Monday, November 1, 2010

Matz and Schumacher Win Lawsuit

WCI suit
Monday, September 13, 2010
Court Settlement Grants Wisconsin Seg Unit Better Conditions

Over 180 inmates held in Waupun Correctional Institute's segregation unit will find themselves soon living in more favorable conditions thanks to a settlement of the lawsuit brought against the Wisconsin Department of Corrections by inmates Matthew R. Schumacher and Shaun J. Matz.

In their lawsuit, they argued that the conditions in the segregation unit, where inmates with behavior problems are housed, were so harsh and isolating that it threatened the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment. Schmacher and Matz, both suffering from several mental illnesses, noted that the conditions were especially harsh for the mentally ill.Each had tried to kill themselves. A state audit performed last year revealed that 46% of segregation unit inmates suffer from mental illness, higher compared to the 33% of general population. The state audit also revealed that Waupun Correction Institute had the highest suicide rate among all Wisconsin prisons.

Complaints brought by Schmacher and Matz included:
• Not being able to receive mail, magazines or photographs
• Unable to purchase items from canteen
• Unable to speak with other inmates
• Harsh light 24-hours a day
• Four hours of rec time outdoors in a cage without any equipment
• Forced outside in the winter without jackets during wreck time
• Insignificant sunlight causing sensory deprivation
As apart of the settlement, the WI-DOC will:
• Replace frosted windows with traditional windows
• Provide winter coats, socks, hats and gloves for inmates during rec time in the winter months
• Equip cages with exercise equipment, basketballs and hacky sacks
• Speak with other inmates through video hook up
• Permitted to receive magazines and letters
• Permitted to have photographs
• Permitted to order from the canteen
The WI-DOC also agreed to pay legal fees for Schumacher and Matz, forgive a $17,000 debt to the prison held by Matz and each inmate will receive a judgement of $33,000.

The improvements to the segregation unit will cost the WI DOC $60,000 - $70,000, with the most expensive cost being replacement of the frosted glass windows.

Some changes have already taken place.

Corrections spokeswoman Linda Eggert said the “reasonable, relatively low-cost changes” will allow the department to avoid further litigation while maintaining a prison that is safe for workers and inmates. She said the changes will also help “address the sensory and psychological needs” of inmates who have significant mental health problems.

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Labels: legal, mental illness, prison conditions, prisoner rights, segregation, WI

Crime & Courts
APNewsBreak: Softer lights, more toiletries: Wisconsin to make improvements for worst inmates
Published September 02, 2010
| Associated Press
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MADISON, WIS. – Life is getting better for some of Wisconsin's most dangerous and worst-behaving prisoners.
To settle lawsuits filed by inmates, state officials have agreed to make wide-ranging changes to the segregation unit at the maximum-security Waupun Correctional Institution to make it easier for them to sleep, exercise and communicate.
The 180 inmates who are housed there because they violated prison rules or were deemed a security risk to the general population will be getting new windows, magazines and even Hacky Sacks, according to settlements signed last month and obtained by The Associated Press.
The Department of Corrections said Thursday the changes will cost more than $60,000, and the settlements award the inmates and their attorneys an additional $113,000 in fees and damages.
Inmates Matthew R. Schumacher and Shaun J. Matz had sued, arguing that the conditions in the cells were so isolating and harsh they violated the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment and worsened their mental illnesses. Each had tried to kill himself at Waupun, which a state audit released last year found had the highest suicide rate of all state prisons.
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Both had complained that fluorescent night lights that are constantly on for security purposes made it hard for them to sleep, and they were not allowed to cover their eyes without facing discipline. They said the frosted glass windows in their cells didn't allow them to see outside or even discern what time of day it was.
The two also said their four hours of "recreation" per week consisted of going to small cages where there was no exercise equipment and that were freezing cold in the winter. (Their prison-issued coats were also stored in the cold cages). They said they couldn't have photographs of loved ones, couldn't read magazines, couldn't communicate with other inmates or buy basic supplies from the canteen.
All that will change under the settlement, which avoids an expensive class-action lawsuit like ones that have been filed against other state prisons in recent years over harsh conditions.
"These are significant changes that will improve the conditions of confinement for all prisoners in the segregation unit at Waupun," said Gregory Everts of Quarles & Brady law firm, one of the attorneys who represented the inmates. "Our goal was to improve the conditions for prisoners who suffer from serious mental illness. We credit the state for making these changes, but I think there's still more work to be done."
Under the settlement, the night lights will be dimmed to 5 watts instead of 9 and inmates will be allowed to cover their eyes with wash cloths to sleep. A prison committee will study whether to allow sleep masks.
The prison will replace the frosted glass in the cells with clear glass to allow inmates to see outside. Hacky Sacks, basketballs and pull-up bars will be available in the cages. The prison will store inmates' winter coats in warmer spots and provide them with gloves and socks to use during winter.
Prisoners will be allowed to buy additional items from the canteen such as candy bars, deodorant and shaving supplies. They'll be allowed to read magazines and get opportunities to communicate with other inmates through video hookups. The prison has already changed its policy to allow photos of friends and family members.
Corrections spokeswoman Linda Eggert said the "reasonable, relatively low-cost changes" will allow the department to avoid further litigation while maintaining a prison that is safe for workers and inmates. She said the changes will also help "address the sensory and psychological needs" of inmates who have significant mental health problems.
The new windows will be the most expensive part, with an estimated cost between $57,000 and $68,000. Basketballs and Hacky Sacks? They only cost $387.
Schumacher and Matz will each receive $30,000. Matz will also have a $17,000 debt on his prison account erased. Quarles & Brady, which was appointed to take the case pro bono, will receive $36,600 to cover its expenses.
Matz, 30, is serving a 35-year term for first-degree reckless homicide and armed robbery. He was charged in a pair of fatal shootings in Milwaukee in 2003. Schumacher, 28, is serving a life sentence in the beating and stabbing death of a restaurant owner in 1999. Both suffer from multiple mental illnesses.
According to last year's audit, 46 percent of the inmates in segregation have mental health issues, compared to 33 percent in the general population. Eggert said the number of mentally ill inmates has been rising, and the state is addressing their needs "within the budget restraints of the state's fiscal climate."

Sunday, October 31, 2010

treatment units on hold

Treatment units for mentally ill inmates on hold

State cites budget crunch as talks to end suit fail
By Jonathan Saltzman, Globe Staff | November 10, 2009

The Patrick administration has shelved plans to build special treatment units for hundreds of seriously mentally ill inmates, two years after advocates for prisoners alleged in a federal lawsuit that the state’s practice of keeping such inmates in solitary confinement 23 hours a day was inhumane and causing suicides.
Citing the state budget crisis, lawyers for top state prison officials said negotiations to settle the civil rights suit by the Disability Law Center against the Department of Correction out of court have ended. The center has asked a federal judge in Boston to schedule a trial for January 2011, while the state wants it to start a year later.
The collapse of negotiations, made public in court filings Friday, marks a startling reversal from where things stood a year ago. Last November, Harold W. Clarke, the correction commissioner appointed by Governor Deval Patrick, and Leslie Walker, executive director of Massachusetts Correctional Legal Services, said they expected the suit would be resolved shortly with the announcement of plans to build maximum-security residential treatment units.
Inmates would be exposed to more types of therapy in such units, and advocates want the prisoners to have more time out of their cells.
“We’re hoping to be able to say, ‘We don’t have to go to court, we can avoid litigation,’ which I’m certain will serve all parties best,’’ Clarke said in a Globe report Nov. 16.
On Friday, however, lawyers for the prison system filed a document in US District Court that said, “Due to the fiscal crisis, the parties have discontinued formal settlement negotiations.’’ The state’s lawyers did not elaborate on the financial constraints.
The nonprofit Disability Law Center sued the state in March 2007, alleging that hundreds of mentally ill prisoners were kept in closet-size solitary confinement cells in response to unruly behavior. The conditions had led to self-mutilation, the swallowing of razor blades, and numerous suicides, said the center.
The suit, which resembled legal challenges that led to changes in other states, said Massachusetts ignored repeated calls from its mental health providers and consultants to provide high-security treatment units for violent, mentally disturbed inmates.
A Globe Spotlight Team series in December 2007 reported 15 suicides in the prisons from 2005 through 2007, most by those in solitary confinement with histories of mental illness or drug addiction. There had also been more than 3,200 suicide attempts and self-inflicted injuries in the prior decade, the Globe found.
Walker, of Massachusetts Correctional Legal Services, which helps represent the Disability Law Center in the suit, said yesterday that she was “deeply disappointed that we’re not going to be able to resolve this case short of trial.’’ She said she could not comment further because settlement talks were confidential.
In a brief statement, Diane Wiffin, a spokeswoman for the prison system, said correction officials plan to “continue providing appropriate levels of service to segregation inmates with serious mental illness.’’ She declined to elaborate, citing the litigation.
There is nothing appropriate about the segregation of inmates with mental illness, according to Laurie Martinelli, executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Massachusetts, an advocacy group that supports the lawsuit.
She said keeping such prisoners in their cells 23 hours a day violates the constitutional prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment and that the state’s fiscal crisis was irrelevant.
“You can’t get around a constitutional violation by saying, ‘We don’t have money,’ ’’ she said.
Fred Cohen, a retired criminal justice professor at the State University of New York at Albany and an expert on the treatment of the mentally ill in prisons, agreed, saying no federal court has ruled that finances trump an inmate’s constitutional rights. If the case goes to trial, however, plaintiffs would have to prove that the isolation of inmates violates their civil rights. In some states, Cohen said, politicians were glad for judges to order them to improve conditions for inmates; that way, judges, rather than the politicians, had to take the heat from the public for spending scarce tax dollars on convicted criminals.
“It’s not unheard of, and it’s especially popular during times of economic duress,’’ he said.
Several states, including Connecticut, New Mexico, Ohio, Texas, and Wisconsin have faced lawsuits in recent years that have been resolved by settlements or court orders requiring improvements in the treatment of mentally ill prisoners.
Kevin M. Burke, Patrick’s public safety secretary, was quoted as saying in 2007 that it would cost “several million’’ dollars to fully fund high-security treatment units. A spokesman for Burke, whose office oversees the prison system, said yesterday that the secretary would not comment on the litigation. Patrick also declined to comment through a spokeswoman.
Prisoner rights groups as well as specialists on the treatment of inmates have repeatedly criticized the Massachusetts prison system for failing to address the needs of inmates with mental illnesses.
An independent study of the state prison system released in February 2007 found that the number of mentally ill inmates increased by nearly 1,000 between 2000 and 2005 but that the state was not responding adequately to the challenges they presented. There are about 11,000 inmates in the state system.
Lindsay M. Hayes, a national specialist in prison suicide prevention who wrote the report, said suicidal inmates were being punished instead of being helped. The study, commissioned by the department after an increase in prisoner suicides in 2005 and 2006 left the state’s rate nearly double the national rate over the prior decade, made 29 recommendations. They ranged from improving the suicide-prevention training of correction officers to increasing the frequency of observation of at-risk inmates.
Although prison officials immediately said they embraced all of the recommendations, the department never endorsed a blanket ban on the segregation of mentally ill inmates. Inmates in segregation are typically allowed out of their cells for an hour only to shower or to get exercise in a small caged space.
In April 2008, the state prison system took a modest step to improve treatment of mentally ill inmates when it opened a unit for such prisoners at Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center, a maximum-security prison in Shirley. The unit is called the Secure Treatment Program and it houses 14 prisoners, Wiffin said.

suit urges prison overhaul

Suit urges state to overhaul prisons
Group says mentally ill held in poor conditions
By Jonathan Saltzman, Globe Staff | March 9, 2007

Hundreds of seriously mentally ill prisoners are held in cells 23 hours a day in inhumane conditions that have led to self-mutilation, the swallowing of razor blades, and at least seven suicides since November 2004, an advocacy group alleged yesterday in a federal lawsuit demanding that the inmates be housed in special treatment units.
The Disability Law Center, a nonprofit organization that provides legal help for the disabled, sued the state Department of Correction in US District Court in Boston after a yearlong investigation during which the advocates questioned more than 220 inmates in segregation units at two maximum-security prisons, Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center and MCI-Cedar Junction.
In in-depth follow-up interviews, the advocacy group found that at least two dozen of the 220 segregated inmates displayed signs of mental illness. Extrapolating those numbers, the advocates estimated that hundreds of prisoners in the state with mental health issues are confined in such units, the group said, which is demoralizing for any inmate but exceeds "the limit of human endurance" for those with psychological problems.
The suit, similar to legal challenges that have led to changes in other states, says Massachusetts has ignored repeated calls from its mental health providers and consultants to stop segregating mentally ill prisoners. The suit demands that the state build maximum-security residential treatment units.
"The system is broken," Stanley J. Eichner , executive director of the Disability Law Center, said at a press conference where he and advocates for prisoners displayed graphic photographs of a mentally ill inmate at Cedar Junction who had repeatedly slashed his neck, torso, and arms while in segregation.
"We are not saying these prisoners are folks without [criminal] records," said Eichner, who interviewed the inmates, some of whom were violent felons, over three days in November. "What we are saying is that prisoners should not be driven to the point of mutilation and self-destruction."
Putting such prisoners in segregation units, the advocates say, violates the constitutional prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment and should be banned. The Disability Law Center also said the segregation of mentally ill inmates violates federal statutes, including the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The Department of Correction said in a statement that it does not comment on pending litigation. However, the department said it was "well aware of the national trend of the increasing number of prisoners with mental illness" and that it had begun taking steps to reduce the risk of suicide for the state's nearly 11,000 inmates.
On Feb. 22, an independent study of Massachusetts prisons, requested by the Correction Department after a sharp increase in suicides in 2005 and 2006, concluded that prison policies and practices had contributed to the problem.
In addition to criticizing the condition of segregation, the report found that staff lacked adequate suicide-prevention training, did not check frequently enough on inmates at risk of suicide, and isolated inmates on suicide watches by denying visits, showers, phone calls, and time outside cells.
The study done for the state by Lindsay M. Hayes, a national specialist in prison suicide prevention, had 29 recommendations, including increasing monitoring of suicidal inmates, adding training for staff, and improving mental health treatment. The Department of Correction immediately said it would comply with the recommendations and was seeking bids for a private contractor to improve mental health treatment. But the department gave no indication it intended to stop segregating the mentally ill.
"It's a response, but we feel that it's an inadequate response," Leslie Walker, director of Massachusetts Correctional Legal Services, said yesterday at the news conference at the law firm of Bingham McCutchen , which is representing the advocates pro bono. Several of the advocates said they believe the state commissioned the study because it knew the Disability Law Center was gearing up for a suit.
The suit describes 18 mentally ill prisoners, identified only by letters, who engaged in self-destructive behavior while in segregation units. Nine medium- and maximum-security prisons in Massachusetts have such units. About 500 prisoners are held in such cells across the state, the suit said.
In Massachusetts, the suit says, cells in segregation units often have minimal furnishings, little if any natural light, and solid doors with a narrow slot used to deliver food. Inmates are allowed out only an hour a day to exercise, and some are so depressed that they decline to do so, the suit said. The units hold prisoners who have committed serious disciplinary infractions, threaten security, or are in protective custody. Lengths of stay vary from days to years.
The only inmate whose name was released yesterday was Andrew Armstrong , 22, an inmate at Souza-Baranowski in Shirley who hanged himself in October 2005 from the bars of his cell window. On a desk in his cell, he had written in soap, "Dust in the wind."
Armstrong had a history of bipolar disorder and had been placed in segregation because of a fight with another prisoner while in a paranoid state, the suit said. He complained about cameras and listening devices in his cell. As with other mentally ill inmates, his erratic behavior and agitation had prompted prison officials to shuttle him multiple times between the prison and Bridgewater State Hospital.
"Did no one realize what was going on?" his aunt, Frances Armstrong of Cheslea, wrote in a letter that Walker read aloud. "Did they not understand this 22-year-old was on a fast-moving ride to the depths of hell?"
The suit described other inmates who injured themselves swallowing razor blades, batteries, and parts of eyeglasses. Another bruised his head by banging it against the wall, and another smeared feces over his body. Several had a history of hallucinations, including one who complained of seeing demons.
The advocates said in the suit that they want the state to build residential treatment units for inmates with mental disorders and provide at least 15 hours a week of therapy out of their cells as well as 10 hours a week for recreation and showers. The advocates had no estimate for the cost of building such units. They also want independent mental health professionals to screen inmates to ensure that mentally ill prisoners are not placed in segregated units and to operate treatment units.
Dr. Stuart Grassian, a Newton psychiatrist who has studied the effect of solitary confinement on inmates for more than 25 years, said the US Supreme Court noted in an 1890 decision that even healthy prisoners often become confused, hallucinatory, psychotic, and agitated in such conditions.
"Now if you take someone who is already mentally ill and put them in an environment that is supposed to be painful psychologically, what do you expect?" he said.
Since 1995, federal courts have ruled in at least six states -- California, Connecticut, Indiana, Ohio, New Mexico, and Wisconsin -- that seriously mentally ill prisoners must be removed from segregation units, said David Fathi of the ACLU National Prison Project in Washington.
"So, this Massachusetts case is really building on a body of unanimous case law that says you simply cannot house mentally ill prisoners in conditions of extreme isolation," he said.

Mentally Ill Inmates at Risk in Isolation, Lawsuit Says

March 9, 2007
Mentally Ill Inmates at Risk in Isolation, Lawsuit Says
Correction Appended
BOSTON, March 8 — Placed in solitary confinement in a Massachusetts prison, Mark Cunningham tried to kill himself last year, advocates for inmates say.

Mr. Cunningham cut his legs and arms. He tried to hang himself with a tube from a breathing machine he used for sleep apnea. He smashed the machine to get a sharp fragment to slice his neck and ate pieces of it, hoping to cause internal bleeding. Five weeks ago, after being placed in solitary confinement again, Mr. Cunningham, 37, hanged himself.
With that, Mr. Cunningham, who lawyers said had a long history of mental illness, including depression, became the 13th inmate to commit suicide in Massachusetts since November 2004.
Mr. Cunningham’s case is one of 18 suicides and suicide attempts by inmates in solitary confinement described in a federal lawsuit filed Thursday by advocates for inmates and the mentally ill. They are seeking to prevent Massachusetts from placing mentally ill inmates in such segregated cells.
“We aren’t saying these folks should go free; we aren’t saying they shouldn’t be under high security conditions,” said Stanley J. Eichner, executive director of the Disability Law Center. But Mr. Eichner said putting prisoners in solitary conditions and denying them adequate mental health services was “literally the fatal flaw in the system.”
“How many more men will have to die,” he asked, “how many more men will be driven to harm themselves before this problem is fixed?”
The lawsuit reflects an increasing concern nationally as the number of mentally ill inmates rises, experts on inmates and mental illness say.
Several states, including Connecticut, New Mexico, Ohio, Texas and Wisconsin, have faced lawsuits that have recently been resolved by settlements or court orders requiring improvements in the treatment of mentally ill prisoners. Those changes include more frequent monitoring, better training of corrections officers and removal of fixtures that could be used for hangings.
In January, Indiana agreed to stop putting some mentally ill inmates in isolation cells. While not all agreements in other states have resulted in excluding mentally ill prisoners from isolation, many have called for better screening or monitoring of isolated inmates.
In California, after a record number of prison suicides — 44 — in 2005, a special master appointed by a federal judge reported that inmates “in overcrowded and understaffed administration segregation units are killing themselves in unprecedented numbers.” The judge, Lawrence Karlton, ordered the administration of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to spend more than $600 million to improve mental health services.
In New York, the Legislature passed a law last year to remove mentally ill inmates from solitary cells, but Gov. George E. Pataki vetoed it. A 2002 suit seeking to end the practice is close to a settlement, said Nina Loewenstein, a lawyer for Disability Advocates, which filed it.
“That’s what states around the country are struggling with — when they have inmates that are very violent and out of control and need to be segregated from other inmates, but they are also mentally ill,” said Lindsay M. Hayes, a national expert in prison suicide prevention who was hired last year by the Massachusetts Department of Correction to study why the suicide rate was so high.
A segregated inmate is typically locked up for 23 hours a day, allowed out only to shower or get outdoor exercise in a small caged space.
In a report Mr. Hayes issued last month, he found that of 10 prisoners who killed themselves in 2005 and 2006, 5 had recently been on suicide watches and 9 committed suicide in solitary or segregated conditions. A prisoner who tried to kill himself was left brain dead.
“Confining a suicidal inmate to their cell for 24 hours a day only enhances isolation and is antitherapeutic,” Mr. Hayes wrote.
When the report was released, the State Department of Corrections said it would adopt all 29 of Mr. Hayes’s recommendations, which included better assessment, supervision and monitoring of inmates, and better officer training, a recommendation Mr. Hayes also made in a 2000 report. He did not specifically recommend excluding mentally inmates from segregation units, saying it was not his area of expertise.
The Department of Corrections declined to comment on the suit or its position on segregated cells.
But in a statement, the department said: “We are well aware of the national trend of the increasing number of prisoners with mental illness” and added that it was “committed to the full implementation of the Hayes recommendations and improvement of prison mental health care.”
The statement said the department had already taken several steps, including briefing senior staff, revising the training curriculum and evaluating cells for design improvements. It said it also was soliciting bids for a residential treatment facility for mentally ill inmates.
Leslie Walker, executive director of Massachusetts Correctional Legal Services, said that advocates had been pressing for change for 17 years and that she was not confident the state would do enough on its own.
Frances Armstrong, whose nephew, Andrew Armstrong, 22, killed himself in a segregation unit in 2005, said in an interview that Mr. Armstrong had been put in isolation several times for cutting himself.
“Even in the Bible it says man is not meant to be alone,” Ms. Armstrong said. “He just lost his will to live. He thought if this is going to be the way it’s going to be, I better check out now.”
Correction: March 12, 2007
An article on Friday about a lawsuit filed in Massachusetts by advocates for inmates and the mentally ill misstated the number of prison suicides in 2005 in California, which has been ordered to spend $600 million to improve mental health services in prisons. There were 36, not 44.

Judi Chamberlin, writings took on mental health care

Judi Chamberlin, writings took on mental health care
By J.M. Lawrence, Globe Correspondent | January 20, 2010
In 1966 at age 21, Judi Chamberlin was locked in a New York state mental ward against her will after the newlywed suffered a miscarriage and couldn’t stop crying.
“A depression is something to get rid of and the goal of psychiatry is to ’cure’ people of depression,’’ she wrote in a 1978 book that became a cornerstone of the “Mad Pride’’ movement among mental health patients. “That my depression might be telling me something about my own life was a possibility no one considered, including me.’’
Ms. Chamberlin, who wrote “On Our Own: Patient-Controlled Alternatives to the Mental Health System,’’ died Saturday at her Arlington home from chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder, a lung disease. She was 65.
Described as irreverent and fearless, Ms. Chamberlin’s writings about the dehumanizing treatment inside mental hospitals helped galvanize patients to become “psychiatric survivors’’ and changed social attitudes about their future prospects.
“Her life, her book, her words, her talks were so revolutionary,’’ said Dr. Daniel Fisher, executive director of the National Empowerment Center in Lawrence, which Ms. Chamberlin helped found.
“The mental health system, for a while, was scared of her because she spoke so boldly with no compromise. She would say things that now we accept there’s a certain truth to. But back then, it seemed like heresy,’’ Fisher said.
Ms. Chamberlin, who was diagnosed as schizophrenic, contended patients have the right to make choices about their care, and she argued that their using those rights was integral to recovery.
She liked the name “Mad Pride,’’ and her book became the movement’s manifesto. “Instead of a pejorative word, they were saying ‘No, we’re proud of who we are and so be it,’ ’’ said Robert Whitaker, author of “Mad in America,’’ which chronicles the history of America’s treatment of the mentally ill.
Ms. Chamberlin, who grew up in Brooklyn, first sought help at a hospital but was quickly swept into a series of psychiatric stays. She was committed to Rockland Hospital for two months.
“The experience totally demoralized me,’’ she wrote. “I had never thought of myself as a particularly strong person, but after hospitalization, I was convinced of my own worthlessness. I had been told that I could not exist outside of an institution.’’
In an essay called “Confession of a Noncompliant Patient,’’ she said she learned to hide her true feelings of despair and anger to win her freedom, while she fantasized about former patients evacuating the hospital and burning it down. “In my fantasy, we joined hands and danced around this bonfire of oppression,’’ she said.
Her first marriage ended after her hospitalization. She eventually found recovery in Vancouver at a crisis center run by other mental illness sufferers who had won government funding for alternative treatments.
She came to Boston and helped found the Mental Patients’ Liberation Front in the early 1970s. The group brought a landmark lawsuit against Boston State Hospital. The 1975 case established patients’ rights to refuse treatment.
In 1980, Ms. Chamberlin linked arms with other protesters and blocked the doors at the American Psychiatric Association Conference in San Francisco, said her friend Sally Zinman, who stood with her that night.
Zinman, who lives in Berkeley, Calif., laughed as she remembered how the doctors entered the conference through a side door.
“It’s hard to think of her as gone because her influence will keep going. She has been so influential in social change that she won’t die,’’ said Zinman, who spent 30 years as director of the California Network of Mental Health Clients.
Ms. Chamberlin found little help for herself from psychiatric drugs but did not oppose medication as a possible path for recovery.
In 1985, she helped found the Ruby Rogers Advocacy & Drop-In Center in Somerville, which is run by nonprofessional staff who have had mental health issues.
She also worked on projects with the Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation at Boston University and was cochairwoman of the World Network of Users and Survivors of Psychiatry from 2001-2004. In 2004, she was named to a panel advising the United Nations on disabilities.
In the last year, Ms. Chamberlin battled for the rights of the terminally ill to hospice care. She wanted to die at her home surrounded by her books and her beloved cats, Gilbert and Oliver, with frequent visits from her grandchildren. But UnitedHealthcare cut off her hospice benefits at $5,000. She appealed.
“Although I apparently haven’t died fast enough,’’ she wrote on one form, “I do have a terminal illness and will need some method of care.’’
By the time the company extended her benefits, Ms. Chamberlin had found home care from Visiting Nurse and Community Health of Arlington. She chronicled her days on her blog
Her partner, Martin Federman of Cambridge, who met her three years ago, also cared for her. “When I first met her, she was still in the peak of the work she was doing, and my first impressions were of how incredibly focused and committed she was,’’ he said.
On her blog, she wrote lovingly of Federman bringing her meals, including her favorite dessert, Junior’s cheesecake from New York City.
She did not want a memorial service. Instead, scores of people lined up for a chance to praise her work at a celebration of her life held at Boston University in August. Ms. Chamberlin, who was in a wheelchair, took the microphone and issued a call for the rights of hospice patients to care.
“Even at this last second of her life, she was fighting for change, and it was an absolutely beautiful moment,’’ Whitaker said.
Ms. Chamberlin leaves her daughter, Julie of Boston, and three grandchildren. Burial will be private.

Judge orders prison suicide records

Judge orders prison suicide records
Advocacy group sues over care of inmates

By Jonathan Saltzman, Globe Staff | August 12, 2010
A federal judge in Boston ordered a former contractor for the state prison system yesterday to provide him with the psychiatric treatment records of about 25 inmates who committed or attempted suicide while in solitary confinement from 2005 to 2007.
US Chief District Court Judge Mark L. Wolf gave the University of Massachusetts Correctional Health Program until Aug. 27 to turn over thousands of pages of mental health reviews written by therapists after the suicides and attempts. He wants to determine whether he can legally turn them over to a nonprofit advocacy group that has sued the state over the care of mentally ill inmates.
UMass Correctional Health, which is not a defendant in the suit and is a program of the University of Massachusetts Medical School, contends that federal law requires the records to remain confidential under a privilege between psychotherapists and patients. The only way the privilege can be waived, UMass said yesterday, is if the inmates, or their representatives, give permission to release them.
But lawyers for the Disability Law Center said the records are crucial to their case. The center filed a civil rights suit against the prison system in 2007 alleging that hundreds of mentally ill inmates are held in cells 23 hours a day in inhumane conditions.
“We’re seeking documents that analyze what happened,’’ Carol E. Head, a lawyer for the Disability Law Center, told Wolf during a two-hour hearing. The records, she said, might indicate whether inmates were improperly diagnosed or harmed themselves because of conditions in solitary confinement.
James A. Bello, a lawyer for UMass, called the plaintiffs’ request for the records a “fishing expedition’’ and said inmates might have committed suicide for reasons that had nothing to do with conditions in prison.
But Wolf countered that the records were relevant even if the plaintiffs have no idea what they say. It was possible, he said, the documents might contain damaging evidence, such as a comment by a mental health clinician that “if we don’t change the way we deal with prisoners in segregation with serious mental health needs, I predict the number of suicides will soar.’’
Lawyers for the Department of Correction have taken no position on the request for records and were mostly silent at the hearing.
Suicides in the state prison system have been a focus of concern for years.
In February 2007, following seven suicides the previous year, a nationally renowned suicide prevention specialist hired by the state issued a 63-page report that found serious shortcomings in the state’s handling of inmates at risk for suicide. The state immediately pledged to comply with all 29 recommendations in the report.
A Globe Spotlight Team series in December 2007 revealed deepening mental illness and misery behind the walls of the state’s prisons and identified numerous problems, including bungled background screenings of suicidal inmates, missing mental health records, and skipped security rounds by correction officers.
Although suicides fell after the state promised to comply with the 29 recommendations, they surged again this year. Eight inmates killed themselves in the first seven months of the year, a suicide rate more than four times the national average. In response, the Patrick administration announced it would rehire the suicide prevention specialist.
Few of the suicides this year occurred in solitary confinement, according to James Pingeon, director of litigation for Prisoners’ Legal Services and a member of the Disability Law Center’s legal team. But some of the inmates who killed themselves had spent considerable time in solitary confinement, including one with a history of mental illness who was mentioned in the center’s lawsuit.
The suit, which alleges that solitary confinement has caused inmates to mutilate themselves, swallow razor blades, and commit suicide, demands that the state build maximum-security residential treatment units. In late 2008, the Patrick administration signaled that it would build such units in the hopes of settling the suit out of court. But the administration shelved the plans a year later, saying the state’s finances made that impossible.
Wolf said yesterday that the state and Disability Law Center have tried to settle the dispute, and he hoped they could continue to talk, given the “high human stakes here.’’
He ordered UMass to provide complete mental health records pertaining to the 25 inmates as well as records redacting the information that the vendor says is privileged, so he can compare them.
UMass no longer provides mental health services at the state prisons, although it does provide inmates with medical services. State officials replaced UMass with another vendor for mental health services, Virginia-based MHM Services Inc.

fresh air for mental patients sought

Fresh air sought for mental patients

Bill calls for daily outdoors time; some hospitals say it’s not needed

The Legislature is considering a bill that would make fresh air not just a welcome break from the dreary walls in a psychiatric hospital, but a right of patients.

The bill is being pushed by a coalition of mental health advocates, some of whom had to take up smoking just to get outside a hospital building. It’s being opposed by an association of officials who run private psychiatric hospitals and wards.

“I think it’s a great bill,” said Julia Prentice of 25 Wiles Farm Road, Northboro. “I really feel like people in hospitals have enough things to deal with in their lives without being denied fresh air.”

She works in three state hospitals as an employee of M-POWER, a member-run organization of former and current psychiatric patients. M-Power and the Disability Law Center have joined to form CFAR, the Coalition for Fresh Air Rights, which is advocating for the bill in the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Mental Health and Substance Abuse.

The bill would guarantee daily access to fresh air for patients in both public and private psychiatric hospitals, according to Jonathan Dosick, an advocate at the Disability Law Center in Boston. “We believe that exposure to the outdoors and nature is an essential part of daily human life. Fresh air has been proven to have a therapeutic effect,” he said.

Under the bill proposed by CFAR, the right to daily fresh air would be added to five other rights guaranteed by Chapter 123 of the Massachusetts General Laws to patients in psychiatric facilities. Like two other of those rights — the right to reasonable access to a telephone and the right to daily, private visits of a patient’s own choosing — the right to go out into fresh air could be suspended by the superintendent or director of the inpatient facility if it “would present a substantial risk of serious harm” to the patient or others.

The bill proposed by CFAR does not detail how much fresh air access per day must be granted.

The Massachusetts Association of Behavioral Health Systems, which represents eight psychiatric hospitals and 36 hospitals with psychiatric units, opposes the bill. Executive Director David Matteodo said he saw no need for the bill.

“Most of the hospitals allow it now anyway,” he said. “I said to the advocates, where they are having issues let’s talk about it and maybe we can work it out on a hospital-specific basis.”

State Rep. Jennifer M. Callahan, D-Sutton, became a co-sponsor of the bill after some constituents with mental health diagnoses spoke to her about the importance of the bill. Not that she needed much convincing.

A registered nurse, Ms. Callahan grew up on an apple orchard in Sutton. As a daughter of two Worcester State Hospital employees, she knew about psychiatric patients and fresh air before some of the bill’s advocates were breathing it.

State hospital patients came to help harvest the McIntoshes and the Baldwins and “they loved coming. I remember lots of smiles, and I remember my parents saying they really did enjoy the visits,” the legislator said.

The goal of the bill, whose principal sponsor is Rep. Frank I. Smizik, D-Brookline, “is to fully integrate people to the maximum of their potential,” Ms. Callahan said. “But I recognize that institutions also have to make sure they have the staffing and resources to do so.”

Marc D. Cohen, director of the 51-bed inpatient psychiatric unit at St. Vincent Hospital in Worcester, called the bill “well intentioned but uninformed.” He said the bill’s sponsors did not consult the state Department of Mental Health, and the bill legislates clinical care.

“Denying a patient access to fresh air solely as a punishment, absent a valid clinical indication, is not in keeping with good quality care and should not be condoned,” Mr. Cohen said. But, he said, the fact that psychiatric patients meet the need for hospital level care means “they present a substantial and credible risk of harm to themselves and/or others, (and) is indicative of the need to place certain restrictions on their actions and movements.”

While only two of the 42 members of the Massachusetts Association of Behavioral Health Systems who responded to a survey said they prohibit outside access for their patients, Executive Director Stanley J. Eichner of the Disability Law Center said an informal survey found several hospitals whose policies are so restrictive that they amount to a denial of fresh air even if they don’t ban it outright.

Regarding the hospitals directly operated by the state DMH, DLC managing attorney Kelly Sullivan said, “We’re satisfied with what they do as far as providing access to fresh air.” Mr. Dosick said Worcester State Hospital may be the best.

But Mr. Eichner points out, “The largest number of people receiving psychiatric services are not at state facilities” and the bill is to benefit them. He acknowledged that fresh air access means hospitals need a secure area, and opponents consider the bill burdensome or too costly.

“There could be issues around phasing it in,” the DLC director said. “We indicated to the leadership of the committee, if there needs to be some slight adjustment, we’re open to” that.

Rep. Ruth B. Balser, D-Newton, House chairman of the Joint Committee on Mental Health, said, “My goal (is) to balance the wish of the patient to get fresh air with the hospital’s responsibility to ensure the safety and psychiatric care of the patient.” She expects the committee to report the bill out today.

A clinical psychologist, Rep. Balser said she plans to propose a redraft of the bill to the committee. It would give the Department of Mental Health oversight over all of the hospitals it licenses and to “ask hospitals to make a reasonable effort” to provide patients with access to fresh air when a patient’s clinical condition permits it.

It would not describe fresh air access as a right, however, Ms. Balser said. Her proposal would make the decision more clinical than administrative, she said.

The DMH takes no position on the bill, said the agency’s chief of staff, Patricia Mackin. “We have a human rights policy that every client has the right to a reasonable opportunity for physical exercise and access to the outdoors consistent with requirements for safety,” she said.

While there is no definition on most DMH units of what is reasonable, she said the practice is “probably two or three times a day, under optimum circumstances and depending on staffing. The presumption is everyone can be outdoors.”

While some hospitals say their urban location prevents fresh air access, the DMH spent the money to establish an exercise perimeter even at the Lindemann Mental Health Center in urban Boston’s government center.

While the Massachusetts Chapter of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill has taken no position on the bill, the Manic-Depressive and Depressive Association in Boston, as well as the Massachusetts chapter of National Association of Social Workers, the Massachusetts Association for Occupational Therapists, and the American Occupational Therapy Association support it. Even though “the question of safety is a very real one,” said Karl Ackerman, Boston MDDA president, “a blanket use of that reason to not provide access to open sky and fresh air is something which the bill does seek to stop.”

He said he has had people with mental illness tell him they were in institutions that allowed only smokers to go outside “and they have actually had to take up smoking again just to get outside. Not a good thing.”

Pete Foulkes, 59, of 1050 Main St., has been in at least six inpatient psychiatric facilities. He said the bill is “a good idea because my experience has been that getting off the ward and out into the fresh air has helped me recover from my episodes of mental illness.”

Still, he said, in his experience, he got off the ward for fresh air when he could handle it, but when he felt unsafe, he and his clinicians agreed he should not go outside.

Lawsuit to end seg

Thursday, March 8, 2007
Lawsuit seeks to end segregation of mentally ill prisoners
By Jonathan Saltzman and Andrew Ryan, Globe Staff
An advocacy group filed a federal lawsuit today alleging that the state Department of Correction's segregation of mentally ill prisoners in isolated cells for 23 hours a day has led to numerous prisoner suicides and self-mutilations.
The lawsuit, filed in US District Court in Boston by attorneys for the Disability Law Center, seeks to end the practice, which advocates say violates the constitutional rights of several hundred mentally ill inmates in the state prison system, which has a population of about 11,000.
The lawsuit was filed after an intensive yearlong review in which advocates visited inmates at Susan-Baranowski Correctional Facility and MCI-Cedar Junction, toured the units, and reviewed records.
"We had worst fears confirmed," said Stanley J. Eichner, executive director of the Disability Law Center. "The system is broken. These men are being subjected to intolerable conditions which cause them to gravely harm themselves, too often fatally."
Leslie Walker, the executive director of Massachusetts Correctional Legal Services and an attorney on the case, said the plaintiffs want the Department of Correction to exclude mentally ill inmates from segregation units and provide access to mental health treatment that is currently available. Similar lawsuits in other states have spurred the changes the plaintiffs are seeking, including California, Ohio, Wisconsin, Indiana, Connecticut, and New Mexico.
The lawsuit focuses on 18 individual inmates who either harmed or killed themselves. The lawyers today displayed three photos of one inmate whose arms, torso, and neck bore horrific red scars from self-mutilation advocates say was spurred by his segregation.
On Feb. 21, the state Department of Correction announced it would comply completely with 29 recommendations in an independent study that found serious problems with how prisons handle suicidal inmates. The study, however, did not recommend that the state end its practice of segregating mentally ill inmates. Lawyers today alleged that the study was a halfhearted effort by the state spurred in part by questions asked by advocates for the Disability Law Center.
The study, commissioned by the department, found that staff lacked sufficient suicide-prevention training and did not check frequently enough on some inmates at risk of killing themselves. The report also found that some cells used to house despondent inmates had not been stripped of features the men could use to harm themselves and that prisoners under suicide watch become even more isolated because they are denied visitors, showers, phone calls, and time outside their cells.
The National Center on Institutions and Alternatives, a nonprofit research center based in Baltimore, was asked to perform the study after state prisons saw a spike in suicides in 2005 and 2006. Ten inmates have killed themselves in state prisons in the past two years, and a suicide attempt left a prisoner brain dead. Of the 11 inmates, five had been on suicide watch, and six had documented mental health issues. The study found that prison policies exacerbated some of the problems
Posted by the Boston Globe City & Region Desk at 12:02 PM

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marijuanna laws target Blacks

October 22, 2010 Smoke and Horrors By CHARLES M. BLOW NYTimes
Attorney General Eric Holder Jr.’s recent chest-thumping against the California ballot initiative that seeks to legalize marijuana underscores how the war on drugs in this country has become a war focused on marijuana, one being waged primarily against minorities and promoted, fueled and financed primarily by Democratic politicians.
According to a report released Friday by the Marijuana Arrest Research Project for the Drug Policy Alliance and the N.A.A.C.P. and led by Prof. Harry Levine, a sociologist at the City University of New York: “In the last 20 years, California made 850,000 arrests for possession of small amounts of marijuana, and half-a-million arrests in the last 10 years. The people arrested were disproportionately African-Americans and Latinos, overwhelmingly young people, especially men.”
For instance, the report says that the City of Los Angeles “arrested blacks for marijuana possession at seven times the rate of whites.”
This imbalance is not specific to California; it exists across the country.
One could justify this on some level if, in fact, young blacks and Hispanics were using marijuana more than young whites, but that isn’t the case. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, young white people consistently report higher marijuana use than blacks or Hispanics.
How can such a grotesquely race-biased pattern of arrests exist? Professor Levine paints a sordid picture: young police officers are funneled into low-income black and Hispanic neighborhoods where they are encouraged to aggressively stop and frisk young men. And if you look for something, you’ll find it. So they find some of these young people with small amounts of drugs. Then these young people are arrested. The officers will get experience processing arrests and will likely get to file overtime, he says, and the police chiefs will get a measure of productivity from their officers. The young men who were arrested are simply pawns.
Professor Levine has documented an even more devious practice in New York City, where possessing a small amount of marijuana is just a civil violation (so is a speeding ticket), but having it “open to public view” is a misdemeanor.
According to a report he issued in September 2009: “Police typically discovered the marijuana by stopping and searching people, often by tricking and intimidating them into revealing it. When people then took out the marijuana and handed it over, they were arrested and charged with the crime of having marijuana ‘open to public view.’ ”
And these arrests are no minor matter. They can have very serious, lifelong consequences.
For instance, in 1998, President Bill Clinton signed a provision that made people temporarily or permanently ineligible for federal financial aid depending on how many times they had been arrested and convicted of a drug offense. The law took effect in 2000, and since 2006 lawmakers have been working to soften it. But the effect was real and devastating: the people most in need of financial aid were also being the most targeted for marijuana arrests and were therefore the most at risk of being frozen out of higher education. Remember that the next time someone starts spouting statistics comparing the number of black men in prison with the number in college.
The arrests also have consequences for things like housing and employment. In fact, in her fascinating new book, “The New Jim Crow,” Michelle Alexander argues that the American justice system is being used to create a permanent “undercaste — a lower caste of individuals who are permanently barred by law and custom from mainstream society” and to discriminate against blacks and Hispanics in the same way that Jim Crow laws were once used to discriminate against blacks.
This wave of arrests is partially financed, either directly or indirectly, by federal programs like the Byrne Formula Grant Program, which was established by the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988 to rev up the war on drugs. Surprisingly, this program has become the pet project of Democrats, not Republicans.
Whatever his motives, President George W. Bush sought to eliminate the program. Conservative groups backed his proposal, saying the program “has proved to be an ineffective and inefficient use of resources.”
But Democrats would have none of it. In the last year of the Bush administration, financing had been reduced to $170 million. In March of that year, 56 senators signed onto a “bipartisan” letter to ranking members of the Senate Appropriations Committee urging them to restore nearly $500 million to the program. Only 15 Republicans signed the letter.
Even candidate Obama promised that he would restore funding to the program.
The 2009 stimulus package presented these Democrats with the opportunity, and they seized it. The legislation, designed by Democrats and signed by President Obama, included $2 billion for Byrne Grants to be awarded by the end of September 2010. That was nearly a 12-fold increase in financing. Whatever the merits of these programs, they are outweighed by the damage being done. Financing prevention is fine. Financing a race-based arrest epidemic is not.
Why would Democrats support a program that has such a deleterious effect on their most loyal constituencies? It is, in part, callous political calculus. It’s an easy and relatively cheap way for them to buy a tough-on-crime badge while simultaneously pleasing police unions. The fact that they are ruining the lives of hundreds of thousands of black and Hispanic men and, by extension, the communities they belong to barely seems to register.
This is outrageous and immoral and the Democrat’s complicity is unconscionable, particularly for a party that likes to promote its social justice bona fides.
No one knows all the repercussions of legalizing marijuana, but it is clear that criminalizing it has made it a life-ruining racial weapon. As Ms. Alexander told me, “Our failed war on drugs has done incalculable damage.”
When will politicians have the courage to stand up, acknowledge this fact and stop allowing young minority men to be collateral damage?

Cocaine laws finally fixed

Obama and congress finally fix crack cocaine law.
Book press release

MPLS,MN -Whatever Happened To Lady Justice? New Book By Vincent Carrher. Here is a excerpt from his new true-crime book; in a interview with former new york Police chief Tony Boza..

I-Newswire) August 6, 2010 - ”.. The laws relating to mandatory sentencing almost
without exception are nonsense. Legislators are caving into the pressure tactics, unthinkingly filling our prisons with non-violent offenders and leaving no room for many violent offenders. No one wants to stand up in the state house and ever hear himself accused of being soft on drugs, regardless of whether or not there are many
non-violent drug offenders incarcerated. I reminded Mr. Bouza about Judge James Rosenbaum and he was quite familiar with this distinguished judge's situation of being attacked by Congressman Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin. Mr. Bouza
went on to say that what the legislators are doing is building an “Iron Bed of Procrustes.” If you are too short, they stretch you until you die, and if you are too tall, they lop off your legs and head to make you fit. It is a symbol of enforced conformity. They want it to fit the circumstances of the sentencing guidelines or to be just that, guidelines. We hire judges to judge, to bring their insights, wisdom and experience to each individual case. In Judge Rosenbaum's case, it is really ironic, first of all the man is a Republican and was a U.S. Attorney prosecuting in a tough way, many, many cases. Now the people like Sensenbrenner are trying to tell the public that Judge Rosenbaum was soft on crime. "Give me a break!" That demonstrates
the raw headedness and stupidity of the system.”
Vincent Carraher;has interviewed judges,witness,and gives us a ,behind-the-scenes look at how Justice has been denied and how government prosecutors and police have used lies, snitches and money to convict Innocent people. And how how judges are accomplices to this injustice.
In his new book Vincent gives new revealing in-site into the Patriot act,Judges,Big time NCAA college athletics, Second amendment,Women in the law, and fighting the informant-Snitch culture that runs though the legal system.
Vinny has worked for over 30 years to help free falsely accused defendants,such as the Congdon murders, the Scott county sex cases and more recently Ralph “Plookie” Duke. Duke was convicted as a drug kingpin on the perjured testimony of Paid informants who never met Duke. Vincent has obtained over 15 witness recantations. All these witness say that the government knew Duke was innocent.
Vincent ,a first time author ,has worked as defense attorney investigator on some of the most famous and infamous cases of the last 30 years.
Vincent will be signing books on august 20th at Christos Greek Restaurant and august 26th at Belle plaine community library
contact: or 952-873-5676