Broken Minds Broken Rights : Civil Rights Abuses Of The Seriously Mentally Ill In The USA

When one looks at the United States handling, prosecution and incarceration of those who have brain diseases such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder (both classified as serious mental illnesses under the NIMH) we find that it is impossible for the judicial system to provide such individuals their basic constitutional rights.

The system, thus has broken federal laws consistently across all states in an effort to criminalize those with brain diseases. Inmates have choked to death on their own feces, been boiled to death in showers, and strapped to chairs for days at a time resulting in atrocious deaths, not at the hands of other inmates, but those entrusted with their care. They are often left naked, un-medicated and in solitary confinement for sometimes years. This mess called a mental health system violates a few constitutional rights regularly.

We can start with the 6th Amendment.

Those with brain diseases that affect the frontal lobe of the brain, such as schizophrenia and or bipolar or individuals who have a disease that affects the neural transmitters of the brain, are impaired biologically to understand certain aspects of their own incarceration, arrests, questioning, or defense. These brain diseases attack the persons cognitive abilities of memory, recollection and even verbalization of events. Thus these diseases prevent those with serious mental illness from procuring a speedy trial. The average time for a person with SMI (serious mental illness) to be incarcerated is often 6 times longer, directly due to their diseases, making this an unethical unconstitutional practice. Much of this time will be spent behind bars before even being convicted of a crime. The person is sucked into a broken system of stabilization, often for years before ever standing trial.

These brain diseases often keep their sufferer from being able to participate in their own defense in the same manner as other individuals. Even medicated, individuals have cognitive barriers that make their prosecution unethical. These brain diseases also make their incarceration, on its own, a form of cruel and unusual behavior.

When my son was in psychosis due to schizophrenia, he was pepper sprayed for being suicidal, while incarcerated. Suicidal tendencies are a symptom of his brain disease. He was physically hurt with a chemical agent for exhibiting a symptom of his disease. (schizophrenics have a 10-17% death rate due to suicide). This seems to be standard protocol in jails across the country. Inmates may be pepper sprayed, tazed or restrained for simply being symptomatic of their underlying brain disorders. It is worth noting that in America 50% of persons living with schizophrenia will spend time incarcerated at one point or another in their lifetime.

I recently read Pete Earley’s book “Crazy”. Mr Earley beautifully described the system’s ability to take a defendant and shuffle them from place to place trying to stabilize them to stand trial. This revolving door system that rotates from jail, to courtroom, to psychiatric treatment, back to jail, and back to courtroom can literally last for several years. In this very broken system, a person who has never even been convicted of a crime, can be trapped within an endless loop that leads to nowhere. Suffering from sub par treatment all the while.

This is unconstitutional, unethical, inhumane and a violation of this persons 6th Amendment Rights.

Unfortunately for someone who is gravely disabled by a disease that makes comprehending the law or asserting their own rights impossible, these individuals are easily lost in a system that hides its own abuses well under loads of red tape and legal terminology. Red tape and legal terminology that are hard to understand with a well mind, let alone maneuver with a diseased one, this lack of ability to understand or defend ones own self becomes the actual prison that holds them inside the penal system – not the iron bars.

They are too ill to stand up for, request or even acknowledge their own constitutional rights. This makes them helpless, and for almost 50 years our court system has trampled on the rights of those with SMI.


“The provision is “an important safeguard to prevent undue and oppressive incarceration prior to trial, to minimize anxiety and concern accompanying public accusation and to limit the possibility that long delay will impair the ability of an accused to defend himself.”

“Because the guarantee of a speedy trial “is one of the most basic rights preserved by our Constitution,” it is one of those “fundamental” liberties embodied in the Bill of Rights which the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment makes applicable to the States. The protection afforded by this guarantee “is activated only when a criminal prosecution has begun and extends only to those persons who have been ‘accused’ in the course of that prosecution.” Invocation of the right need not await indictment, information, or other formal charge but begins with the actual restraints imposed by arrest if those restraints precede the formal preferring of charges.”

Excerpt from Cornell Law University “CCR Annotated Constitutional Law”

Their civil rights have been abused for far too long. I for one am taking a stand against this injustice. It is unethical, inhumane and often even illegal. They may be diagnosed with a brain disease, but that does not in any way, strip them of their constitutional rights. It is time those with SMI get the specialized treatment and considerations that any other person living with a physical or mental disability procures.

If incarceration is necessary the state MUST provide them with the support that is necessary for ALL of their constitutional rights to be upheld. That may include specialized social workers to ensure they are represented legally, understand their rights and receive the medical treatment necessary to maintain a level of wellness. This can include psychiatrists, neurologists, medicine, therapy and access to additional amenities that ensure their humane stabilization. Without this, incarceration is nothing less than cruel and unusual treatment and a violation of due process, as defined in the 8th and 14th Amendment.

Cruel and Unusual Punishment 8th Amendment

“Such punishment as would amount to torture or barbarity, any cruel and degrading punishment not known to the Common Law, or any fine, penalty, confinement, or treatment that is so disproportionate to the offense as to shock the moral sense of the community.”

as defined by

14th Amendment and Due Process Clause

“The Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution each contain a due process clause. Due process deals with the administration of justice and thus the due process clause acts as a safeguard from arbitrary denial of life, liberty, or property by the government outside the sanction of law.[1] The Supreme Court of the United States interprets the clauses more broadly, concluding that these clauses provide four protections: procedural due process (in civil and criminal proceedings), substantive due process, a prohibition against vague laws, and as the vehicle for the incorporation of the Bill of Rights.”  as defined by

In itself the solitary confinement of those suffering with brain diseases is cruel and unusual punishent. Many with SMI are locked away in isolation cells for 23-24 hours a day without any ability to fight this procedure. They have no advocates or social workers to protest on their behalf within the system itself, they are at the mercy of their captors. Some are stripped of clothing, possessions, and the privilege of communicating with family or friends via visitation or even phone calls or letters. This, for someone mentally impaired via schizophrenia or bipolar disorder is inhumane and unethical and is contrary to the advisement of common held psychiatric beliefs toward betterment or treatment of the seriously mentally ill thus making it medical abuse and medical negligence on the part of jails and prisons.

In a recent federal report one inmate with a mental illness spent four years in solitary confinement, which is the equivalent of nearly more than 32,000 hours in an isolation cell with very limited human contact. How could that be considered humane? Is this not the definition of cruel and unusual punishment for someone who suffers from diseases that cause them to feel suicidal?

Some counties are too poor to even provide those incarcerated with SMI basic medications such as antipsychotic medicines that keep them from hallucinations and delusions. This is BARBARIC and INHUMANE. More importantly these medications also subdue the suicidal symptoms of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, thus making them necessary for quality of life. Denying someone with a SMI their medication is not only inhumane it is medical neglect. The same type of medical neglect that would be incurred if a diabetic were to be denied life sustaining insulin. This is unconstitutional, cruel and unusual punishment.

For nearly half a century these abuses and disregard for constitutional rights have gone unchecked – not anymore. The Internet is exposing the United States Judicial System for the inhumane, unconstitutional and medically negligent Goliath that it truly is.

I will urge anyone who has lost a loved one while incarcerated that suffered from a serious mental illness to contact their states ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) . Each State has its own branch of this organization that exists to protect the rights of citizens against larger entities that abuse or neglect them such as police departments, jails or even prisons. If you have a loved one who has suffered inhumanely or has died as a result of his or her specialized medical needs being ignored – I urge you to contact the ACLU of the state it occurred in and fill out a formal complaint, their services if they chose to represent you are free. This is the only way we can change this system for the better, we must fight for the rights of those too incapacitated to do so on their own.

We must also give credit where credit is due. The Judicial System is not the causation of these civil rights violations, they are only playing the hand they have been dealt. It is in fact our governments lack of concern for those citizens that are effected by SMI that is the root of this abuse. The government has made little to no effort to protect these vulnerable citizens or even institute a reasonable means of psychiatric treatment for them. Ultimately they have ignored them, thus forcing the hand of the Judicial System to deal with them, as their brain diseases often incapacitate them from making rational decisions when un-medicated. In America, you get a brain disease, and often go to jail.

Classic Examples Of How The System Abuses Those With Brain Diseases Such As Schizophrenia, BiPolar Disorders

Bertram Hiscock Berkeley Graduate Who Choked To Death On His Own Feces While Locked In A “Suicide Cell” and Never Attended To:


Cops Boil Schizophrenic Man To Death – NO CHARGES


Andrew Holland Schizophrenic Man Dies After Being Strapped To Chair For Almost 48 Hours In Jail. Jailers Laugh As He Dies :

These stories seem like they should be on some late night, B rated horror movie marathon. But unfortunately this treatment is happening everyday in jails and prisons across America. I urge anyone who is in the US Government, the legal or medical professions and anyone who has a loved one living with a SMI to get involved. We MUST abolish this last major human rights violation on American soil. Taking a stand on behalf of those who cannot.

This is unethical, inhumane and has even been acknowledged by the UN – as they will not extradite mentally ill prisoners to the US – stating that our treatment of such is barbaric and substandard. The veil has been ripped asunder. The time is now. We need a new system, more hospitals and less criminalization of brain diseases, this current system violates the very constitution this country was founded on. The dirty secret is out. It’s time to clean house. As a nation, we can be judged on how we treat our most vulnerable citizens, and in the US we treat them terribly. We lock them away, torture them to death, and deny them the basic fundamentals guaranteed to our citizens via the constitution.

Citing Poor Care for Mental Health in US Prisons, UK Court Refuses Extradition Request…

Mental Illness, Human Rights, and US Prisons : Human Rights Watch Statement for the Record to the Senate Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on Human Rights and the Law

My Sons Story…Where my passion for the SMI comes from
Elliotts Story : A Living Nightmare Of First Psychosis (Part 1)


His Greatest Fear Came True : The Government Stole Him (Part Two)

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Tamara Lee

I am a Licensed & Ordained Minister in the State of West Virginia. I have a calling a passion to end the suffering of those that live with serious mental illnesses in the United States. God has called me to set the captives free.