It seems to be an obvious, merciful policy to let people out of confinement if it’s possible to do so. Prisons are bad places to avoid coronavirus, the public easily understands that. But for some reason it occurs to almost no one that involuntary psychiatric facilities are just as bad, or worse.
The Chicago SunTimes reports today that thousands of prisoners in the Illinois Department of Corrections may be released so they have a better chance to avoid the pandemic. There is a class action lawsuit, and the governor seems to agree with the purposes of the plaintiffs to avoid unnecessary deaths among people who were sentenced for crimes.
Are we any less merciful toward those found not guilty of crimes, by reason of insanity? Yes, in fact we are much less merciful. As far as I can tell, nobody is advocating for release of involuntary psychiatric “patients” at Elgin, Chester, Madden or Chicago Read Mental Health Centers.
There are many who could be released without endangering public safety.
One such “patient” at Elgin MHC is James Baker. He committed what would have been a violent crime... 33 years ago. He is in his seventies now, and in poor health. He hasn’t had any incident of threatening or aggressive behavior for decades, and the doctors who know his case have no further “treatment” to offer him. The Forensic Director at Elgin, Tom Zubik, actually told me months before the pandemic that he was worried Baker would die in custody.
Another such “patient” at Chicago Read MHC is Marci Webber. She was found NGRI for a horrible crime that occurred while she was in a psychotic break born of psychiatric drug withdrawal or intoxication. The chances that she would ever be violent again are approximately zero, according to every expert consulted.
Marci actually was released in December by the same Circuit Court judge who presided over her case from day one. However, in a mysterious set of circumstances that no one in the system seems to have ever seen before, she was re-“hospitalized” pending a highly unlikely appeal bound to take months. Marci even has a place to go and a support system. While she was on conditional release she rented an apartment, and was doing fine. Now somebody else has to pay her rent while she rots in Chicago Read, waiting for the coronavirus, as the wheels of some obscure legal process grind and the taxpayers are fleeced for $800/day.
It is just pure nonsense... that some fine public servant somewhere can’t come up with a rational solution to get these two individuals out of psychiatric slavery, to ease the burden on public resources, and probably to spare a couple lives.
I don’t know any prisoners, but I know plenty of so-called mental “patients” who are in exactly the same boat, or worse. Baker and Webber are just examples. Why can’t we talk about letting a few of these guys go?