Sheriff Stacey A. Kincaid Cares About Fairfax Residents With Mental Illnesses: She Deserves Your Vote

(6-13-23) I don’t often engage in politics on this page because my focus is on bettering our mental health care system and that should be a non-partisan goal.

But I feel obligated to endorse local candidates – regardless of their party affiliation – who are knowledgable about mental health issues and are working to improve our system, especially our criminal justice system.

Fairfax County Sheriff Stacey Ann Kincaid is one of these local leaders. I would urge you to support her re-election bid in the June 20th Democratic primary and later in the November general election.

I have written numerous blogs about how Sheriff Kincaid has worked tirelessly to make the Fairfax County Detention Center into a gold standard for how her officers treat individuals with serious mental illnesses. At one point, the Sheriff noted that up to 60% of inmates in her jail have addictions and 40% have a diagnosable mental illness.

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A Friend Asks: Are You Retired? No, Well, Sorta. A Personal Note To Readers


(6-7-23) My friend and tireless California NAMI advocate Mark Gale recently asked me in an email if I had retired.

Well, no and sorta.

I have written a weekly blog about mental health for the last 16 years. As of today, that’s 1,688 blog posts.  While I will continue posting my thoughts on this page, I will no longer adhere to a weekly schedule. Instead, I will post blogs sporadically. That might be once a week or none for a month.

Last month, my newest book, NO HUMAN CONTACT: Solitary Confinement, Maximum Security, and Two Inmates Who Changed the System, was published. It is my 22nd book and, most likely, my last.

Available on Amazon

Because of my book, CRAZY: A Father’s Search Through America’s Mental Health Madness, I have spoken in 49 states (still waiting for that invitation from Hawaii), and five foreign countries. A highlight was speaking at the White House during the Obama administration. While I will continue to do some speeches, I am limiting them too.

So why am I cutting back?

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How Should We House Murderers In Prison – Solitary Confinement? Colorado Public Radio Questions Me About ‘No Human Contact.”

Available on Amazon

(5-24-23) What should society do with men who commit multiple murders in prisons and have no qualms about killing again?

Andrea Dukakis, a producer/reporter/host for Colorado Matters on Colorado Public Radio, raised this question during a phenomenal interview with me about my new book, NO HUMAN CONTACT: Solitary Confinement, Maximum Security, and Two Inmates Who Changed The System.

My book describes the troubled lives of Thomas Silverstein and Clayton Fountain who murdered other inmates in federal prisons before each killed a correctional officer on the same day in the same cellblock. Because there was no federal death penalty, both were held under total isolation – cut off from society – for decades.

Colorado is home to the federal Bureau Of Prison’s “Super Max” penitentiary in Florence, Colorado, where Thomas Silverstein was being housed before his dead in 2019.

During our conversation, Reporter Dukakis asked if long-term solitary confinement is harmful (it is) and if there a better alternative. Our interview begins with her questioning me about the horrific childhoods of both Silverstein and Fountain.

You have to visit the Colorado radio website to listen to our conversation. 

New book paints a picture of two men who spent decades in solitary confinement

The United States Penitentiary's maximum security prison in Florence. Oct. 27, 2021.Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
The federal supermax facility in Florence, Colorado was built in response to two men, Tommy Silverstein and Clayton Fountain. Each murdered a prison guard — and people who were also incarcerated. Both were considered too dangerous to be housed in the general prison population.

The book “No Human Contact” examines what to do with people in prison who are deemed dangerous, and whether isolation is cruel and unusual punishment. Author Pete Earley profiles two men who spent years in solitary confinement with virtually no direct contact with the outside world. Their crimes were by all accounts heinous: Each man killed a prison guard and other men incarcerated with them. The book traces their childhoods, their crimes and their punishment and explains why their actions led to the construction of the federal Supermax prison in Florence, Colorado.





CIT Training For First Responders Comes Under Fire: Is That Criticism Fair?

(5-22-23) I recently was sent this story about Crisis Intervention Team training, which aired a while ago on National Public Radio.

Because I support CIT training and know of incidents where CIT trained officers have saved lives, I was a bit concerned about the headline.

The problem is in implementation, choosing empathic officers and community support services. Ron Bruno, who I served with on a federal panel that advises Congress, makes key points defending CIT.

Still, every time a parent or other loved one calls the police, there is a risk. Here in Fairfax County, Va., CIT trained officers shot and killed Jasper Aaron Lynch, 26, after his parents sought help. It is difficult looking at the body camera images to understand why. Meanwhile, incidents where CIT officers helped someone in crisis go unreported.

What is the status of CIT in your community? What are your thoughts about ways to improve CIT and police interactions with individuals with mental illnesses? Please share your thoughts on my facebook page.

Mental Health And Police Violence: How Crisis Intervention Teams Are Failing

All Things Considered  National Public Radio

Nationwide protests over police accountability and racial justice have reenergized longstanding efforts to fundamentally change how police departments respond to someone in a mental health emergency. Many are calling for removing or dramatically reducing law enforcement’s role in responding to those crisis calls unless absolutely necessary.

Since 2015, nearly a quarter of all people killed by police officers in America have had a known mental illness. Injuries, too, are common although they are less carefully tracked. There’s anecdotal evidence that botched encounters between police and people in a mental crisis are up during the pandemic.

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Would Jordan Neely Be Alive If New York City Had A Care Court? “Coercive Compassion.”

(5-9-23) Would Jordan Neely, a homeless, African American New Yorker with a history of mental illness, who was strangled to death in a subway car by a Marine Corps veteran, be alive today if New York had a so-called Care Court?

Care Courts are California’s latest attempt to reduce homeless, especially among those with mental illnesses, such as Neely. The destitute young street entertainer had been arrested more than 40 times, according to news reports, and was well-known to social workers. CNN reported that he was “on a list of homeless people identified as having dire needs.”

California officials describe Care Courts as “coercive compassion” an initiative that will involuntarily place people into treatment – if they meet certain criteria – rather than waiting for them to pose a danger to themselves or others.

Care Courts will allow a relative, mental health clinician, police officer and others to file a petition in the new civil court system to have the person, willing or not, enter the program. A clinician then will have two weeks to decide if the person, who is afforded legal counsel, qualifies for the program, which will accept those with mental health illnesses such as schizophrenia or other forms of psychosis. Care Court will also be an option if a person is involved in a criminal or civil court case and is determined to be unfit to stand trial.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness and others including: California’s Big City Mayors, California Professional Firefighters, the California Medical Association, and the California Hospital Association support creation of Care Courts.

Obviously, creating a Care Court has outraged disability and civil rights groups, including the state’s Protection and Advocacy organization, while it is being embraced by many parents and others who are frustrated by a neglectful system that allows their loved ones to resist treatment and “die with their rights on.”

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Blood On The Razor Wire: An Excellent Prison Memoir By A Convict Who Beat The Odds

This post is about a prison memoir, BLOOD ON THE RAZOR WIRE, not mental illness.

(5-8-23) Chad Marks turned his life around by sheer determination and guts.

Raised by a single mother on welfare in a poor Rochester neighborhood, he started selling cocaine when he was thirteen years old. Three years later, he was selling crack cocaine and when he was 24 years-old, he was sentenced to a 40-year federal mandatory minimum sentence – ten years for a crack cocaine drug conspiracy, five years for possessing a weapon, and another 25 years for possession of a .22 rifle.

Society was happy to rid itself of him. And it did.

Marks was sent to “Big Sandy,” a federal maximum security prison located in a remote area of Kentucky. It was one of the most violent penitentiaries operated by the federal government, with stabbings, beatings and murders.

Chad Marks was not prepared for what he was being thrown into as a young man facing four decades behind bars.

“For me there was a choice I had to make,” he later would write in an article for Families Against Mandatory Minimums. “I could give up, and in doing so take a road of negativity, or I could choose a much different path. I saw then that all paths in life, for good or bad, begin with one small step. For so long in my life, I chose the wrong path. At that very moment, I knew I had to change my direction, because when we choose our path we choose our destination.”

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