Crime Does Pay – if you work for the prosecution

If you think that crime doesn’t pay? Think again. The criminal justice system in America is perhaps the most well-financed institution of government anywhere in the world. In fact, to provide how well funded criminal justice inquiry alone is probably is to reflect on previous Presidential investigations ranging from Watergate to the Bill Clinton affair. There is no expense cap on how much money is spent. But take a moment and try to imagine how prosecutors in courts across America with sometimes unlimited resources don’t try to locate the truth? Instead, it seems to be to find the win. Many cases uncovered over past decades by advocacy organizations or third-party investigators have witnessed an alarming trend that prosecutors, despite evidence that could significantly deteriorate a case or allow an innocent person to be free, insists on plea bargains and continuing the cases all in the name of winning. It makes absolutely no sense. Or does it? Perhaps the art of winning a claim has no repercussions because the way policy and law protect prosecutors and the state.

Prosecutorial immunity is the absolute immunity that prosecutors in the United States have in initiating a prosecution and presenting the state’s case. “Firming up what had long been held as common practice, the U.S. Supreme Court in 1976 ruled in Imbler v. Pachtman that prosecutors cannot face civil lawsuits for prosecutorial abuses, no matter how severe.” Prosecutors have qualified immunity in other activities such as advising police and speaking to the press.

When the Duke Lacrosse case made headlines all across living rooms, we listened to Nancy Grace of CNN vilify a university rape culture of athletes taking advantage of a poor African American woman by violently raping her over and over. The news was enough to make anyone angry that such alleged activity would take place. However, as the evidence unfolded, there became significant cracks on both the police, the prosecution, and witness, and the overall method in which the case had been investigated from the start. Instantly, the news splashed released from police reports already created the most damaging evidence against the accused where they will be forever known as the “Duke Lacross players accused of rape”. In fact, there was no rape at all! To make matters worse; Nancy Grace never made a formal apology to the team, coach, or university for her brash and unfiltered scorn of something that didn’t happen. Nancy simply moved on to the next big story in her unapologetic manner. However, we do see the same tactics being used over and over each week in the news by prosecutors, police, and the media. The difference is maybe that there was a Lacrosse team whereas most rape or sexual assault cases involve only one on one allegations. Mostly, the team story was scripted. It was a validation of truth by a group of men with the same story backed with evidence, whereas one versus one in other cases does not have such luxuries. Therefore, prosecutors don’t really care if the truth is out there. It becomes an art of only finding a win for the prosecution.

The prosecutor is an administrator of justice, a zealous advocate, and an officer of the court. The prosecutor’s office should exercise sound discretion and independent judgment in the performance of the prosecution function.

There are naturally good people and good prosecutors. But there is a stigma all across America that prosecutors are elected people that need reelection to maintain and keep their jobs. Doesn’t it seem a bit odd that we never hear in the media where a prosecutor discover evidence that may set a person free and perhaps convict the false accuser? This never happened in the Duke Lacross case and didn’t seem that it will ever happen in other courtrooms across America. Doing so, by the voices of prosecutors and lawyers would place the judicial system in a tailspin. Perhaps that is what our nation requires? A pursuit of the truth – so help us, God. Justice reforms aren’t about tearing down the judicial system. Reforms are about the discovery of the truth to align the field evenly so that justice for all prevails.

Perhaps another issue regarding justice reforms may begin with how the media reports and could sway the public from a fair trail by disclosing too much information — reigning the press in a bit with regards to public records and judicial matters aren’t silencing the media. Instead, it allows a cooling period so that both sides are protected. Under the current system, the victims are ALWAYS protected while the accused is splattered across airwaves and social media in nanoseconds. We ought to change that system for the sake of justice reforms and perhaps restorative justice.

More than 90 percent of state and federal criminal convictions are the result of guilty pleas, often by people who say they didn’t commit a crime.

Again, the state and prosecution have an unlimited resource of funding at its disposal. Yet we have “backlogs” of DNA testing, cases where plea deals are often 85% or higher of most case settlements, decades later evidence discovered or unearthed in storage rooms long forgotten by police agencies, and advocacy groups without much funding at all uncovering questionable evidence that could have allowed a person to be free. It is disconcerting, especially in a country where parties are required to swear upon a bible or affirm, they are telling the truth before a court. However, this policy is not extended to prosecutors to affirm or swear they are telling the truth. They don’t have to because they will always have immunity. Doesn’t seem right, does it? But it is your system of government. So, what are you going to do about it?

Advertisements

Ethics of Undercover Stings

Today I spoke with a neighbor about what I do as a researcher, student, and advocate for justice reform. I summed my duties by this phrase. “I learn, apply, research, and continue to learn about the cause and effects of criminal justice by applying a dialog of reason, discourse, and compromise.” My neighbor responded with, “that sounds complicated.” I replied, “it sure is because there is no easy way to explain it.” We continued to talk more openly, and she finally shared a story about someone she knows that is currently incarcerated. She began to escalate her tone because she felt the sentence her friend received was excessive and unfairly applied. I chimed in to say, “what would have been fair?” She paused but couldn’t provide an answer. Instead, she said, “all I know is his sentence was too much and not in line for the crime he committed.”

I then began sharing the stories of many people currently on the sex offender registry. I started a story about the thousands of registrants that were caught up in police sting operations of underage porn or similar circumstances. I began explaining that “police posed as an underage person, but there was no underage person harmed or physically present. Sure, the intent may have been to meet an underage person, but nobody was harmed. However, the individual is listed either for life or a period for a crime that could have happened, but in actuality didn’t because it was a crafted operation to net people.” She began to understand those sex offenses are often not offenses at all. Instead, it is a method to target a crime with deception but to charge individuals with an age bracket of a fictitious person. It is as if someone in authority creates an operative of a “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle” but gives that character an age with a mental underlying and false image, those netted have pedophilic tendencies. Naturally, law enforcement nor district attornies attempt to do their part to educate the public better. In fact, it could be assumed that both law enforcement and district attorneys encourage such thoughts and rhetoric? However, society only sees teenage even if the person is of legal adult age but from the viewpoint of society, not the perpretrator, the teen age is viewed as early teen ages. The net has been cast to capture as many potential people as a threat to communities because the actor is posing as a 15-year-old, but in actuality, there is no 15 year old at all. Instead, the actor is a 37-year-old police officer targeting any age possible through the internet. Eventually, something will be caught in the net, exposed, and criminally charged. While the operation intends to capture illegal underage solicitations the act alone brings ethical question if the person accused could in actuality be targeted by a guilty plea of a person that is not actually 15, but 37? Sure, it is a stretch of the imagination. But if illegal drugs test not to be unlawful or harmful, arent the charged dropped? This may be orange to apple issue, but I certainly would like to understand how we can return to ethical behaviors on both sides of the justice coin.

Law enforcement officials are expected to comply with a code of ethics outlining general guidelines to ethical behavior of police professionals. To be effective, the code of ethics should become part of each officer’s demeanor and officers should learn to live and think ethically in order to avoid conflicting behaviors. The failure by police professionals to act ethically could result in the loss of public trust, jeopardize investigations, or expose agencies or departments to liability issues.

Naturally, I am not attempting to justify that underage solicitation is not severe. I am only raising the issue that I find it puzzling that a person that is not an actual age is being charged for solicitation of age – even with electronic evidence. It would seem more prudent and perhaps ethical that the criminal charge would be attempted solicitation of a minor because no real minor was present. Other charges could be escalated if there was indeed an actual minor present and naturally if other indiscretions occurred, then additional charges would be applicable. All I am suggesting is a better truth in reporting scheme.

There will always be water-cooler debates about how laws should be enforced or applied. There is no real clear answer or remedy to tackle these issues that appear to be ordinary day by day. However, these are the discussions that we should be having about criminal justice reforms and how to perhaps recodify our policies.

Charge stacking” is a process by which police and prosecutors create a case with numerous charges or numerous instances of the same charge to convince the defendant that the risk of not pleading guilty is intolerable.

Lastly, laws and policies seem to be stacked by the prosecution as a universal benefit. An example is when an initial charge is introduced at the highest felony charge possible to dwindle for a potential plea bargaining agreement. Additionally, many prosecutors will stack charges by adding other unnecessary charges to accompany additional charges. It is somewhat similar to a drug charge, but adding a paraphernalia charge on top of distribution with the intent to do something else mambo-jumbo. The court goes through a gambit of offers to scale back the charges as if it is benefiting the defendant? Not true! It is always helping the prosecution because they will always have the leverage to play outside the rules of law to get their way. Similar to how underage sex sting operations are handled. It’s a big lie with the intent to sell a fear that never happened. It is perhaps something we should also be discussing how to return a bit of truth into criminal justice reforms?

Registrant Apartheid: A Warning on Government Infringement

There is a saying that every man’s home is his castle. This saying originated from ancient Rome and later became a part of values with regards to privacy and security. There is a certain amount of honor in having a space to call your own. Rather it is a house, apartment, mobile home, camper, tent, motel room, shelter, or couch surfing home is where you should feel welcome, comfortable, and safe.

quid enim sanctius, quid omni religione munitius, quam domus unusquisque civium?
What more sacred, what more strongly guarded by every holy feeling, than a man’s own home? —Cicero

Upon visiting the doorsteps of others, there is often a welcoming greeting mat awaiting your either expected or unscheduled arrival. The welcome is clear that you are valued as a person with the freedom to engage with others unrestricted without the need of chaperon or assistance. However, society has turned from its welcoming mats to a sorted inquisitive band of uncertain litmus tests using a scoring mechanism only they understand. It is as if people that are supposed to be our trusted friends and allies have suddenly become narcissists?

There are plenty of narcissistic people on the planet (perhaps you know a few on Twitter?). But a home whether permanent or temporary shouldn’t be subjected to emotional strain and narcissistic behaviors in the forms of businesses sharing guest information with police.

A few years ago the hotel chain Motel 6 began a voluntary program sharing hotel guest information with police. Police would then run the guest information by national criminal computers to check for outstanding warrants, immigration, and sex offenders perhaps staying on its properties. Many of those snared took the issue to court and won massive legal settlements against the hotel chain.

Motel 6 will pay $12 million to settle lawsuit after sharing guest info with ICE

Recently the state of Florida introduced a legislative bill mandating that hotels or forms of lodging check all guest information for potential sex offenders visiting the state or seeking shelter. Florida already has the worst conditional restrictions for those visiting or living in the state. But to go a step further creeping into the privacy of a business to share its guest information with police is far reaching into dangerous territory. Sooner or later the police checks will expand into other sensitive details allowing firms to cherry pick who it chooses to allow as guests. We can see it now that as an example of the story of John Smith. John Smith is visiting Orlando on business. Back home in Texas he has a lovely wife and two wonderful children still in school. However John planned a discreet rendezvous with a lovely lady he met through a phone app. He checks into the hotel; the hotel runs a check and police come busting in because John Smith shows as a registered sex offender from Texas! However, it is the wrong John Smith. Now his embarrassment surfaces on a TMZ Odd Storys TV segment. His marrigage is instantly shattered placing his infidelities in public light. His future to mend ways with his wife and family are in peril. Rather than quickly blaming John for his poor choice of action or blame upon the police, the hotel is the key responsible party for sharing his mandated data. Sure, Mr. Smith was in the wrong for cheating, but his rights to privacy and his castle was violated. If Florida wants to check guests staying for 30 days or more, then that may be a bit more reasonable than staying overnight or a few days? Mr. Smith may have a civil claim with some very interesting litigation potentially placing a hotel chain in bankruptcy from the settlement he could receive? Nevertheless, the business has a duty and responsibility to protect consumer data, its property, and its guests. The hotel didn’t call the police. Instead, the law supersedes the business ability to act within autonomous actions by making a warrantless searches much easier.

Apartheid (segregation; lit. “separateness”): a system of institutionalized segregation characterized by an authoritarian political culture. It entailed the separation of public facilities, social events, housing, and employment opportunities. Complex laws are created to suppress and punish both individuals or supporters.

All this unnecessary panic legislation has taken liberty and freedoms this country embraces into a practicing police state. The nation and states already have a public sex registry tied into schools, employment, apartments, and volunteer organizations. It is frustrating enough to pay extra fees to the government to take part in PreCheck amenities to prove I’m not a flight risk to go through airport security. But laws similar to Florida are opening a door to only the privilege that PreCheck styled services or data sharing between businesses and police will extend to hotels, car rentals, U-Haul, gyms, hospitals, and perhaps to retail stores with fitting rooms.

For decades Americans have tried every method possible to rid of policing within bedrooms or homes. It is one thing when a person commits a criminal offense. But to begin a trend instructing a person where, when, and how they may live is unAmerican. When any government branch instructs by policy a business to share user data for a paid services without consent and expectation of reasonable privacies, it endangers free movement and prohibits choice. Services aren’t the same as purchasing bullets, dynamite, drugs, or restricted materials. The castle that we choose to make our home will always be a human right. The defense of that castle is a government facilitating registrant apartheid no different than blockbusting tactics and a revision of sundown towns.

Sundown towns, also known as sunset towns or gray towns, were all-white municipalities or neighborhoods in the United States that practiced a form of segregation—historically by enforcing restrictions excluding people not white via some combination of discriminatory local laws, intimidation, and violence.

There are many sex offense laws on the books with residential restrictions, employment exclusions, public space constraints, social media limitations, and the list goes on. If someone made a smartphone app to provide legal information to registrants or the curious, it would be inconceivable to develop. It is perhaps why there won’t be an app for that particular purpose because updates would have to occur daily to keep up with legislation, legal decisions, and refined interpretations. Pretty much the future of iPhones would require a Tesla vehicle battery pack to keep up with sex offender laws on any given day!

America is no longer the home of the free. Instead, it may reconsider changing it to Home of the Fee. There is nothing more disgusting than watching America with a populist agenda sway from the governance of law to experiment with socialist criminal law, embracing utilitarian principles. We are a society on a pathway towards the destruction of individual liberty but for the beginning of government interference upon capitalism and autonomy thanks in part to states such as Florida leading the way to mandate sharing consumer information without any probable cause.

Surely the utilitarian must admit that whatever the facts of the matter may be, it is logically possible that an ‘unjust’ system of punishment—e.g. a system involving collective punishments, retroactive laws and punishments, or punishments of parents and relations of the offender—may be more useful than a ‘just’ system of punishment?H. J. McCloskey

Sure, the notion of every man’s home is his castle is undoubtedly questionable as America continues its quest to legislate freedoms. Perhaps it should say, every man’s home was once his castle.

Miraculous Bowling

I love bowling. While I may not be good at bowling, I do enjoy the fun, skill, and occasional incredibly miraculous moments on a bowling lane.

I love bowling. While I may not be good at bowling, I do enjoy the fun, skill, and occasional incredibly miraculous moments on a bowling lane. This week I managed to get back into the swing of things by ordering a bowling ball and shoes. Having your own bowling ball has benefits whereas I no longer have to search for a house ball that is weighted and fits my fingers. Additionally, I don’t feel like a Blockbuster Video flashback moment attempting to locate the right movie. Just as I don’t want to wear someone else’s shoes that god knows have been worn thousands of times. Perhaps I am seeking a bit of comfortability and investment by adapting to a cause or mission of sportsmanship and development. 

Many of us have been to bowling alleys and perhaps attempted to get beyond the embarrassment of multiple gutter balls or only striking one pin. But many people are keenly unaware that bowling both professionally and for fun require some house rules that many people don’t follow. One of those house rules is the observation of the one lane courtesy. When a bowler gets on the approach, and there’s someone on either side of them, the general rule is that the first one on the approach bowls first. Sure, everyone at a bowling alley wants to have fun. But there are traffic rules in place to keep from accidental tripping or other hazards. 

Let’s face some facts that some people try things based on trial and error. Sometimes learning as you go can sometimes be beneficial. However, occasionally we are either afraid to ask for help or guidance to save face. Perhaps this is a masculinity power issue, but today I experienced first-hand how house rules can become a heated issue for some. 

I was bowling in my lane with a family to my immediate left and an experienced bowler to my right. As I approached to throw the ball down the lane, a woman entered my lane to snap a photo of her child causing me to slip the ball out of my hand landing on the floor. She didn’t apologize and gave me a glare that it was my fault. The bowler to my right was outraged but kept his temper in check. I decided to regroup and attempt another throw only to have a man to my right throw trip over my right leg onto the lane falling to the ground after I had released my bowling ball. Basically, he came out of nowhere but was profoundly angry for tripping over my extended leg. He began yelling at me causing a scene in the bowling alley. But others that saw what happened immediately came to my rescue citing he and his party wasn’t following house rule courtesies. I remained quiet out of shock that I was being blamed for something I wasn’t responsible for. But was comforted to experience that others came to my rescue and began admonishing the man yelling at me. 

The man didn’t want to hear about house rules or sportsmanship. Instead, it was as if a trigger was initiated allowing his family to witness rage, humility, colorful words, and a barrage of hatred for such a minor incident. But reflecting I could see where some people in society pick and choose an argument attempting to justify, they are in the right when not trying to understand their wrongs. For some reason, I was trying to be apologetic without being confrontational. Eventually, a bowling manager came over apparently after listening to witnesses asked the man and his family to leave or she would call the police. This enraged the man to the point where police were summoned because he tried to lunge at me asserting that I was the one that had instructed the police to be called. It was a moment of zero to a hundred in a split second. I quickly began to experience a bit of shock and confusion because a minor issue had escalated towards a significant event despite there was nothing criminal about it. My ears went numb similar to an explosion where all one hears is a high pitch but no voices or other noises. 

The police arrived and began listening to witnesses. People were standing around me while I was seated behind the score desk on my lane. I felt very closed in. But the police came up and asked if the other man had pointed a gun at me? I said, “a gun? No.”  I quickly learned from others that the man during the yelling said he would kick my ass then shoot me in the parking lot.  I shook my head in disbelief thinking “is this the norm of society today?”  The man was eventually taken away in handcuffs for communicating threats and disturbing the peace. What was supposed to be a fun day of bowling lost its magic thanks to a miraculously strange turn of events. 

Does this mean my investment is out the window never to return to a bowling alley? Perhaps not. What it does suggest is that behaviors can run amuck anywhere. But we shouldn’t live in constant fear that people always want to do harm to others. Sure, I will have some distractions and occasionally look over my shoulder. But a valuable lesson was that others observed injustice, overreactions, and others failing to adhere to house rules. Perhaps we can begin to advocate for others when we witness injustice or others being potentially harmed because of misunderstanding or misinterpretations. That would be a miraculous moment if we started to advocate for one another.

What Is The Sex Offender Registry?

A question that we all must ask ourselves is, “what is the sex offender registry?” The answers that we provide in discussions are quickly assessed usually based on no fact or merit rather personal opinion or belief. Typically, a majority of replies may suggest the registry “is a tool for the community.” To me, that sounds like a safe way of skirting the question. On the one hand, some groups and advocates support registry to inform its community about violent offenders in the immediate area. On the other hand, the registry in its current form is a mish-mash of public urinators to brutally violent rapists. So we return to the question “is the registry an educational and informative tool for the community?”

Typically any individual charged with any crime in America would receive a fair trial and punishment or fine. That individual either serves time and is released to rebuild his/her life. However, for registered offenders, the balance of justice scales are entirely different. Public opinion based upon high profile issues tilt the justice scale away from the accused and punishment instead it is prison or probation carries an additional life sentence of registry requirements. Yes, it is a life sentence because even if an offender is removed from its states registry, he/she must report to any new state they move to and reregister. Additionally, if a former or active registrant decides to leave the USA for any nation, federal SORNA offices immediately alerts that nation of a known sex offender entering its country.

A fundamental problem with the current registry is that it is used for additional punishment purposes by police and prosecutors. After all, the registry was developed by those two parties which additionally tilts the scales of influence over a system that is intended to create fairness for all. I would suggest that if police and states want to save money and resources only to place violent repeat offenders on the registry. Doing so will quickly reduce a million registrants to only the most violent and chronic. The registry shouldn’t have been created as a form of additional punishment or atonement. This is why the registry in its current form is not an educational or informative tool for any community. Instead, it has been developed to be the “virtual boogieman” creating a sense of fear and costly for America and communities.

To be quite candid about the most valuable tool and resource to educate and inform communities is the internet itself. The average person doesn’t rush to a registry to look up an individual. He/She enters a name into a search engine to look at social media or other news items. If you see a few mug shots too many, then perhaps a bit of caution or discretion is suggested. It is ironic that a majority of American fear someone listed on the sex offender registry than an individual on an FBI wanted poster. That should indicate how messed up and confusing the sex registry has morphed over decades.

Sex Offender Score

If you have a credit card, then you have a FICO score. A FICO score is something that measures an individuals credit rating and gives an ability to establish credit or trust between parties. At least with a credit rating, there are various programs to assist people such as counseling, programs, Fair Credit Act laws and a statue of limitations that allow people to rebuild their lives. However, when it comes to the sex offender registry, there are no robust programs, free counseling, fair laws, and the loom of civil commitment issues hangs over the heads of many offenders.

I was trying to form some primary rationale as to why there should be any form of a sex offender registry. Sure, there may be a level that registries pose a deterrent. However, that logic is somewhat dismissive because we are witnessing an increase in registry offenses due in part to the #metoo movement. But what would happen if police were privy in access to sex registries? Would that make things any better for those affected? I would argue specific cases in the State of Colorado where low-level offenders are not required to be listed on public registries. It is the local police that prints a comprehensive or a complete listing of all registrants for anyone that asks. Regardless of what state law mandates, it is an abuse of certain police powers when leaders take upon themselves to create a hole in the system. Therefore leaving that specific power to law enforcement doesn’t seem to be in the best interest of having a hidden registry if it is currently being abused.

Another problem with the sex offender registry is the tier system. At least with a credit report, you are provided a number or score. Perhaps if the offender registry had a FICO styled number that could indicate the seriousness of an individual. After all, the registry is a lump sum deal. Maybe it is time to sort out the violent offenders from the fraternity house field streakers. Let’s say there is a calculation score of 320 for a person with multiple sex offenses, fails to register when required to do so, and the age of the most recent crime is less than a year old. Then there is the best rating of 850 for an offender with a misdemeanor conviction of an offense that is over fifteen years old. If there were a numbering pattern the registry tier system would get small very quickly. However, for the FICO styled registry to work states must allow a measure for offenders to be unconditionally released to allow ratings to increase.

Additionally, if the scoring system is high for certain registrants, then that could allow offenders to be removed from GPS monitoring as long as he/she remains compliant or maintains a specific score level. Is revamping the tier system a good idea? I cannot say. What I do suggest is that while I am for a complete dismantling of the registry system in America. I am willing to compromise and reform the current registry standard into something a bit reasonable and fair across the board. The current lump sum registry system is antiquated and doesn’t serve a purpose to educate or protect the public.

The fair credit act in America protects consumers from predatory styled tactics by lenders, creditors, and third-party agencies. Perhaps our criminal justice system should embrace necessary forms of this method and implement a fair sentencing act that doesn’t create conditions that harm families concerning offenders. Offenders and families shouldn’t be forced to move because a school, park or daycare is so many feet from an individual. If a crime occurs, then there are laws on the books to handle that particular issue. Perhaps introducing a sex offender score could alleviate parts of the current tier program that appears ambiguous and in most cases unfounded. But to overlap code with another law is nothing more than a bizarre method of assumption and defeats the purpose of a registry altogether. To address civil commitment issues, there may be a clause to structure a fair scoring system where a threat is a score that matches a blatant disregard for the law or yields mental health instabilities. At least these individuals would be allowed immediate sex offender treatment at a mental health facility rather than a prison.

The bottom line is that fear drives the sex offender registry and where there is a political motive or business drive there will some forms of corruption and ethical violations. People experience similar instances when reviewing his/her credit report when errors or blemishes impact the overall score. At least with a credit report, there are ways to repair it while offender registries fail to address or allow reasonable forms of rehabilitation. If rehabilitation is to become effective, then there must be a discussion as to how to create a workable solution so that offenders are allowed to return to some normalcy of society. Perhaps a scoring system may be an idea or suggestion of how to separate those violent offenders from non-violent offenders. Additionally, it may create a useful dialog as to if the registry is still valid and relevant in today’s society?

Someone Has To Look After These People

It is older generations that leave behind valuable lessons. However, it is a society in general that fails to learn from those lessons until it is too late. My grandmother, if she were still alive, would be 101 in a few days. She worked as a psychiatric nurse for the now-closed Dorothea Dix Hospital in Raleigh, North Carolina for over 33 years. She loved her job because she had compassion and empathy for people. Many of her friends and relatives were concerned for her daily safety working closely with unpredictable seriously ill mental patients. However, she would eloquently put it, “someone has to look after these people.”

To me, that statement alone is paramount to many of the discussions surrounding criminal justice reform, mental illness, and compassion in society today. Decades ago politicians decided to close nearly all state-managed mental health facilities. Later it was insurance companies that began reducing policy coverages for underlying mental health assessments. Then that trickled down towards expensive medications that those with a mental illness cannot afford or ensure regiments are taken promptly to keep them off the streets. The bottom line is nobody is looking after the mentally ill. Well, at least not in a sense we were once accustomed to. Today, mental health is governed and managed by your local police or law enforcement department. Rather than adequately fund a psychiatric clinic, hospital, or increase our nursing shortages American culture feels that police can best manage the mental illness crisis.

When I read the newspaper and learn about another random school shooting, I quickly identify where such chaos and carnage could have been prevented not with gun control, safer schools, unique alert systems, or police presence. Instead the lack of mental health accessibility, counseling, facilities, and qualified individuals to identify these individuals are restricted by polished police cars, fancy badges, uniforms, guns, and police registries. A simple comparison of a mental health clinic versus a police station looks like night and day in America. Perhaps it is time to spread out that police funding to other departments to help citizens go back towards helping people and those with mental illnesses. Jails and solitary confinement facilities are not a proper way to treat mental illnesses.

Additionally, society must stop second-guessing individuals trying to use mental illness claims as a way to skirt criminal justice. It is time to allow qualified and licensed doctors to make that assessment. If someone is a danger to society, then let a someone with a medical license, doctorate, and a hospital residency instead of an individual with a two-week jailer course and basic first aid/CPR.

Lastly, psychiatric facilities are not institutions where we lock individuals up and throw away the key. They are treatment facilities that utilize plans of action to assimilate people back into society. After all, these are people and human beings too. The stigma of mental illness is typically identified negatively within society. That is because we fail to see or witness first hand the overall successes and rely on poor data or circumstances of particular individuals that enter and exit habitually. Our overall vision of mental health encompasses those where psychological effectiveness is not working rather than the whole. This is where we must halt rhetoric such as throwing away a key because doing so doesn’t provide a treatment plan or an ability to remedy mental health issues. Instead, it is a recipe to pass on the problems to future generations because there was nobody to look after them.