CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19) RESOURCE CENTER Read More

Post a message

New guidelines implemented for prison mental health services

Author: LegalGuardian ( Social Network of Care )
Posted: 01/15/2011 @ 8:16 pm

Question: How many Arizona massacres have to occur before it becomes cost effective for us to work on actually solving the systemic failures in our national and individual state mental health systems?

The following describes one example of the systemic failures needing to be addressed and solved, with citations of relevant statutory and case laws.

My name is Christopher, and I am writing this based on my being a court appointed legal Guardian of a forensic client who has an established history of challenging behaviors, violent acts, and severe mental illnesses along with developmental disabilities. I also have a professional background in the mental health field, as a behavioral specialist for forensic clients with mental, developmental and neuological disabilities.

Recently, I received a copy of a newly developed set of guidelines from the Vice President of Mental Health Management Services, Inc., which provides mental health services in prisons throughout our nation. These guidelines caused me to have grave concerns about the statutory and constitutional permissibility of such, and the degree in which they seek to harm Guardians and their ward, and guardianships themselves.

Section I of the guidelines caused the greatest concern and alarm and upon reading such, I contacted the Vice President of Mental Health Management Services, Inc., and stated my objections; my refusal to abide by such, and demands for amendments to be made. To-wit: While some amendments have been made in limited manner, more are needed in order to ensure that wards of guardianship have equal access and participation in prison services and programs involving mental health counseling and treatment.

Section I of the guidelines prohibits Guardians from initiating contact with prison mental health staff except in cases of emergencies. The term “emergency” was originally defined narrowly to be only that of incidents where the ward of guardianship is in immediate risk of causing himself or herself, or others harm. It did not include the necessary broader definition of incidents where the ward himself or herself was at risk of being or had been harmed by another person. As such, it is my belief that this provision clearly violated 42 U.S.C. Sections 12132 and 12203(b), the 1st and /or 14th Amendments, and Sections 475.078.2.3 RSMo and 475.120.2.3(2)-(5) RSMo (2009).

Moreover, this section also made an implicit threat of inflicting retaliatory harm against the Guardian if he or she initiated contact with prison mental health staff outside the scope of the narrowly defined definition of the word “emergency.” To-wit: If a Guardian did initiate contact with prison mental health staff outside the scope of an immediate emergency, the Guardian would be accused of not acting in the best interest of their ward, which therein placed the guardianship itself at risk of being revoked. As such, it is my belief that this provision clearly violated 42 U.S.C. Sections 12132 and 12203(a)(b), the 1st and / or 14th Amendments, and Sections 475.078.2.3 RSMo and 475.120.2.3(2)-(5) RSMo (2009).

Mental Health Management Services, Inc., argues that the guidelines afford regular contact between the Guardian and prison mental health staff. Regular contact, however, is arbitrarily premised on when and if prison mental health staff want to communicate with Guardians based on the irrational or exaggerated prison mental health staff concerns that in allowing Guardians to initiate contact with prison mental health staff it creates an undue administrative burden. However, numerous prison mental health staff in three (3) different state correctional facilities have stated that situations involving offenders with Guardians is rare. Therefore, where they contend it is a rare occurrance, then they cannot purport that it creates an undue administrative burden to allow Guardians to initiate contact with prison mental health staff.

In my email communications with the Vice President of Mental Health Management, Inc., I pointed out that by applying a narrow definition to the word “emergency” it prohibits Guardians from notifying prison mental health staff of situations where the ward of guardianship has been harmed such as, but not limited to, rape and physical abuse. And that by prohibiting Guardians from initiating contact with prison mental health staff, wards of guardianship are then being forced to endure emotional / psychological torment, which constitutes a form of client abuse.

In doing this, we set the ward of guardianship up to fail and engage negative, if not violent behaviors, and then blame them for their behaviors so we can avoid taking personal responsibility for failing to help them.

Moreover, not only do we teach the ward of guardianship that they must be in a full blown crisis before anyone will help them, which only encourages them to engage in or otherwise condones thier negative and even violent behaviors. But we also teach them that the Guardian is powerless to help them because prison mental health staff simply do not want to be bothered with their needs.

These are extremely danagerous messages to be teaching forensic clients with a hisotry of engaging in violent acts. They are irresponsible messages and the kind of messages that encourage massacres to occur like we have seen in Arizona, Columbine High School, Virginia Technical College, and Fort Hood, to name only a few.

Interestingly enough, while the Vice President of Mental Health Management Services, Inc., purports that the newly guidelines were created to help improve services, nowhere in the guidelines are prison mental health staff given necessary information as to the role, duties and statutory authority Guadians have. Moreover, the guidelines clearly hold Guardians as outsiders looking in to the mental health treatment team, rather than realizing Guardians are very much apart of the treatment team who have statutory decision making authority.

The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Missouri has previously ruled that incarcerated offenders with disabilities, in the Missouri Dept of Corrections, have a clearly established protected right, under the Americans with Disabilities Act, to receive third party assistance they need, in order to have equal access and participation that they need not what the Department dictates. See Randolph v. Schriro.

Three (3) State courts addressing the role Guardians are required to play in advocating the rights and grievances involving their, wards within the prison environment, have held Guardians to the same standards that inmates have under 42 U.S.C. Section 1997e(a). See Braswell v. Corrections Corp., of America, (M.D. Tenn. August 10, 2009), Moore v. Louisiana Dept of Public Safety and Corrections, (E.D. La., August 2, 2002) and Villescaz v. City of Eloy (D. Ariz., May 2, 2008).

The U.S. Supreme Court previously ruled that in order for Missouri Dept of Corrections regulations to be constitutionally permissible there must be a valid, rational connection between the regulation and a legitimate and neutral governmental interest put forward to justify it, which connection cannot be so remote as to render the regulation arbitrary or irrational. And that the regulation cannot be an 'exaggerated response" to prison concerns. The Court also held that the Departments regulations must ensure there is a viable alternative to offenders being able to exercise their right. See Turner v. Safley.

According to Mental Health Management Services, Inc., the Missouri Attorney General’s Office approved the guidelines, as originally written, and they purport that they are 100% legal and lawful. This, of course, begs the question that if the “guidelines” are in fact 100% legal, why then were various amendments made due to my objecting to such and stating my refusal to comply with the guidelines, as they were originally written?

Section IV of the guidelines also raises concerns due to the implied threat to use “involuntary medications” on a ward of guardianship in the absence of specifying under what specific criteria this would be considered and done, and failing to specify who would make the decision to use “involuntary medications” without consent of the Guardian.

Mental Health Management Services, Inc., claims that offenders with mental health disabilities receive proper and sufficient mental health counseling, which they only allow to occur one (1) time per month. If an offender requires additional help, Mental Health Management Services, Inc., prescribes to the belief it is the offenders responsibility to ask for such. However, even if they do as for such, they will not receive more than a brief meeting with a counselor.

Offenders with legal Guardians have such because they have proved themselves to lack the ability to care for themselves and to seek out opportunities to get help. It is therefore irrational to argue that prison mental health staff have no responsibility to ensure this class of offenders does not slip through the cracks by prison mental health staff passing the buck of responsibility off onto the offender while in the same breadth making guidelines that prohibit Guardians from being the voice of their ward so they can get the help they need.

When offenders are deprived or abridged the mental health care and treatment they need; that society pays for, while they are in prison the inevitable result is that they are at even greater risk of committing worse acts of violence when they are released from prison. And yet, despite that we have had numerous of massacres occur, like we saw in Arizona recently, we continue to fail or refuse to work on actually solving the systemic failures in our national and individual state mental health systems.

Question: How many Arizona massacres have to occur before it becomes cost effective for us to work on actually solving the systemic failures in our national and individual state mental health systems?