Re: Could We Do Something About This, Maybe?

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Why do you hate our freedom?


Posted by: mcmc | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 2:50 PM
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He did some prisoners' rights stuff while he was in the Illinois senate, I believe.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 2:51 PM
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I suspect that, the way American politics works, the first black president can't take on the War on Drugs, but I'd love to be proven wrong.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 2:54 PM
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Is it a good time to try to reform our judicial system while the economy is heading into a recession? Releasing a bunch of people who will be unable to find jobs will simply lead to high recidivism and give ammunition to "tough on crime" types.

Of course it would be nice to give those unfairly incarcerated a choice in the matter...


Posted by: Doug | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 2:55 PM
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Checked his site. The relevant statements are a bit lackluster, but certainly in the right direction.

Eliminate Sentencing Disparities

Obama believes the disparity between sentencing crack and powder-based cocaine is wrong and should be completely eliminated.

Expand Use of Drug Courts

Obama will give first-time, non-violent offenders a chance to serve their sentence, where appropriate, in the type of drug rehabilitation programs that have proven to work better than a prison term in changing bad behavior.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 2:57 PM
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Yeah, I also have fantasies of solving the decaying infrastructure problem and the unemployment problem with a massive federal public works program. It's not going to happen, but as long as I'm dreaming, might as well dream big.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 2:57 PM
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One of the more interesting things that goes along with this, I think, is the relationship with mental institutionalization (skipping the CT comment and pair of Volokh links to go right to the source). That paper (page 20), shows an aggregate level of imprisonment of 0.7% in the 1930s, dropping to 0.3% in the 1960s, and up to 0.6% in 2000. I don't know if today's 1% number in prison is based on the same methodology, but there are a couple of things here
* if it's a similar measure, that's a huge increase in 7 years;
* The US's incarceration rate is often cited as being 6-7x OECD average; what's the mental incarceration rate like in the rest of the OECD? What was it like historically?

In other words, have we *always* been unusually into locking people up? Did everyone else get better and we didn't? Something else?


Posted by: Nathan Williams | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 2:59 PM
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Furthermore, reducing the prison population would throw hundreds of thousands of unemployed prison guards out on the streets. Science has shown that people who work as prison guards are incapable of any other kind of work.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 3:04 PM
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God, I hate CT commenters. The first fucking comment's all "would you care as much if it was WHITE people in jail?"


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 3:06 PM
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The guy I mentor in prison would agree with you on that one, John.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 3:07 PM
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Reason quoting an Obama spokesman on marijuana decriminalization.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 3:36 PM
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more recent piece, which seems to point in the opposite direction. Would be nice if they could get their act together & come up with a straight answer.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 3:39 PM
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Nov. 2007 op-ed by Obama.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 3:48 PM
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11-13: Eh. Those all read like "I'm a reasonable person who isn't insane myself, but I'm not necessarily planning to do much about this."


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 3:50 PM
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One of the pieces of background information in the paper linked to in 7 is vital. The rise in the prison population has as much to do with clearing out the mental institutions as it does with jailing people for non-violent drug offenses.

Are any of the candidates working on the mental health care crisis? Are any bloggers focussed on this aspect of the problem, instead of the more popular war on drugs issue?


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 3:51 PM
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He was great on police interrogations, which is at best adjacent, but still great of him.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 3:52 PM
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President Obama could empty the prisons of drug offenders with the stroke of a pen. Or a few million strokes. Obama has an Illinois event to use as an example.

Obama campaigning on mass pardons of non-violent drug offenders would be sufficient to get my vote.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 3:53 PM
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Obama campaigning on mass pardons of non-violent drug offenders would be sufficient to get my vote.

And the votes of a few of the other commenters here, but absolutely no one else on Earth.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 3:58 PM
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Look at it this way ... 99% of us *aren't* in prison.

Yay for us! Including many if not most of the commenters at this blog!


Posted by: Anderson | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 4:01 PM
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Are any bloggers focussed on this aspect of the problem, instead of the more popular war on drugs issue?

Of course not. Don't be silly.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 4:02 PM
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He's not going to magic it all away, but I think--if he gets the nomination, and if he then wins the general--his election might suggest that the country is in a mood to revisit at least some of these issues. His platform isn't unfriendly in this direction, which seems pretty astonishing, in some ways, for a black candidate for national office. I don't know how much work he'll actually do, and if the economy goes to hell, it seems quite likely that any chance of ameliorating the situation will go as well.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 4:03 PM
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I was wrong. The Presidential pardon only extends to Federal Offenses. So it would not be the game-changing forcing event I had hoped it would be, and would llikely not return voting rights to those pardoned. Is that correct, Wiki isn't clear?

I had thought that whatever votes Obama might lose with the pardons might be replaced with the votes of the newly pardoned. It would have been neat to see tens of millions of new minority voters.

And I vaguely remember the Carter draft amnesty. So maybe Obama could do a mass pardon, amnesty or clemency. I was thinking more of Obama signing pardons at lunch, a few hundred a day every day until the Laws were Changed.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 4:09 PM
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"Look at it this way ... 99% of us *aren't* in prison.

Yay for us! "

why yay for you? I don't get what you have to be proud of, I always figured not being in prison in America meant you were sort of a suck-up, just not caught yet, or a filthy rich republican pedophile.


Posted by: observer | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 4:25 PM
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I always figured not being in prison in America meant you were sort of a suck-up, just not caught yet, or a filthy rich republican pedophile.

Americans of Unfogged, which are you?

I cop t being a suck up. We all know that The Man will never catch McManus. What about the rest of you?


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 4:29 PM
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Does Obama support enfranchising prisoners?


Posted by: pdf23ds | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 4:30 PM
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I just speedread the pdf linked in 7. Not skimmed, I did read it. It is like, deeply disturbing on multiple grounds. I would like to burn the fucker.

Read the conclusion. If I am reading it correctly, I think it says that since the earlier institutionalized populations were wildly different demographically from the current Inst population, but the relationship to homicide rates is clear, perhaps in the past we were taking the victims of homicide off the streets. Killers had nobody to kill?

And the overseas data doesn't match at all, but hey, American exceptionalism.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 4:37 PM
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26: plenty of murders in jail.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 4:40 PM
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as far as I can tell, his rhetoric on prisons is:
1) not all that great
2) better than Clinton or any other major Dem. candidate I can remember.

his legislative record is better than his campaign rhetoric.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 4:41 PM
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7:The US's incarceration rate is often cited as being 6-7x OECD average; what's the mental incarceration rate like in the rest of the OECD? What was it like historically?

I am pretty sure this question is at least partially addressed in the paper.

I mean since the institutionalization rate and homicide rate has a 1 to 0.8 correspondence, controlling for other factors, they certainly looked to see if other institutional mechanism were holding down homicide rates overseas.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 4:42 PM
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22: Carter draft amnesty:

It was Ford. The draft amnesty was fairly explicitly a way to make the Nixon pardon plausible -- a "put this behind us" kind of thing, almost a payoff.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 4:48 PM
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I would really like to see that paper refuted. Because I am pretty sure it is implying a "zero tolerance" policy. It speaks of redining "social deviants" and apparently the implication is the even if we are mostly jailing drug offenders, controlling for the other important factors, homicide rates went down. So taking a social deviant, defined in any number of ways, off the street saves a life.

And I will vote for whomever the majority votes for. From now on, I am poll driven.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 5:02 PM
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Maybe better than "zero tolerance" in 31 would be "broken windows"


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 5:04 PM
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And I will vote for whomever the majority votes for. From now on, I am poll driven.

God, mcmanus sounds so meek and chastened. I think I liked it better when he was angry.

Btw, I'm tired of being Invisible Adjunct, so I'm posting under a new pseudonym.


Posted by: Mary Catherine | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 5:06 PM
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Good-bye, IA!

Hello, Mary Catherine!


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 5:15 PM
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"Could We Do Something About This, Maybe?"

A few weeks ago I suggested that people stop snitching, but that didn't go over so well. I guess the answer is no.

And some would call her "Pig"


Posted by: minneapolitan | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 5:15 PM
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...but absolutely no one else on Earth

Are you sure? I thought there were places on earth with much more sane drug policy (and attitude toward recreational drugs).


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 5:21 PM
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Hi, Visible!


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 5:21 PM
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35: You're saying the only solution is to get people to stop snitching? What about changing the laws and reforming the sentencing guidelines and etc?


Posted by: Mary Catherine | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 5:22 PM
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33: Man, it's weird how name-like pseuds affect me. Even for people I've met, like you, non-name pseuds like Invisible Adjunct are just text. Put something that looks like a name on it, and suddenly I'm visualizing your face. I do that with other people, to -- I've met Emerson, and Ogged, but I 'see' Emerson when he writes and I don't 'see' Ogged.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 5:25 PM
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which are you?

Anonymity here is pretty timid compared to the measures I use to disguise my movements in daily life. This is Thursday, so I'll be the one holding a handlettered sign in the median of the big road as I skulk to my secret lair.

This is one of the issues I care about, so I'm happy to see it publicized. I'm not sure that it's a good campaign issue, since "soft on crime" is an accusation, so actions rather than words are the place to look. I hope that BHO won't be hamstrung by being black. I'm optimistic given how deftly he dealt with his church's pastor's opinions.

a Stop Snitchin article I liked, set in Baltimore.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 5:27 PM
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15, 21: I've actually thought about writing about this, but it seems weird, since it's like my Professional Area of Expertise and all.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 5:28 PM
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I don't 'see' Ogged

I don't even need to say it, do I?


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 5:28 PM
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Man, it's weird how name-like pseuds affect me

Quick, everyone make up a name.


Posted by: Salazaar T. Goldwait | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 5:29 PM
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41: That's not weird, it's valuable. I usually stay away from stuff I know about first-hand professionally, but that's because I work for evil people, and so saying true things about them would injure them, and you shouldn't injure your clients. Given what you do, your clients aren't evil, and so you can talk about work as long as you're not revealing confidences.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 5:30 PM
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42: ? I don't get it.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 5:30 PM
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I guess I just feel like I don't really want people who know who I am, but I don't really know what I think is going to happen if m. leblanc is linked with my real name. So, this lawyer who works on prison stuff likes porn and swears a lot and is a big-time feminist. OH NOES!


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 5:32 PM
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44: So you'll talk about them once you no longer work for them?


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 5:32 PM
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46 is one reason why there is a presidential option. Or another pseud, I guess.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 5:33 PM
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Nah, still no. But boy am I going to enjoy getting away from them. The State of NY is probably going to be in the wrong a fair amount of the time I'm defending them, but it'll be nice not having to make the default assumption that my client's a crook.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 5:33 PM
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I don't get it.

Racist.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 5:34 PM
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I would have thought that knowing your client is a crook at least relieved you of the need to wonder.

I wasn't seriously expecting you to kiss and tell.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 5:35 PM
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But then m. leblanc would be presidential _all the time_.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 5:36 PM
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A friend of mine likes Obama because of his church pastor. I looked at her funny, because I thought he was a kook, but it turns out that the Senior Pastor is the nut, and the Junior pastor is this nice liberal guy who went to Yale Divinity School, and she's his literary agent.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 5:37 PM
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I will tell you all this. If you are mentally ill in prison, you are so, so, so fucked. Having not been alive when the deinstitutionalization movement was going on, I can kind of see where they were coming from, but I'm really pissed off about it. It went like this. "God, it's horrible that we keep committing all these people to warehouses for the rest of their lives, often involuntarily, and that it's incredibly easy to get involuntarily committed, and we have this whole segment of society that is basically erased and deprived of their autonomy."

"Let's change it! Let's shut down the mental institutions! Instead, people will get mental health treatment in community-based supportive living arrangements."

[mental institutions close]
[community-based mental health care never materializes]
[anyone who's suffering from a mental illness that makes them unlikely to do things like obey the law, interact properly with cops, hold down a job.. ends up in prison for minor offenses]
[being in prison really really sucks if you're crazy, and makes you feel way worse, so you end up doing something stupid like assaulting a correctional officer or trying to set fire to your cell]
[rinse and repeat until you have amassed quite a number of years to serve]
[max out your sentence because you keep getting "good time" taken away because guess what? still can't follow the rules. because crazy.]

[endure life of fucking awful torture]

Fun times, huh?


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 5:39 PM
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[max out your sentence because you keep getting "good time" taken away because guess what? still can't follow the rules. because crazy.]

This is so true. I worked on a case like the ones you do pro bono a long time ago, and one of the heartbreaking things was what our plaintiffs were in for -- you'd get someone who'd been in prison for ten years, and the initial offense was something violent, but fairly minor craziness, and clearly craziness. Setting fire to a mattress in one case. But once you're in, you get crazier and crazier, and you keep on breaking prison rules (like the ones against injuring yourself), and you don't get out for a very very long time.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 5:42 PM
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54: That's so bleak. Wow.


Posted by: Mary Catherine | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 5:43 PM
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you keep on breaking prison rules (like the ones against injuring yourself)

God, these are the worst. It usually takes the form of "health and safety violation" (bleeding all over the place from self-inflicted wound), "damage to state property" (trying to hang oneself with state-issued sheet), "disobeying a direct order" (failure to comply when correctional officer yells "stop cutting yourself!"

It just makes me so angry.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 5:45 PM
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53 did not seem like a total non-sequitur when I posted it. It was tangential, but not a non-sequitur. I can't type (or think) fast enough>


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 5:47 PM
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I really just still can't fathom that people are punished, as in, spend more time in prison than they would have otherwise, because they purposely hurt themselves. It's so sick.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 5:47 PM
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49

"Nah, still no. But boy am I going to enjoy getting away from them. The State of NY is probably going to be in the wrong a fair amount of the time I'm defending them, but it'll be nice not having to make the default assumption that my client's a crook."

Why would you expect suits against the state of New York to systematically have less merit than suits against private parties? Is it easier to sue the state of New York? I would expect a similar proportion of unsympathetic clients, brutal prison guards and the like.

Why are you on the defense side anyway? Are the stereotypes, plaintiff's bar is Democratic, defense bar is Republican, incorrect?


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 5:52 PM
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49:I may not have been paying adequate attention during the job change thread.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 5:52 PM
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M. Leblanc: I vaguely remember how it happened. It started out as humanitarian, though a bit too ideological and liberationist given that a lot of the mentally ill really aren't capable of self-governance. (I.E., locking them up wasn't the best for them, but they weren't capable of independence either). And some felt that the mentally ill really were completely OK, and that everyone else just had to get used to their public acting out.

But the killer was when people realized that deinstitutionalization could be a cost-cutting measure, especially if the community-mental-health part were left out.

And people who object to community mental health spending do not object to prison and police spending.nOne's a frill, one's a necessity.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 5:53 PM
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60: LB had a specific group of clients which she is very familiar with. It wasn't a random selection of private parties.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 5:55 PM
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54: It went like this. "God, it's horrible that we keep committing all these people to warehouses for the rest of their lives, often involuntarily, and that it's incredibly easy to get involuntarily committed, and we have this whole segment of society that is basically erased and deprived of their autonomy."

Is that really how it went down? I had understood it to be more along the lines of "Dirty hippies are getting benefits for being 'totally disabled' by depression. We can't allow the state to subsidize the bohemian underclass. Also, we've got thousands and thousands of shell-shocked Vietnam veterans sitting around in institutions when they should be out competing on the labor market and keeping wages low. Therefore, let's cut funding across the board for mental health resources, and use the cops and courts to segregate out anyone who rises above the level of mere annoyance. After awhile, most of the violent ones will be in prison, most of the rest will have died of exposure or ODs, and we'll be left with a few pathetic ghosts wandering the streets as a warning to everyone else that they'd better not slip up." See also Reagan, Ronald Wilson


Posted by: minneapolitan | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 5:59 PM
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Why are you on the defense side anyway? Are the stereotypes, plaintiff's bar is Democratic, defense bar is Republican, incorrect?

They don't really hold up when the defendants are governments. Think about it.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 5:59 PM
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64, 64:It was mostly about the advances in medication, and overoptimisim. R D Laing was not important.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 6:03 PM
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63

"LB had a specific group of clients which she is very familiar with. It wasn't a random selection of private parties. "

Her law firm specialized in representing crooks? Like mob lawyers but for white collar crime?

Or she got assigned the scoundrels so the partners didn't have to sully their hands?


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 6:03 PM
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But the killer was when people realized that deinstitutionalization could be a cost-cutting measure, especially if the community-mental-health part were left out.

And people who object to community mental health spending do not object to prison and police spending.nOne's a frill, one's a necessity.

Yup. Fucking Reagan.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 6:03 PM
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64: I think leblanc's version is closer, actually. There was a convergence between people agitating for the rights of the involuntarily incarcerated and cynical, cash-strapped state governments. Thus homelessness. I don't think the kind of people they let out of institutions were really able to play their parts in the reserve army of the unemployed.

I don't think you're wrong about people's attitudes towards mental illness making it hard to fund services, but I've never heard a version that comes close to "stop subsidizing the bohemian underclass."


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 6:05 PM
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69:Oh c'mon. The straightjacketed screamer became a zombie dishwasher overnight. It was a miracle, and hard to justify keeping a functional person locked up. I think the shrinks justifiably assumed the patients would prefer a medicated life to an institutionalized one.

It was the anti-psychotics and other drugs. 90%.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 6:10 PM
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There was a convergence between people agitating for the rights of the involuntarily incarcerated and cynical, cash-strapped state governments.

Now if we could only succeed in doing this for prisons, too. Oh, wait, state governments love building new prisons.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 6:10 PM
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Oh, wait, state governments love building new prisons.

Especially since they can outsource the running of them to private companies.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 6:13 PM
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70: the closing of the institutions piece was. The failure of community mental health to materialize was all tax-cutters.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 6:18 PM
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I'm pretty sure 64 is incorrect. I think you can still get SSI (Social Security for the disabled) if you are too depressed or crazy to work. The people who fell through the cracks are the "I'm not crazy motherfucker, now get that government chip out of my ass" group.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 6:23 PM
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A lot of the previously institutionalised people moved to communities that at least tried to provide some care. Like my hometown! When I was a kid, it just seemed normal that all the public parks had tent-cities filled with people who didn't make any sense.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 6:25 PM
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No, I'm pretty sure it was Reagan. As governor of California, he worked to cut state benefits for people with mental illness. And as president he kicked a lot of vets out of VA care. Certainly, he had help, some of it perhaps unwitting on the part of advocates for the mentally ill, but he was definitely a touchstone for the anti-mental health care tendency.


Posted by: minneapolitan | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 6:31 PM
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Yes, Reagan was a pioneer in this field. Other states besides California did it, however.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 6:32 PM
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74

"I'm pretty sure 64 is incorrect. I think you can still get SSI (Social Security for the disabled) if you are too depressed or crazy to work. The people who fell through the cracks are the "I'm not crazy motherfucker, now get that government chip out of my ass" group."

When I was in Berkeley (1981-83) I knew a couple of people who were collecting SSI for mental problems who were not obviously mentally ill. And a guy who had obvious problems but was not collecting anything because he was too messed up to work the system.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 6:38 PM
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The Adventures of Farber have taught us that getting SSI is quite difficult and takes a long time (years). Then there's the basic competence, like Shearer says.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 6:42 PM
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74 and others: I'm not talking about SSI, I'm talking about California's state benefits, which I believe were referred to as "Aid for the Totally Disabled" or something like that. And, later, about the VA dumping mentally ill vets back on the street.

Also, I'm not claiming that Reagan acted alone. What I am saying is that in the 1970s and 1980s there was a broad movement to kick people off benefits for solely selfish, capitalistic motives. This may well have coincided with, or even overlapped with some ideology of 'mainstreaming' which was intended to benefit the mentally ill. But I think it strains credulity to suggest that so massive a shift in societal resource allocation and perceptions was accomplished solely due to misguided altruism.


Posted by: minneapolitan | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 6:46 PM
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I don't know that anyone's saying that Minneapolitan; for myself it seems pretty obvious that the altriusts unknowingly enabled the assholes, but I do think the altruists had the idea first.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 6:51 PM
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Okay, replace both instances of "solely" with "primarily".


Posted by: minneapolitan | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 6:52 PM
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Anyhow, I didn't mean to derail this thread quite so quickly. I was just saying to my sister the other day that I find it very disingenuous when I hear cops and prison wardens and the like moaning about how they have to deal with so many mentally ill people, and how they aren't trained to be primary care for mental health crises and all that. I'd have a lot more sympathy for this whining if they didn't wind up torturing and murdering so many suspects and people in custody, a great many of whom are clearly, clearly suffering from some psychic malady or another, and are, as mentioned above, more of a danger to themselves than to any other person.

Back to the main question of incarceration, some anecdata: I was being dropped off at home in my integrated, working-class neighborhood the other night, when I saw a police car roll up on four Native youth who were walking down the street. I suppose they "fit a description", but it's obvious that the real purpose behind that kind of intervention is not to keep middle-class, taxpaying me safe at night. Rather, it's to provoke and antagonize the underclass, so that hopefully they'll do something stupid and you can bring some serious felony charge, or at least a bunch of misdemeanors. You know the ones I'm talking about: "Resisting Arrest", "Fleeing an Officer", "Damage to Property", "Assaulting an Officer". Isn't it convenient how everyone who assaults an officer invariably does so by bashing their head against some hard, unyielding part of the officer or his squad car? Or even if the pigs can't provoke them, they can get into the system on probable cause, which winds up being dismissed once the county attorney's office points out that there's not a shred of evidence. But then the kids are marked down as ones to watch, so the second they do some normal foolish kid thing -- BOOM -- the boot goes in and then they're really fucked, off to juvie hall or reform school (the memorable phrase from Heat (Michael Mann, 1995) was "gladiator academies.")

Some people just never have a chance.


Posted by: minneapolitan | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 7:08 PM
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Her law firm specialized in representing crooks? Like mob lawyers but for white collar crime?

It seems so.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 7:08 PM
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39: LB, you are weird.

I knew a couple of people who were collecting SSI for mental problems who were not obviously mentally ill

Not all disabilities are visible.

The people who fell through the cracks are the "I'm not crazy motherfucker, now get that government chip out of my ass" group."

Or the people who are too fucking depressed and poor/uneducated/unemployed to apply, or prove that they have mental health problems, or access to mental health care. I read something once about there being a ton of people who are "chronically poor" with serious depression and other mental health issues--certainly it makes sense to me that that would be the case. And without social support, the chronically depressed are going to end up poor as shit, even if they don't mutter crazy things in parks.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 7:12 PM
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Re. institutionalization, community care, and tax-cutting: it seems to me that one of the biggest failures of the US is that we often *know* what kinds of things will help (crazy people/addicts/neglected children/etc.), but we're too fucking cheap (and too addicted to the idea that we Must have Control over Assessment and Results) to do this stuff in the small, one-on-one, labor-intensive way that we should. If we do it at all, we do it in big-ass institutions--economies of scale!--or we allot a tiny bit of money to a properly-designed program and then, when the money has to get stretched so far that the program barely functions, we go "see? Toldja that wouldn't work."

It's so fucking depressing.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 7:17 PM
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one of the biggest failures of the US is that we often *know* what kinds of things will help, but we're too fucking cheap to do this stuff

And to add to that, refuse to acknowledge said cheapness. An underfunded good plan is often much worse than an adequately funded mediocre plan. I'm sure that our massive credit card, auto, and home mortgage debt problems are related to this.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 7:27 PM
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85

"I knew a couple of people who were collecting SSI for mental problems who were not obviously mentally ill

Not all disabilities are visible."

Which is why the word "obviously" is in there. It did appear to me that their main problem was that they didn't want to work.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 7:35 PM
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39: Having a name-like pseud makes me feel much more visible.

Re: American incarceration, and at the other end of the socioeconomic spectrum, disgraced media mogul Conrad Black has been ordered to report to a federal prison in Florida on 3 March. It's hard to work up too much sympathy for Lord Tubby, and yet I have to confess I do feel a bit of sympathy, almost in spite of myself. This may be partly some silly nationalistic thing: ie, he may be a bastard (he is), but he's our bastard, dammit. But six and a half years behind bars seems way too harsh for a non-violent offense. I guess I would have been happy to see him publicly disgraced, socially ostracized, and stripped of all assets, with maybe a light prison sentence.

Just to be clear: I don't mean to liken the trials and tribulations of a crooked billionaire to the plight of the socially marginalized and disadvantaged. But the Black case strikes me as an especially dramatic example of the harshness of the American system. No way would he have received such a sentence in Britain or Canada.

My sympathy is mixed in with a healthy dose of schadenfreude. Black was, as billionaires tend to be, a fervent and vocal admirer of American inequality and a harsh critic of the "Swedenization of Canada" (all those whiny liberal do-gooder types who want to give everyone handouts and etc). Lately he's been reassessing, apparently, and has been heard to make noises about the injustice of an American system that he once held up as an exemplar for Canada.


Posted by: Mary Catherine | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 7:43 PM
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"I am not a psychiatrist," says James B. Shearer.

"Really?" says the mob.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 7:45 PM
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Shearer, I kinda doubt it. SSI is not easy to get; they operate on what amounts to 'everyone gets denied the first time' just to minimize abuse of the system. (The effect is humiliating people and making it hard for someone who doesn't have it together to negotiate the bureaucracy.) Just being lazy won't qualify you for benefits.



Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 7:46 PM
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Hey, IA, you've gone uber-Catholic school girl. I will end up calling you Mary Kate, since every Mary Catherine I know is a Mary Kate.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 7:47 PM
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Just for balance we'll have to call Shearer "Ashlee".


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 7:49 PM
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92: Well, I tried out a number of options: Jewish; Muslim; Episcopalian...but nothing else seemed to fit.


Posted by: Mary Catherine | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 7:54 PM
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Shearer is Donny.

89: Mary Kate, do a thousand Hail Maries and stand barefoot in the snow for three days. Conrad Black is evil.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 7:55 PM
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It did appear to me that their main problem was that they didn't want to work.

Yes, that is obvious. And that's why I pointed out that not all disabilities are visible.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 7:58 PM
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labor-intensive way

I think this is really, really key. I was thinking over some of the issues about inner-city education recently, and also phenomenon of hiring college-educated people for parks & rec jobs that don't need college degrees. In both cases I came to the conclusion that it's an efficiency thing. People want to accomplish the end goal with less (obvious) effort and they go for shortcuts that seem to allow that.

So you get a bunch of non-credentialed landscapers with 10 years' experience passed over for promotion because the bright young things competing with them not only have college degrees, but they've survived a long and arduous socialization process into a subculture that the boss/city feels more comfortable dealing with.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 8:12 PM
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Hey, I can talk about this too! As everyone notes, it's very hard to get on SSI for mental illness; the state doctors invariably assess you as having "mild" or "moderate" limitations in various types of functioning, not "marked" as you need to be found disabled. I have seen many people who clearly couldn't function because they couldn't muster the energy to get out of bed most days, much less do shit like cook or do chores, who were denied all the way up to the Appeals Council, the fourth level of Social Security adjudication.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 8:18 PM
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It occurs to me that Shearer may be offering a contemporary version of the time-honoured distinction between the "deserving" and the "undeserving" poor, and basing that distinction upon the time-honoured criterion of his own sneaking suspicion that they are none of them actually "deserving."


Posted by: Mary Catherine | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 8:30 PM
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Ya think?


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 8:31 PM
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I have known multiple people who are now or have been on SSI. They had well-documented mental-illness histories, though, which probably makes it harder for the states to pull any shenanigans.

They also had the advantage of while being too crazy to work, they weren't too crazy to stick up for themselves in the face of bureaucracy. The truly crazy don't have that luxury.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 8:39 PM
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It's a shame that the system has failed.There really is people who genuinely need help to get themselves back on their feet.It's the ones that are taking advantage,that give everyone else a bad name.Unfortunately,theres always rotten apples in every neighborhood. If they just happen to get caught taking the easy way out and thrown in jail because of it,too bad.In nature the easy way would probably get you eaten.So count your blessings you got 3 hots and a cott.


Posted by: Gregorio | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 8:40 PM
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Shit, the American id has broken free, and is now posting comments! Run for the hills!


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 8:42 PM
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I have a friend who had a brain tumor and years after it was successfully treated, began having serious neurological problems. She needed to get disability insurance of some kind (California) and the good part about it is that it would be retroactive to the start of her illness, which would save her thousands of dollars of hospital bills. The trouble was that she was recovering just enough to hold down a part-time job, but not a job that would provide health care and a full-time salary. But any kind of work would render her ineligible for the benefits. So her choices were bankrupting herself but forcing herself to work ten hours a week, or not work and have a shot at being covered.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 8:47 PM
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Isn't it wonderful having the worlds greatest health care system, Cala?


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 8:51 PM
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103 is truly funny.


Posted by: Mary Catherine | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 8:56 PM
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105: It's so wonderful I never, ever wonder why I didn't immigrate the other way where at least I'd be able to afford to have the hypothetical calachildren.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 8:58 PM
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91

Perhaps their problems were more apparent in the past. IIRC one had had electroshock which would be going rather far for a malingerer. Nevertheless when I knew them they appeared capable of working. If you are on SSI for mental problems and get better what are the chances you are going to get thrown off?


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 9:05 PM
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I do believe that you can do some limited work on SSI, but from what I've heard, there's no easy transition back into normal working productivity. (Or, as others on this thread have said, from partial productivity to SSI.)


Posted by: pdf23ds | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 9:17 PM
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108: I believe they're reviewed periodically. Most benefits aren't 'for life.'

109: Yes, once you have secured SSI (often necessary for health care), you can work a limited amount. The trouble is *getting* SSI if you are working (or in general), and moving off of it without screwing yourself over.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 9:21 PM
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Even severe mental illness is often episodic, which means that although you seem, & even are, functional enough to work on a given day you can't keep a job for any sort of respectable period. Fail to keep a job often enough, & you can't get a job--particularly when "failing to keep" involves your employer calling the cops to take you to a psych hospital. And yes, electro-shock therapy is fairly drastic.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 9:22 PM
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I think there are three things. One is stupid drug laws, two is bad mental health policy, but the third, which ties into the other two and may be the most important, is the vogue for longer and longer sentences for everything.

Everything I've heard about deterrence suggests that potential criminals are not calculating statistical expectation values of punishment; the probability of capture and the severity of punishment are not simple factors. If you really want to deter people from doing crimes, making it more likely that they will get caught is much, much more effective than giving worse punishments to the people who do get caught. But increasing the punishment is a much easier way to appear tough on crime, so that's what happens, and we get people in jail for years and years for minor offenses, which of course messes up their lives so badly that it's hard to get back on the straight and narrow--even if the prison were not a sadistic hellhole to begin with.


Posted by: Matt McIrvin | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 9:23 PM
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when I knew them they appeared capable of working.

You know, seriously, James, you really should write up a paper about this neat trick of diagnosing mental illness just by looking at people. You could win the Nobel.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 9:27 PM
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McIrvin makes a good point, especially for a guy who went his whole life without understanding tagging up.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 9:51 PM
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112: whats with that? how has america lost its ability to understand you don't have to ratchet up sentences every election cycle? its like people think the general assembly is doing the same thing on crime as those '1.3 mil property tax levy' things.


Posted by: yoyo | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 10:19 PM
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McIrvin makes a good point, and one that is not identifiably or stereotypically "liberal" rather than "conservative" in any way. Why can't this be injected into the discourse and be a piece of conventional wisdom within 6 months?

Gives me hope for the future.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 10:27 PM
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McIrvin's tagging-up post is hilarious. I used to nanny for a kid who wanted to play kickball with the other second-graders, but had no concept of base-running. He'd do it clockwise, or run past first way into the outfield. I asked his father WTF, and he sighed and said, "We're hockey fans."


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 11:13 PM
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My aunt tells a story about how she was never very athletic as a kid and didn't understand much about sports, so once when she was at camp or something and they were playing softball she unexpectedly hit a home run and ran all the way around the bases without touching a single one. She couldn't figure out why her team was upset with her afterwards.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 11:41 PM
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On the family plaque it reads, "Filo clan. Nearly touching all bases without scoring since 1851."


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 11:44 PM
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In Yiddish, though.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 11:45 PM
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118: Heh. A guy on my softball league last summer kept pissing off his team by taking the ball out of his glove with one hand and tagging the runner with his glove. After it happened a few times, we realized he really had no idea why we kept robbing him of his glory.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 02-28-08 11:46 PM
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113

"You know, seriously, James, you really should write up a paper about this neat trick of diagnosing mental illness just by looking at people. You could win the Nobel."

I don't claim to be diagnosing them, I am just offering my lay opinion on whether they are capable of working based on interacting with them over an extended period of time. How many hours of observation is a professional opinion in an SSI disability case typically based on?

BTW do you think you have to be a professional to recognize paranoid schizophenia?


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 02-29-08 12:28 AM
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re: 7

The UK has the highest prison population in Europe at around 150 per 100,000. The US is still almost 5 times higher.

The UK doesn't really go in for mental incarceration in any numbers at all. The big residential psychiatric hospitals were largely run down in the 80s and 90s in favour of 'care in the community'.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 02-29-08 1:30 AM
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James, hours of observation don't always help in the face of deep-seated repertorial bias. More tours of the Soviet Union didn't convey more truth to fellow travelers like the Webbs; more looking at people you think probably don't deserve extensive support (the quantity and quality of which you are virtually guaranteed to be overestimating) won't convey more truth to you. You are not a good judge of such things, and it would be a simple act of honesty to concede this and move on.

Speaking for myself, I know that the process of qualifying for SSI did some big lasting harm to my psyche. The capricious delays and denials and the need to inflate every bit of bad news and downplay every bit of good can really mess you up, even when (as in my case) you have outstanding loving, competent, intelligent support among family and friends. I feel broken in ways I didn't used to. Failures loom larger and heavier, and harder to recover from, and starting anything significant is scarier, and I get dread about how either can be used as a weapon at any time, next whenever review comes along.

A lot of my support for universal health care comes out of living with this,t o be honest. I have huge advantages relative to a lot of the disabled, and it's still hideous. A system that didn't require people to degrade themselves so much would reap all kinds of benefits in social stability and progress. It's not just cheap and cruel, it's contrary to self interest to run things this way, assuming that one likes a society of people who have some self-confidence and willingness to face the future with less fear.


Posted by: Bruce Baugh | Link to this comment | 02-29-08 3:23 AM
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115: I think a large part of it is that crime is seen as something done by irredeemably bad people, and the function of incarceration is increasingly seen not as deterrence but as a means of keeping those bad people safely locked away. If that's the purpose, then of course you want all of them in prison forever, or for as long as you can manage.

And of course racism is involved; if criminals are seen as members of an inherently criminal race then you're not going to try to fix them. (Though, on the other hand, I do recall reading that the system of parole was itself originally designed with racist/eugenic justifications, as a means of separating out the born criminals from people who were basically OK and had just fallen on hard times.)


Posted by: Matt McIrvin | Link to this comment | 02-29-08 6:09 AM
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I think a large part of it is that crime is seen as something done by irredeemably bad people, and the function of incarceration is increasingly seen not as deterrence but as a means of keeping those bad people safely locked away.

The thing is, criminologically speaking there is a lot of truth to that, particularly as regards certain types of crimes (burglary, larceny, armed robbery): the frequency distribution of offenses to offenders roughly follows a pareto curve. From a policy wonk perspective, you could get a lot of crime control bang for the buck by locking up "career criminals" at least past their peak crime years. The salience of this research in the early 1990s think tank world was one of Clinton's legitimate reasons (I'm not saying it was the only reason) for endorsing "three strikes" legislation.

The trouble came when offenses with minor social consequences, including drug possession, came to be treated like the most dangerous felonies.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 02-29-08 6:35 AM
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113, etc.: I'll stick up for James a little. Without making any generalized statement about disability, let me just say that I've known several people who were successfully scamming disability. They didn't bother to pretend within their social circle. For them, getting disability was like applying for a job; they figured out the criteria and then went about documenting the requirements.

And I've also known people who a.) could no longer work but didn't want to admit it, so they kept working and making their co-workers and employers miserable (the guy was fireable but the boss was too soft-hearted, so his coworkers continually had to cover for him and redo his work): and b.) were disabled and unemployed but too fucked up to do the paperwork.

In fact, I once knew a guy on mental-illness disability (for real) who reported that being mentally-ill was like a job. He was pretty good at it; he showed up for his appointments, didn't fly into rages, didn't refuse to take his prescriptions, didn't lose his medications, etc. Others were bad at it.

Actually, I guess there is a philosophical angle. In our individualistic society, everyone's ultimately responsible for their own life, even people who have been ruled incapable of being responsible of their own lives. In a way the insane-liberation movements just reiterated and extended the founding principle/myth of our ideology, the autonomous individual. Even those incapable of being autonomous individuals should be required to be.

I've also seen the more old-fashioned community based kind of paternalistic support, where the village idiot or town drunk has a support group of old friends, relatives, busybodies, and neighbors who do a passable job of watching out for him / restraining him / guiding him / etc. (The Faulkner novels are not exaggerated; any organic community has a bunch of people in it who are just not functional).

The community paternalism has a lot to recommend it over institutional support, especially when the institution is really trying to get the individual to pretend to be functional.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 02-29-08 6:52 AM
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I've also seen the more old-fashioned community based kind of paternalistic support, where the village idiot or town drunk has a support group of old friends, relatives, busybodies, and neighbors who do a passable job of watching out for him / restraining him / guiding him / etc. (The Faulkner novels are not exaggerated; any organic community has a bunch of people in it who are just not functional).

The community paternalism has a lot to recommend it over institutional support, especially when the institution is really trying to get the individual to pretend to be functional.

Amen.

I believe that mental health treatment should be a lot like the innocent/guilty statement that I would rather let 10 guilty people go free than have one innocent person locked up.

I'd rather let 5 people scam the system than to fail to help one mentally disabled person.


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 02-29-08 7:24 AM
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you really should write up a paper about this neat trick of diagnosing mental illness just by looking at people.

With all due respect Bitch, how do you think the mental health professionals (and neurologists) diagnose people and/or prescribe medicine?

It is a lot of trial and error and self-reporting.

The process is horribly frustrating with very few objective standards.


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 02-29-08 7:27 AM
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I'd like to see more aggressive outreach toward genuinely fucked-up people, and less willing complicity with the fakers. (One of the fakers I knew thought that that his caseworker was onto his game, but didn't care.)

Anyone who's worked in this or related fields knows that the bureaucratic procedures rule, and that nothing is right or wrong except if the protocols say so. Newbies end up getting frustrated when the purpose of the institution is lost even though the paperwork is inperfect order.

I also think that cultural funding agencies shoud do more exploration and outreach, rather than giving money to people who are best at grantwriting.

However, these things cannot be changed without destroying America as we know it. No joke.

Got the libertarian chemicals in my bloodstream today, I guess.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 02-29-08 7:37 AM
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You know what's gross about Shearer's take, though? Who gives a shit if even a significant portion (say 5%) of SSI recipients are scamming it? Outside any primitive and poorly thought out notions of fairness, wouldn't eliminating the kind of crap Baugh had to deal with be a much better social outcome than spotting a malingerer or two?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-29-08 7:41 AM
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Pwned, figures.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-29-08 7:44 AM
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The combination of helping the wrong people and not helping the ones who need it most is a bad one, though, especially because some or many programs reject new people when their budget is exhausted.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 02-29-08 7:53 AM
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This stuff (the B/Shearer/others) conversation is a bit like the `welfare scammers' situation. There are certain to be people abusing the system, but their numbers are all likely to be out of proportion to the press for it, and popular perception.

A number of years ago British Columbia did a big study on welfare fraud. Eventually they had to release the results --- they had spent orders of magnitude more money looking for people than was being lost to fraud. Sure, they found small number. Not enough to make it worth chasing down and/or making the system harder for everyone else.

I'll echo will's sentiment: Far better to make sure to get help to the ones who really need it than to get hung up on the ones who don't.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 02-29-08 8:00 AM
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when i was a 3d yr student we had to write a history of illness for psychiatry class, we were assigned a patient, mine was a 20 yr old mute girl, she was not born that way, lost her speech when she was abducted into abusive marriage, she was the only child whose foster parents died within one yr, both, and she had nobody else, i would ask her a question and she would write me back
i wrote the history, got my credit and went off
i recall her sometimes why i did not do anything for her and find easy excuses like i was just a stupid 19 yo, what could i do possibly, i was so busy with my classes etc etc sometimes i do not trust myself that i'd do the right thing at the right time, so fickle


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 02-29-08 8:21 AM
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133: Right, but to get that conclusion, you have to assume that the alleged scammers are out there in great enough numbers, and that increasing the restrictions or kicking people off the money, or whatever the proposed solution is, will harm the scammers more than the person in need of help. Increasing restrictions always tilts the balance in favor of the scammer.

It's like welfare fraud or immigration fraud or partial-birth abortion, come to think of it. Everyone 'knows' there are lots of people driving Cadillacs/marrying citizens for green card/having abortions at 38 weeks because of prom, and then legislation is made with the exceptions in mind.

Which makes for bad legislation.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 02-29-08 8:26 AM
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It's like welfare fraud or immigration fraud or partial-birth abortion, come to think of it. Everyone 'knows' there are lots of people driving Cadillacs/marrying citizens for green card/having abortions at 38 weeks because of prom, and then legislation is made with the exceptions in mind.

Exactly. I'm still pissed at the partial birth crap.

Don't forget all of the parents over-medicating their children because they are too lazy to parent their children!


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 02-29-08 8:30 AM
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It may be that my peer group at one time included a disproportionate number of welfare scammers.

I stick with my larger points though: that the mentally or emotionally disabled , especially, should not be expected to take responsibility for qualifying themselves for disability, and that institutional help has serious defects, including this one.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 02-29-08 8:48 AM
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Don't forget all of the parents over-medicating their children because they are too lazy to parent their children!

I over-medicate myself because of my children.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 02-29-08 9:04 AM
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80

"74 and others: I'm not talking about SSI, I'm talking about California's state benefits, which I believe were referred to as "Aid for the Totally Disabled" or something like that. ..."

SSI was a replacement for those state programs. According to wikipedia .

"The legislation creating the program was a result of President Nixon's effort to reform the nation's welfare programs. At that time, each state had similar programs under the Aid to the Blind, Aid to the Permanently and Totally Disabled, and Aid to the Elderly. The Nixon Administration thought these programs should be federalized and run by the Social Security Administration. Thus, SSI was created to eliminate the differences between the states including different disability standards and income and resources requirements which many perceived as irrational and/or unfair. The SSI program officially began in January 1974 by federalizing states' programs, designating the Social Security Administration (SSA) to administer the SSI program. SSA was selected because it had been administering a nationwide disability program under the Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) program since 1956 under the Old Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance (OASDI) programs associated with FICA payroll taxes."


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 02-29-08 2:17 PM
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131

"You know what's gross about Shearer's take, though? Who gives a shit if even a significant portion (say 5%) of SSI recipients are scamming it?"

I wouldn't get too upset with 5%. However Will in 128 is ok with 80%. I am not.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 02-29-08 2:33 PM
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However Will in 128 is ok with 80%.

Your math is faulty.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 02-29-08 2:35 PM
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138

"It may be that my peer group at one time included a disproportionate number of welfare scammers."

The same could be said for the people hanging around the Berkeley student union. Which of course didn't include anyone too depressed to get out of bed. Nor am I saying the people I knew were scammers, just that they appeared capable of work. I had no indication that they had committed any fraud or didn't sincerely believe that they were eligible. However people believe what it is in their interest to believe.

"I stick with my larger points though: that the mentally or emotionally disabled , especially, should not be expected to take responsibility for qualifying themselves for disability, and that institutional help has serious defects, including this one. "

I basically agree with this. The main reason the guy I knew with problems was not receiving any help was not that the assistence programs had run out of money helping people with less serious problems, it was that he was unable to diagnose himself. Bitchphd complains about me playing doctor but a more serious problem is that the system is set up so that if you can't diagnose yourself as mentally ill you don't get help.

A lot of people supported making it difficult to treat people involuntarily for mental illness without perhaps realizing this would mean a large number of people with serious problems would end up untreated because a symptom of their illness is that they don't realize they need help.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 02-29-08 2:57 PM
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