Friday, August 18, 2023

Psychiatric slavery

Perhaps the single best dramatization of the "slave plantation" character to which the Illinois forensic psychiatric system so obviously aspires, is an elderly (age 77) African-American patient at EMHC named James Baker. A former forensic program director confided in me several years ago that he really wanted Baker to get a conditional release, because it just doesn't look good when a recipient of services dies in custody.

I've written about James several times. I think he was a drug user at an early age, grew up in bad neighborhoods in Chicago, got into the "mental health" system, killed somebody, was found NGRI, got coerced to take more drugs, finally decided completely on his own that he'd get off all the drugs, and got punished for that at EMHC for many years by several treating psychiatrists including none other than Richard Malis-with-malice, who literally kept James in chains until a judge forced an end to it.

I once had a plan to get a picture of James being loaded into an EMHC van in his chains, to go to an opthamologist appointment for his glaucoma. I figured I could blast that picture all over the internet with some suitable caption about "American slavery then and now." It never happened because of the very sensible judge, who basically told Malis, "Go in the jury room right now with Baker, and fix this." 

But one of the greatest regrets of my legal career is not having succeeded in getting James Baker released. He's only a year and a half from his Thiem date now, after three and a half decades at EMHC! When I first knew him he played basketball every day; now he has a hard time walking, and probably will be in a wheelchair from now on. What a tragic, ugly waste!

I asked Barry Smoot why the system could possibly want to keep Baker at EMHC any longer. He said that's easy: Baker is valuable property. He causes little or no trouble, he's an easy patient to deal with and he's worth federal dollars like other patients, but for less expense, at least for the moment. It's a short-sighted business calculation, but not entirely irrational.

Baker's current social worker and his psychiatrist were the only two clinical staff to attend his monthly treatment plan review yesterday. They have an acceptance for James' placement in the community already, despite his not taking psych drugs, being diagnosed with schizophrenia, and having committed a homicide. That speaks volumes.

But why should EMHC let the value and the income that this slave represents for the institution be transferred over to Bobby E. Wright Transitional Homes? They can keep him at EMHC for another year and a half, under transparently ridiculous but arguably "clinical mental health" logic like, "Well, he might benefit from doing the community reintegration program (which consists of two or three trips to local malls) for the fourth time. We did change it a little bit since he did it the third time... now we not only go to the mall, but also to McDonald's!"

There's no conditional release packet being prepared for James Baker. Nobody is bothering. He's easily maintained property like Barry Smoot pointed out.

They don't even need the chains anymore, he can't run!


Quick note: It's only August but this is my 57th article posted in 2023, which is my highest ever for any calendar year since I started the blog in 2009.

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