Even as black slaves in the American south were systematically denied education and actively prevented from learning to read, so-called "patients" on the IDHS plantation in Elgin are discouraged from writing as a matter of general policy. I remember Syed Hussain telling me, years ago, that one of my clients was "hypergraphic" -- meaning (in plainer English) that he wrote too much. I asked, what is writing too much? What if this guy were the next Stephen King or something? I mean, how much does he write?
Hussain couldn't tell me any number of words or pages, he just didn't know, and that apparently was not important (silly me). But he informed me, well, this guy was writing more than he had written earlier, before he stopped taking the antipsychotic drugs (also known as major tranquilizers, which is a clue to their effect on anyone's ability to write!) which Hussain wanted him to take. So the "hypergraphia" was a clear medical sign that this slave belonged back on those drugs!
And what had this guy been writing too much about?
Complaints, of course. He'd been documenting abuse and neglect by staff. From the perspective of the overseers and the masters, this was a nuisance that could interfere with cotton production -- or, I should say, "treatment" on the all-important and naturally-ordained "therapeutic milieu" in the "hospital" (please pardon my frequent sarcastic, laughing-out-loud quotation marks).
More recently, "patients" are usually not allowed to have regular pens to write with. And actually for a while, I recall that I was not even allowed to take a regular pen into staffings that I attended in the lawyer's conference room. I was told I had to use the flexible pen refills to even take notes as an attorney or an official advocate for clients. This was more than a little obnoxious, unless they thought maybe I might stab someone with my Bic (which I seriously doubt), or unless security is so incompetent as to be likely to miss my giving my Bic to a client to smuggle back to the clinical unit.
So regular pens became "contraband" (I guess). They can theoretically be used as a deadly weapon, that's not entirely irrational; and who knows, maybe it's empirically consistent with something that happened some time, somewhere, in the history of psychiatric slavery. I have no idea how many people have been murdered or maimed with Bics, so I shouldn't be too easily dismissive of the judgments of the "experts" in forensic mental health.
But one might think that "policy" about "contraband" could be consistent and predictable. At EMHC, it definitely is not. On K Unit ("the love unit") especially, "policy" clearly is not consistent. Which brings me to the subject of immediate inspiration for this article.
On love unit K, one patient, Gus, is required to write with a flimsy pen refill. Another patient, Jeff, gets a regular pen. Gus has repeatedly and officially requested to be allowed a more practical plastic, felt-tip pen. He has a hand injury that makes it especially difficult for him to write with the refills. I sympathize with that problem, because I really cannot write legibly with one of those myself, despite no injury.
But Jeff is seen all the time on love unit K, right out in the day room in full view of unit staff, happily writing away with his own regular, potential-deadly-weapon-contraband, non-flexible pen! And as far as anyone can tell, Jeff doesn't have a hand injury like Gus, that would make writing with the flexible refills so difficult.
I don't mean to get Jeff in trouble, or take the side of one slave against another! This situation is petty, and almost beneath my interest.
But here's the thing.... Jeff gets his regular, potential-deadly-weapon-contraband Bic from a certain member of the love unit K staff: none other than Suzie (Susan Knaus -- see my Dec. 15, 2022 post for more details like salary, etc.). Jeff is on good terms with Suzie (please note, I never said romantic terms); Gus is not. Jeff probably writes kind and encouraging things to Suzie with his Bic. Gus mostly documents abuse and neglect, and complaints, with his flimsy refill.
A corrupt group can never have consistent, rational policy, even about pens. Their purpose is not to help anyone or to be fair, it's to control the slaves.