June 10, 2007

Paris Hilton or Mary Winkler? Forensics Gone Awry

 paris and mary


I'll take Paris any day. 

So Paris goes back to jail after the behind the scenes/cover of darkness/MK-ULTRA deal she made to get out of jail early was met by the public with consternation.

As near as I can tell,  a/her private psychiatrist (his blog here-- mine's better, dammit) visited her for two hours in jail, then made a plea to the sheriff that serving her sentence in jail was psychiatrically harmful to her.  So they let her out to serve it at home.

The argument here, of course, is that this is rich-white-girl gets special treatment; and the easiest  way to do it is to use psychiatry. And people say, "see?  This is they type of abuse we can expect if psychiatry is allowed to influence legal matters."

Fair enough.  I don't know Hilton's case, whether it was a appropriate or not, I don't know Dr. Sophy;  all I can say is, yes, the potential for abuse exists, but perhaps it is balanced out by the cases in which it is helpful to society.

But consider the reverse situation, and read it carefully because then I'm going to punch someone:

SELMER, Tennessee (AP) -- A woman who killed her preacher husband with a shotgun blast to the back as he lay in bed was sentenced Friday to three years in prison, but she may end up serving only 60 days in a mental hospital.

Mary Winkler must serve 210 days of her sentence before she can be released on probation, but she gets credit for the five months she has already spent in jail, Judge Weber McCraw said.

That leaves only two months, and McCraw said up to 60 days of the sentence could be served in a facility where she could receive mental health treatment. That means Winkler may not serve any significant time in prison.


Same gripe: look how people use psychiatry to manipulate the legal system-- "only two months for killing someone?!" and while I agree that's pretty pathetic, what's worrying me is this: who the hell spends five months in jail without getting a trial? 

This probably didn't occur to you, and that's why it still happens.  If I kill my preacher husband, I have the right to a speedy trial.  If I can't get a speedy trial, I get to pay a fee to be released, and then show up in court when the government gets their act together.  But what if I don't have bail money?  How can the courts justify indefinite incarceration in the absence of a trial?

Enter psychiatry.  You get a psychiatrist to evaluate the person and determine that he is not competent to stand trial.  They recommend 60 days involuntary commitment/treatment in a psych hospital in order to "restore them to competency."  If at the end of 60 days the evaluator comes back, and if he still thinks they're not competent-- they get (re)committed again.  Etc.

Trial competency has very specific requirements: understanding how you wish to plea, the possible sentences, working with your lawyer, etc.  Being depressed or psychotic, per se, isn't the determinant-- only if it seriously impacts your ability to, say, understand the charges against you.

But in the vast majority of cases I have been involved in, the report really only reflects the presence of a mental illness, not its impact to the case.  As if it is de facto proof of incompetency.  It's not.

But here's the move: the "psych hospital" they get involuntarily committed to is actually their cell. 

Technically, they are supposed to be committed to an inpatient hospital.  Many jails have them on the premises.  But if the commitment is for 60 days, and the psychiatrist treating them (i.e. not the evaluator) thinks they are cured, then they get sent back into population (their cell).  Maybe they continue on medication; maybe they see the psychiatrist weekly for "outpatient" visits.

Or maybe, maybe, the treating psychiatrist doesn't think they need any treatment.  So they spend their commitment in exactly the place they started. 

Worse, much worse, is how many people I see that I say are competent and still wind up recommitted for two months.  Six months.  A year.  Think I'm kidding?  It is impossible to even estimate how many charts I have read that indicate no psychiatric contact-- not medication, not therapy, not psychiatrist--  for the entire duration of their commitment.  And why should there be? The treating psychiatrist doesn't see anything to treat.

You're probably thinking about murderers and rapists; but the majority of these cases are theft, assaults, drug possessions. Can anyone explain to me what possible justification exists for locking up a guy charged with possession for eight months, no trial?  And I'll pretend the guy is whacked out of his nut psychotic.  Ok?  Any justification at all?

I'm not saying you can't sentence him to eight months-- cane him, for all I care;  I'm saying you can't jail him for eight months without a trial.  Is anyone listening to me? 

The system is designed with simply one outcome in mind: keep the poor with high recidivism rates and minimal social resources in jail-- a sort of half-way house for the disenfranchised-- until you can't possibly justify it any longer, and then give them a quick trial, accept the guilty plea ("what guilty plea?") and sentence them to time served and probation-- where you can add further controls.

It's debatable whether keeping potential terrorists in Cuba is a good idea.  But when the State starts using pyschiatry to manage their population...

I know you think I am exaggerrating.   I'll bet you're not poor. 


This is creepy...and it kin... (Below threshold)

June 10, 2007 3:22 PM | Posted by Its_me: | Reply

This is creepy...and it kind of seems to back up Szasz and others when they write about the negative impact psychiatry has on the judicial process...your post didn't even begin to cover things like divorces and child custody cases, where psychobabble ("Parental Alienation Syndrome," anyone?) can reign over common sense.
Makes sense, though--if psychiatry functions as "medicalization of deviance," then it can help support the state (and vice versa) for social control.
Anyway...this is a stupid question, but if as a psychiatrist you see this in your profession...how do you deal? I mean, do you just observe and blog about it? Do you think there's anything you can do?

Admin's response: I try to tell people, I try to tell the courts, I talk about it, I blog about it--- but I don't think it makes any difference. Psychiatry is society's pressure valve. It's what prevents a degenerating into communism. The byproduct, of course, is that our society becomes more feudal-- we tacitly accept a class system, and pretend it has nothing to do with wealth or education, but rather ill and not ill. The mistake Paris made was to be public about her legal troubles. If she had kept her mouth closed, the two tiered system of justice would have progressed perfectly. But there she was at the MTV awards.

You only have three ways to maintain your freedom: wealth, power, or information. Pick.

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I agree that psychiatr... (Below threshold)

June 11, 2007 3:09 PM | Posted by krc: | Reply

I agree that psychiatry has become a way to medicalize deviance, but I'm not sure the aim is to create a ill caste. Rather, the idea that all are equal, happy consumers is perpetuated by relegating the unhappy, poor and deviant into total irrelevance by labeling them as mentally ill or sociopathic. In this way, there is no underclass; anyone but the happy Wal-Mart shopper (or the more well-off) is either a criminal or a nutter, and thus has almost no existence in the social conciousness.

Admin's response: sort of the same thing. The move, essentially, is to medicalize poverty and ignorance. Once you do that, you take away the need of the poor and ignorant to revolt. You funnel their anger and disenfranchisement into psychiatry. In effect, you're not just giving them an excuse for their failure; you're giving society an excuse for not attending to their failures. "Oh, he's sick."

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re: "I'll bet you ar... (Below threshold)

June 13, 2007 3:04 AM | Posted by Bwca: | Reply

"I'll bet you are not poor"

You need to define 'poor'.
I like to say I am 'broke'; and I read your blog
and I mostly agree with you, including here.

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Alone's response about b... (Below threshold)

June 14, 2007 4:46 PM | Posted by Alone: | Reply

Alone's response about being poor: what I meant was that if you think I am exaggerating, you are probably not poor. For example, if you are on Medicaid, then the psychiatric diversion of school, family, and social troubles will seem much more real. It's no wonder that getting into psychiatric treatment is a substantial way of getting Medicaid or SSI.

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Couldn't agree more, right ... (Below threshold)

August 22, 2007 3:11 PM | Posted by KWL: | Reply

Couldn't agree more, right on target. If anyone with the resources to do something about it cared so many more people would know so much more about this aspect of American life that the moral and ethical outrage would be deafening. No hyperbole, this is an amazingly, truly outrageous practice of "managing the poor." As if they are a warehousing problem to be solved. I know only a few stories but, God, what a mess. How about a deaf girl kept in county jail for a year (and had been returned there many times for vagrancy) because she didn't qualify for any programs of help and there were no resources to so much as communicate with her!! Once someone who practiced sign language was incarcerated along with her she was able to tell of being diagnosed with all manner of psychiatric problems including schizophrenia and medicated for it and kept locked up because she couldn't document a place to live or go if they released her. But, **No one could talk to her to explain what was needed*** so she stayed in jail unaware of what needed to be done!!! Arghh!. And though I'm no psychiatrist, it was clear this was someone very much in fear and isolated to an extreme but with little indications of mental health problems. She was amazingly tough, resigned to her condition and clearly badly affected by how "the world" was treating her, no trust whatsoever for anyone. Who can blame her. The best that could be done was urge her to get out of the state and go somewhere where they would at least talk to her. What about that jail's psychiatrist?!?! No moral or ethical issues at all as far as he was concerned, even agreed it was a "population management" issue nothing else.

In any case, there you are, it takes someone with resources, significantly great resources, and, they have to care, which of course, they don't. Or perhaps more accurately they carefully avoid caring which is in itself an interesting psychiatric issue I think. The careful construction of beliefs and thoughts not essentially as reactions within an interpersonal social realm but actively pursued for the primary purpose of having a direct sociological action/reaction and likely a Darwinian response, that is, preservation of status and advantages leads to posturing that is actually opposite of moral and ethical realities. I think a book from a psychiatric perspective on this practice would be very interesting, I'd buy it. Anyone write it already?

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I found your blog by search... (Below threshold)

December 26, 2008 12:35 PM | Posted by Holly: | Reply

I found your blog by searching "Paris Hilton MK Ultra". I have a "hunch" that she is probably an Illuminati bloodline victim of SRS...do you believe this is true? I get these "hunches" sometimes...for example I randomly did a search on "Bush Nazi link" and found that there is an undeniable link in fact!

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