Letter: Mentally ill defendants are too sedated to help in their defense

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Graphic by Lori Deaton

Kudos to the Mountain Xpress article, “Debtors prison: Low-income defendants jailed for months awaiting trial for misdemeanors” [Jan. 24]!

But that is only one thing wrong about how the criminal justice system treats the poor.

Another thing wrong is the drugging of mentally ill defendants who are in jail awaiting trial! They keep them so heavily doped up, so heavily drugged and so heavily sedated that they can’t help their court-appointed attorneys prepare a defense, nor defend themselves in court during their trial!

The courthouse system keeps them heavily sedated in order to ensure victory for the state! Keeping jailed mentally ill defendants zonked out on tranquilizers in order to ensure victory for the state should be a national and local scandal! It should rank right up there with low-income defendants not being able to make unjust and unfair bail!

If we at the local level would find a way to make bail for low-income defendants, then our jails couldn’t drug low-income mentally ill defendants the way they do now, while they languish in jail unable to make bail!

Of course, the criminal justice system will lie and tell us that the jailed mentally ill defendants are court-ordered by a judge to be medicated while in jail awaiting trial in order to “stabilize” them so they can help in their defense! But that’s a bald-faced lie!

Have you ever seen the “stabilized” mentally ill help defend themselves in court? No! They sit there not able to move or speak, too tranquilized to do either! Which is just the way the criminal justice system likes it! And wishes to keep it! It’s another notch on their gun!

— Richard D. Pope
Hendersonville

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One thought on “Letter: Mentally ill defendants are too sedated to help in their defense

  1. Richard B.

    Mr. Pope, your letter is of interest, primarily because my awareness of this specific issue regarding behavioral health and incarceration in our local county jails (my assumption) is scant. I do know from first hand experience that many, many prisoners are brought to the local hospital emergency rooms by local and county law enforcement if there is a suspicion of issues surrounding suicidal thoughts, severe depression, psychosis, and so forth. This is true of both those charged with felonies as well as misdemeanors.

    Thus, it is with some surprise to me that you have, presumably, been witness to the behaviors that you ascribe to our local law enforcement organizations. So, if possible, it would be informative if you would pen another letter with more specific observations, generally of course, not looking for names, dates, and places.

    On the other hand, I AM aware of instances where a person who is taking prescribed psychotropic medications ends up in jail, and goes for periods of time without meds, which of course is not good. I also do not believe it is intentional, it just happens and I am sure the authorities do try to keep these situations to a minimum. This issue, of course, is the opposite of the situations for which you express concern, wherein prisoners are over sedated with medications not usually prescribed in order to keep them from becoming unruly.

    Neither are desirable, and solutions require on going awareness and attention.
    Your informative response would be appreciated.

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