The July 2005 Edition of Street Spirit

A publication of the American Friends Service Committee


National AFSC AFSC Economic Justice BOSS Website



In this issue:

Oakland Youth Organize

Hate Crimes Against the Homeless

Food Bank Helps Ease Hunger

Food Bank Keeps Growing

San Diego's Economic Cleansing

Psychiatric Abuse and Repression

Transit Activists Win Victory

Technology for the Poor

Violent Arrest at City Hall

The Dream of People's Park

New Richmond Shelter to Open

Street Spirit Vendor Tony McNair

Bush's Tax Cuts for the Rich

Corporate Benedict Arnolds

Rain Lane's Photographs

"Say Something" A Short Story

Poor Leonard's Almanack

Poetry of the Streets


June 2005

May 2005

April 2005

March 2005

February 2005






Street Spirit is published by American Friends Service Committee.

All works are copyrighted by the authors.

The views expressed in Street Spirit are those of the individual authors alone, and not necessarily that of the American Friends Service Committee.

Police Abuse and Psychiatric Repression of the Homeless

by tad

Art by San Francisco Poster Brigade

As with most past systems of totalitarian control, the psychiatric punishment of the homeless is a precursor to labeling political dissent as a mental illness.

The large-scale, systematic use of psychiatric punishment began in the late 1930s in the Soviet Union, and greatly expanded under Khrushchev. No Westerner was allowed to visit a Soviet Special Psychiatric Hospital, but reports from former prisoners showed a stark resemblance to the experimental prison-clinics run by Himmler's SS doctors, both in cruelties practiced and type of doctor in charge. As with most past systems of totalitarian control, psychiatric punishment of the homeless was a precursor to labeling political dissent as a mental illness.

On May 24, 1959, Pravda, the official Soviet newspaper, quoted Khrushchev as saying, "To those who might start calling for opposition to Communism... clearly the mental state of such people is not normal." In Germany, Hitler popularized eugenic psychiatry in his book Mein Kampf. And in the United States, somewhere between three and four million American children are on Ritalin!

These psychiatric drugs modify the brain and its neurotransmitters. The human brain is the most complicated and least understood organ in the human body and perhaps the most complicated organ on earth. Anti-psychotic drugs pollute the brain at far higher concentrations than anyone in history has ever been exposed to.

These pharmaceuticals stop the brain from removing and destroying serotonin, and no research has ever conclusively determined if this is reversible after the medication is discontinued. About 160 lawsuits are out against Eli Lilly for murder or suicide induced by Prozac use, and that is only one drug from one corporation.

The incarceration of a homeless brother

Sometimes I don't see a homeless brother or sister for a long time. When finally I see them again, they don't want to talk about where they've been, they can no longer look me in the eye, and life seems to have left them somehow. This is how I expect my next encounter with my friend Jessy will be.

On Tuesday, I witnessed Jessy being rounded up on the streets of Arcata, California, and taken to "Simpervirens" (a mental detainment facility) to get a dose or two of some drug made by a corporation, of which George Bush Sr. or Donald Rumsfeld was probably once the CEO (they chaired three pharmaceutical corporations).

Jessy was rounded up by the new mental health outreach team, called "the police." They claimed that somebody called them, and when they responded, they did not know if they were responding to a 5150 "aid to sick" or a crime. The police claim Jessy was "conversing with someone who wasn't there" and "wasn't making sense."

When Jessy asked, "Why am I being arrested?" he was authoritatively reassured that he was merely being involuntarily institutionalized, drugged and detained for the next 72 hours, and not arrested.

Using the police as mental health outreach workers goes a little beyond "law enforcement" when we authorize them to make psychiatric diagnoses on non-violent and non-suicidal people on the streets. According to AB 1421, "Laura's law," police can round up and detain a suspected mentally ill person for 72 hours if they "feel" that they are a danger to themselves or to society. This law was intended to protect us from the dangerously violent criminally insane. With policies designed to run homeless people out of the towns they reside in, police officers, like Arcata Police Officer Brent Chase, use these laws as tools to keep homeless numbers down.

Some of us helped Jessy out quite a bit, taught him life skills, spent time with him, helped him with necessities and enjoyed his company. Anyone who knows Jessy knows that he talks to himself out loud. Jessy, who is actually quite nice, harmless and very introverted, is a victim of the whole neurosis caused by a system that rips your job, retirement, or freedom from you in a second, and then calls you a criminal when you become homeless, the only option left to you.

He keeps to himself, but when he asks me for something, he starts to verbally express an internally rationalized shame. The shame poor Jessy must have felt, just because he was stopped and arrested, showed most after telling the homeless/mental health/police officers that: (a) he knew what Simpervirens was; and (b) he did not want to go there. He then looked at me, with tears in his eyes, and said, "Don't let them take me there." Of course there wasn't anything I could do.

A 2004 report called "Strategies for Reducing Chronic Street Homelessness," subcontracted by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and written by the Urban Institute, speaks of a "paradigm shift" because of a "trigger event." I won't elaborate on how the Patriot Act was a paradigm shift because of a trigger event, but I will mention it. This is called "problem, reaction, solution," or the Hegelian Dialectic; and it is a way for social engineers to incite, justify and implement policies to improve a situation within their culturally narrow bias.

The cultural differences between well-paid and housed doctors, law-makers, professors and police -- called "experts" -- and poor homeless people, is wide enough of a chasm; but then the "experts" advocate creating or utilizing a "trigger event" to force a "paradigm shift" to create "innovative outreach programs developed by and located in the... Police Department" [chapter 3, p. 21].

Though the report claims that "Providers have to attract... the very resistant people they are trying to serve," it also advocates that authorities "combine police and mental health expertise and authority" in order to be "the only outreach teams on the streets that have the ability to remove people either voluntarily or involuntarily" [chapter 3, p. 21].

The report praises a San Diego policy as a model: "San Diego Police Officers arrest chronic street alcoholics... offer treatment plus transitional housing as an alternative to six months in jail... They [chronic street alcoholics] may first serve a full jail sentence or even two before they are convinced to try" [chapter 3, p. 22].

There are many good ideas in the Urban Institute's report, but they are intermingled with approaches that are cruel, unconstitutional, and human rights violations. If these programs were so damn good for the chronic homeless they are intended to serve, then they would be flooded with applicants, not forcing people against their will to participate.

To involuntarily medicate, institutionalize, and case-manage people, based on controversial psychiatric theories, methods and pharmaceuticals, is the real criminal insanity. Social control through medications and internment is no different today then in Stalin's, Hitler's or Khrushchev's days.

The law clearly states that a victim of Laura's Law must be a threat to the safety of himself or others. In the case of Jessy's recent confinement by the Arcata police, the only threat to safety was Jessy's loss of liberty, a serious matter that that the Constitution and all pertinent resulting case law calls "the threat of loss of one's life, by loss of freedom."

The round-up is underway. Homeland Security Department round-ups, like Operation FALCON, round up the "fugitives" -- but remember that fugitives are wanted, not necessarily guilty. The Chronic Homeless Initiative rounds up the mentally ill homeless with police using culturally biased standards and goals.

It is not a question of whether they will ignore their promise to "just go after the fugitives and mentally ill" and begin going after the activists, the communists, the unions, the gays, the Jews, and the real Christians, but a question of when. Just as was done with the racketeering laws and the SWAT teams, the roles of the homeless/mentally ill policies will be revised to include social engineering of a fascist order.

I went to Jessy's hearing. The hearing was not held to win his freedom, although 72 hours is all they are allowed to hold him (he has been held against his will for six days as of this writing). Rather, the hearing was about forced medication, and whether Jessy should be court-ordered to take pharmaceuticals, which he does not want. This, what I call the "bag 'em and tag 'em" policies of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the California Department of Mental Health, gives a better understanding of their logic - extremely evil logic, but their rationalization nonetheless.

As I have already pointed out, Jessy was in no way, shape, or form, someone who should have been 5150d as "a danger to himself" at the time of his non-arrest, apprehension and incarceration. In court it was testified that Jessy was sleeping at the time of initial contact with the police.

A doctor from the Simpervirens mental health detention center testified for the prosecution. I initially thought the extremely pale doctor with the Thorazine shuffle and drug-induced glazed eyes was just another defendant in a hearing of Jessy's type, so imagine my surprise when I discovered it was none other than Dr. John Sommers, the pill-pushing psychiatric doctor of Simpervirens.

Dr. Sommers testified that when poor Jessy was brought to Sempervirens, he was resistant. Asked if he witnessed the resistance, the doctor claimed, "No, I observed him resisting the restraints."

Jessy testified that he wasn't restrained. He said that the nurses and staff at Sempervirens threatened to "strap me down if I didn't take the medicines they were trying to give me."
The doctor claimed that, in his opinion, formed after less then half an hour of talking to Jessy, he suffered from what the DSM-IV (Diagnostic & Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, # 4) calls "Psychotic Disorder Not Otherwise Specified or Psychosis NOS." I was pretty sure that this so-called diagnosis was really a classification, since Judge Wilson seemed very familiar with the catch-all term, though if it weren't so sick, it would be funny.

The DSM-IV is a book about 4 inches thick with a 10-page list of categories of mental disorders. Each category has a mental disorder diagnosis within its section. At the very end of the "Psychotic Disorders" category is this Psychotic Disorder Not Otherwise Specified. Under the description for Psychosis NOS it reads: "[NOS] is included for classifying psychotic presentations that do not meet the criteria for any specific Psychotic Disorders defined in this section or psychotic symptomatology about which there is inadequate or contradictory information." Talk about a catch-all law!

If I understand the professional opinion correctly, a person who is not a danger to himself or others, but who denies a mental illness that he or she is accused of by a mental health "professional," needs to have the court "make him feel better" by forced medication.

The doctor authoritatively proclaimed from the witness stand -- as a rationale for Jessy not knowing that he should be strapped down and force-fed anti-psychotics, mood stabilizers, tranquilizers, anti-depression medication and a whole cocktail of drugs to combat the many potential side-effects -- that Jessy's "thinking was not based on fact."

The doctor testified that Jessy showed "resistance to taking the medication," was "speaking in word-salad" (Sommers' word for incomplete sentences), "can't answer questions" and "can't hold a rational conversation."

When Jessy took the stand, he was perhaps even more articulate than the doctor wanting to experiment on him. He answered all the questions asked of him as well as almost anyone I've seen in courts, and I've seen a lot. He figured days, times, and people involved when asked to. He did kind of confuse the court audience when he was asked if he knew why he was in court and he replied, "to fight for my life." Everyone seemed to understand him all right though when he said, "I don't feel alive when taking those drugs."

Here's how the theory is carried out: A homeless person is reported sleeping in the bushes. Brent Chase, an Arcata police officer and ex-park ranger (a position created to prevent homeless people from sleeping in Arcata), shows up on the scene. Chase is consumed with implementing a "run the bums out of town" policy imposed by the mayor and city manager. Statements by the police department indicate that Chase was not sure whether he was responding to a call about trespassing or "5150, a danger to him or her self."

The police made no indications that Jessy did not cooperate in any way. I showed up right after the initial contact, at about the same time as the second officer. Jessy was very coherent and articulate by the time I arrived. Chase, having the "authority" to diagnose and take into custody someone he "believes" to be a danger to themselves, or any other behavior he deems justifies a 5150, took Jessy and incarcerated him in a mental detainment institution.

Though an arrested person must, by law, be brought before a judge within 72 hours of arrest, Jessy spent a week being threatened, coerced, intimidated, and pestered into "voluntarily" taking pharmaceuticals that he didn't want to take.

Dr. Sommers claimed to have tried for a week to use several different tacks to try to get him to give informed consent. Since Jessy was not crazy enough to fall for the pharmaceutical dope dealers manipulation, he was finally brought to court, not to secure his lawful release, but to try to force lifetime maintenance drugs on him. Even Judge Wilson was trying to get him to consider a life on pharmaceuticals.

If there is a moral to this story, it is that Jessy was the victim of "rope 'em and dope 'em" terrorism that is happening right here, right now. He needs alternative, empowering mental health models and he needs the security to know he is safe in his own person.

With anti-homeless police implementing a whatever-it-takes policy to run the homeless out of town, how safe will any of us be when $800,000,000 of Prop 63 money is used to enforce procedures that don't require probable cause, speedy trials, and proof beyond a doubt?

With so many ties between the current administration and the pharmaceutical corporations, and also the ties between the pill makers and the psychiatric professional organizations, profits and social control have become the obvious goal of forced medication.

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