convicted of a crime. The person is sucked into a broken system of stabilization, often for years before ever standing trial.

These brain diseases often keep their sufferer from being able to participate in their own defense in the same manner as other individuals. Even medicated, individuals have cognitive barriers that make their prosecution unethical. These brain diseases also make their incarceration, on its own, a form of cruel and unusual behavior.

When my son was in psychosis due to schizophrenia, he was pepper sprayed for being suicidal, while incarcerated. Suicidal tendencies are a symptom of his brain disease. He was physically hurt with a chemical agent for exhibiting a symptom of his disease. (schizophrenics have a 10-17% death rate due to suicide). This seems to be standard protocol in jails across the country. Inmates may be pepper sprayed, tazed or restrained for simply being symptomatic of their underlying brain disorders. It is worth noting that in America 50% of persons living with schizophrenia will spend time incarcerated at one point or another in their lifetime.

I recently read Pete Earley’s book “Crazy”. Mr Earley beautifully described the system’s ability to take a defendant and shuffle them from place to place trying to stabilize them to stand trial. This revolving door system that rotates from jail, to courtroom, to psychiatric treatment, back to jail, and back to courtroom can literally last for several years. In this very broken system, a person who has never even been convicted of a crime, can be trapped within an endless loop that leads to nowhere. Suffering from sub par treatment all the while.

This is unconstitutional, unethical, inhumane and a violation of this persons 6th Amendment Rights.

Unfortunately for someone who is gravely disabled by a disease that makes comprehending the law or asserting their own rights impossible, these individuals are easily lost in a system that hides its own abuses well under loads of red tape and legal terminology. Red tape and legal terminology that are hard to understand with a well mind, let alone maneuver with a diseased one, this lack of ability to understand or defend ones own self becomes the actual prison that holds them inside the penal system – not the iron bars.

They are too ill to stand up for, request or even acknowledge their own constitutional rights. This makes them helpless, and for almost 50 years our court system has trampled on the rights of those with SMI.


“The provision is “an important safeguard to prevent undue and oppressive incarceration prior to trial, to minimize anxiety and concern accompanying public accusation and to limit the possibility that long delay will impair the ability of an accused to defend himself.”

“Because the guarantee of a speedy trial “is one of the most basic rights preserved by our Constitution,” it is one of those “fundamental” liberties embodied in the Bill of Rights which the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment makes applicable to the States. The protection afforded by this guarantee “is activated only when a criminal prosecution has begun and extends only to those persons who have been ‘accused’ in the course of that prosecution.” Invocation of the right need not await indictment, information, or other formal charge but begins with the actual restraints imposed by arrest if those restraints precede the formal preferring of charges.”

Excerpt from Cornell Law University “CCR Annotated Constitutional Law”

Their civil rights have been abused for far too long. I for one am taking a stand against this injustice. It is unethical, inhumane and often even illegal. They may be diagnosed with a brain disease, but that does not in any way, strip them of their constitutional rights. It is time those with SMI get the specialized treatment and considerations that any other person living with a physical or mental disability procures.

If incarceration is necessary the state MUST provide them with the support that is necessary for ALL of their constitutional rights to be upheld. That may include specialized social workers to ensure they are represented legally, understand their rights and receive the medical treatment necessary to maintain a level of wellness. This can include psychiatrists, neurologists, medicine, therapy and access to additional amenities that ensure their humane stabilization. Without this, incarceration is nothing less than cruel and unusual treatment and a violation of due process, as defined in the 8th and 14th Amendment.

Cruel and Unusual Punishment 8th Amendment

“Such punishment as would amount to torture or barbarity, any cruel and degrading punishment not known to the Common Law, or any fine, penalty, confinement, or treatment that is so disproportionate to the offense as to shock the moral sense of the community.”

as defined by

14th Amendment and Due Process Clause

“The Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution each contain a due process clause. Due process deals with the administration of justice and thus the due process clause acts as a safeguard from arbitrary denial of life, liberty, or property by the government outside the sanction of law.[1] The Supreme Court of the United States interprets the clauses more broadly, concluding that these clauses provide four protections: procedural due process (in civil and criminal proceedings), substantive due process, a prohibition against vague laws, and as the vehicle for the incorporation of the Bill of Rights.”

as defined by

In itself the solitary confinement of those suffering with brain diseases is cruel and unusual punishent. Many with SMI are locked away in isolation cells for 23-24 hours a day without any ability to fight this procedure. They have no advocates or social workers to protest on their behalf within the system itself, they are at the mercy of their captors. Some are stripped of clothing, possessions, and the privilege of communicating with family or friends via visitation or even phone calls or letters. This, for someone mentally impaired via schizophrenia or bipolar disorder is inhumane and unethical and is contrary to the advisement of common held psychiatric beliefs toward betterment or treatment of the seriously mentally ill thus making it medical abuse and medical negligence on the part of jails and prisons.

In a recent federal report one inmate with a mental illness spent four years in solitary confinement, which is the equivalent of nearly more than 32,000 hours in an isolation cell with very limited human contact. How could that be considered humane? Is this not the definition of cruel and unusual punishment for someone who suffers from diseases that cause them to feel suicidal?

Some counties are too poor to even provide those incarcerated with SMI basic medications such as antipsychotic medicines that keep them from hallucinations and delusions. This is BARBARIC and INHUMANE. More importantly these medications also subdue the suicidal symptoms of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, thus making them necessary for quality of life. Denying someone with a SMI their medication is not only inhumane it is medical neglect. The same type of medical neglect that would be incurred if a diabetic were to be denied life sustaining insulin. This is unconstitutional, cruel and unusual punishment.

For nearly half a century these abuses and disregard for constitutional rights have gone unchecked – not anymore. The Internet is exposing the United States Judicial System for the inhumane, unconstitutional and medically negligent Goliath that it truly is.

I will urge anyone who has lost a loved one while incarcerated that suffered from a serious mental illness to contact their states ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) . Each State has its own branch of this organization that exists to protect the rights of citizens against larger entities that abuse or neglect them such as police departments, jails or even prisons. If you have a loved one who has suffered inhumanely or has died as a result of his or her specialized medical needs being ignored – I urge you to contact the ACLU of the state it occurred in and fill out a formal complaint, their services if they chose to represent you are free. This is the only way we can change this system for the better, we must fight for the rights of those too incapacitated to do so on their own.

We must also give credit where credit is due. The Judicial System is not the causation of these civil rights violations, they are only playing the hand they have been dealt. It is in fact our governments lack of concern for those citizens that are effected by SMI that is the root of this abuse. The government has made little to no effort to protect these vulnerable citizens or even institute a reasonable means of psychiatric treatment for them. Ultimately they have ignored them, thus forcing the hand of the Judicial System to deal with them, as their brain diseases often incapacitate them from making rational decisions when un-medicated. In America, you get a brain disease, and often go to jail.

Classic Examples Of How The System Abuses Those With Brain Diseases Such As Schizophrenia, BiPolar Disorders

Bertram Hiscock Berkeley Graduate Who Choked To Death On His Own Feces While Locked In A “Suicide Cell” and Never Attended To:

Cops Boil Schizophrenic Man To Death – NO CHARGES

Andrew Holland Schizophrenic Man Dies After Being Strapped To Chair For Almost 48 Hours In Jail. Jailers Laugh As He Dies

These stories seem like they should be on some late night, B rated horror movie marathon. But unfortunately this treatment is happening everyday in jails and prisons across America. I urge anyone who is in the US Government, the legal or medical professions and anyone who has a loved one living with a SMI to get involved. We MUST abolish this last major human rights violation on American soil. Taking a stand on behalf of those who cannot.

This is unethical, inhumane and has even been acknowledged by the UN – as they will not extradite mentally ill prisoners to the US – stating that our treatment of such is barbaric and substandard. The veil has been ripped asunder. The time is now. We need a new system, more hospitals and less criminalization of brain diseases, this current system violates the very constitution this country was founded on. The dirty secret is out. It’s time to clean house. As a nation, we can be judged on how we treat our most vulnerable citizens, and in the US we treat them terribly. We lock them away, torture them to death, and deny them the basic fundamentals guaranteed to our citizens via the constitution.

Citing Poor Care for Mental Health in US Prisons, UK Court Refuses Extradition Request…

Mental Illness, Human Rights, and US Prisons : Human Rights Watch Statement for the Record to the Senate Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on Human Rights and the Law

My Sons Story…

Where my passion for the SMI comes from

Elliotts Story : A Living Nightmare Of First Psychosis (Part 1)


His Greatest Fear Came True : The Government Stole Him (Part Two)

5 thoughts on “Broken Minds Broken Rights : Civil Rights Abuses Of The Seriously Mentally Ill In The USA

  1. blessings Tamara, we are battling against powers n principalities for sure…i will pray and trust and give thanks to our heavenly father, knowing that He is in total control and He truly sees and hears and cares and provides strength and comfort and protection. i admire your heartfelt devoted research into this subject matter. The conqueror is on His way* to set the captives free….Shalom!

  2. The joy of the Lord is our strength! Our trust is in Him alone! so be it, amen* God bless you Elliott.

  3. My son told me about 2 officers,
    Belanger and Marion who ripped his pants off in the hallway. Leaving him nude,.and then went into his cell with him.
    My son was handcuffed behind his back. He told me Officer Belanger thru him down onto his knees, got behind him and was dry humping him and they both were yelling and swearing at him things like “you f..n want this”
    “You f..n love this!”
    My son told me it felt like it went on for hours. Like time stopped.
    I know my son.he does not lie. The manner in which he told me the story I knew it was true. I reported it right away, by phone, by email, and in person.
    They said they had checked back on the cameras and did not see anything. I would not give up I knew he was not lying I told them they have to go back further. The next meeting I had with his Dr.(Potenza) social worker (Rejanne B.) and sergeant Brown.
    They told me they saw Officer Marion on the video , just as my son said ripping his pants off leaving him nude in the hallway .They would not tell me how long the officers were in his cell with him. They said it was confidential and there were no cameras in the cells to show what happened. I was led to believe these officers would be fired. Sexual-harassment is not OK under any circumstance.I wanted them charged with a crime,not just fired.
    To this day, I cannot believe what they did.
    Nothing, I was not allowed any more contact visits with my son for over a year.
    I saw him for an hour on weekends, if the noncontact room was available. The same officers would bring him to the non-contact the room and smirk at me
    Every time I saw him he had a fat lip or a blackeye or bruises. I emailed I called The nurses I called the officers I emailed and wrote to The commissioner, Helen Hanks and Captain Gaglio. I have hundreds of emails I sent them in many other injuries were caused by the Officers. To the point that I can’t even believe it myself, if someone were telling me this story. It got so bad my son asked me to please stop reporting injuries, I complained daily because he was left in his room 24/7 weeks at a time, no shower. So the officers put him outside during a wind driven frozen sleet storm with no jacket or sweatshirt just that thin nylon tan sleeved shirt and shoes that had the souls worn out of them.
    He said he thought he was going to die he was so cold and soaking wet shivering all over. He said he press the buzzer to go in but no one came for over an hour. When they let him in they told him to “make sure your mother knows we let you out of your room”
    He also did not tell me this until he was out of the SPU. It took 24 months. He never committed a crime, he never was charged with a crime. He was a patient that needed therapy and wanted to stay in the isolation room. I was told They needed the isolation room he could not live in it.he was transferred from New Hampshire hospital, with no warning ahead of time. We couldn’t get any information for almost a month. Because he was 23, he was too afraid to sign anything. Because he felt he was tricked into signing himself into the hospital. Which is basically true.
    And this story that I’ve told here is not even the worst of what he has been through at the hands of those that were supposed to be helping him.
    I believe because the SPU’s accreditation expired around 2010 There was nobody overseeing this program. So there were no consequences to any of the injuries to my son and others.
    And last week they have a Senate meeting to give the SPU accreditation.
    They need to fix the problem not put a Band-Aid on it making it look good, hanging a sign on the wall.
    Unfortunately I could not attend the meeting.
    However I do plan on sending all the senators Who attended a certified letter.
    I actually wanted to hand out postcards naming the officers and telling what they were doing to these patients in downtown Concord.
    My son turn 25 in January 2016. Someone died in December 2015 three weeks prior in the cell next to his.
    I honestly felt it was going to be his last birthday.
    I took a picture with my phone.
    They confiscated my phone and said they were charging me with a felony.I called investigator Collin Forbes, as I was told to do.
    He thought it was a mistake. They would not charge me with a felony for that. I explained to him they would he said he would call the SPU and call me back. He called me right back and he said “you were right I don’t know what you did but they certainly don’t like you there, they are going to charge you with the felony and keep your phone. It was an $850 phone I had just gotten.
    I just finished paying it off last October
    A year and a half later I was called by the same investigator Colon Forbes. This time all he could do was apologize. He said my phone was destroyed by mistake.
    For me to get a copy of the bill from Verizon and he would make sure it gets paid. It’s been six months trying to get a copy of this bill. I spoke to Verizon and emailed with them many times. After the first month of not being able to get a copy of the bill. I called investigator Colon Forbes back. I was informed he no longer work there
    It took a certified letter to Verizon to get a copy of the bill. I am so emotionally exhausted I have not even tried to submit it to Helen Hanks yet. I also need to add up the $11.50 every month I paid for insurance. Along with programs I downloaded on the phone that cost money.
    Unfortunately, I had a brain tumor removed 10+ years ago which damaged frontal lobe. And processing information. I get migraines,overwhelmed and exhausted very easily.
    In fact just writing this, is going to put me in bed for a day or two. But I could not hear another story and not respond

    1. Oh Lord, this is far too much. Please bring Judgement. i am so sorry to know this took place. i pray for you n yours Shelly….

    2. I had replied to you on Facebook as well and asked if you had filed a complaint with the ACLU for your state. That organization fights these types of abuses especially sexual assault as in what your son first endured. If you haven’t, please do.

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