?

Log in

can(T) get (T)here from here [entries|friends|calendar]
[Tranc{E]nd}

[ userinfo | livejournal userinfo ]
[ calendar | livejournal calendar ]

May You Live In 'Interesting' Times [31 Jan 2005|06:51pm]
Hello reader. Whatever has brought you here, I hope you find something of use in this journal.

I've stopped keeping it, partially because blogging is kind of silly. But more importantly, because I wish to put some distance between myself and my struggles with the psychiatric machine in late '03 and the first half '04. Unfortunately, there's stigma and discrimination associated with having been institutionalized for any reason. So though I speak openly about my experiences, I don't need *everyone* I meet to start our conversation with "so tell me about the nut house". I'd also prefer to separate these matters from my professional life to the extent that is possible (while still publishing my findings freely, here and in press articles).

For those who want an aerial view, I'll make a long story short:

Inexplicable shifts of perception (later identified as a chemical imbalance) led me to behave really oddly, and my neighbors were rightfully concerned so they called 911. I went cooperatively in an ambulance, but where I ended up didn't resemble a hospital. Thinking of myself as a patient and not a prisoner, I did not know that locking someone up in a creepy room and refusing to talk to them is standard practice. The rights you have in this nebulous state of "mental evaluation" aren't something we're taught in high school civics, and they won't explain it to you (they are busy, and will tell you so). Repeatedly insisting to speak to whoever-answers-the-intercom's-manager isn't just going to get ignored, it gets you tied down.

Perhaps a reasonable person would quietly ask "pardon me, when will I be seen"? and wait indefinitely when they said: "when we get to you"--but brain disorders like mania aren't associated with patience. And I challenge anyone to not freak out when silent people (who obviously dislike you) lock you in increasing restraints and chain you to a wall in some windowless room. I also question the practice of choosing to make intercoms beep a la Chinese Water torture when someone is stuck in this state. But anyhow, after some hours of this and a minor stroke or two, the evaluation period was up and they let me go. I walked (ran) out the door with a prescription for a batch of pills (which cost in excess of $300/mo), which they pronounced I'd need to take for the rest of my life.

I'd have been better off checking into Shady Palms and taking the tranquilizers for a few weeks, so I could calmly fill out a complaint form regarding the two-thousand-dollar medical bill. Instead I went pretty much ballistic, and the value of any specific personal relationship came to seem irrelevant when no one would confront the hospital, or me. Unfortunately my condition was going untreated during this time, and whether you are sympathetic or think I got what I deserved depends on a number of factors. The behavior of those in power takes on an aspect of sinister cruelty when you view it as the treatment of a person with a disability. I don't see it all like that, so I cut a lot of slack for reactions to my more incomprehensible activities, though even in that context there's a lot to account for.

Where this stands these days is that The Establishment has set me up with a decent drug that has pretty much taken care of my symptoms. They've dropped charges against me--which is good--but also means there won't be any forum for my complaints unless I choose to sue someone (which I've been taunted to try doing if I feel so inclined). Yet it's nearly impossible to attack an intertwined government system that has its own "internal justice" and won't put anything in writing without a court order...it's kind of like Jack Nicholson's speech from A Few Good Men. The relativists, including extremely well-meaning ones who work from within the system, say: "Count your blessings, Mr. I-Didn't-Die-In-A-Tsunami. In the end, you got the medical intervention you needed. As for criticisms of the process, why don't you put together a made-for-TV-movie or something?"

I might. In the meantime, don't think I'm somehow defined as a person by wanton challenges to authority. I also wantonly challenge subservience. Plus, I'm kind of funny, a passable artist, and am (obviously) willing to put my cajones on the line for any perceived furtherment of mankind. I have one or two other talents, and an otherwise productive life. For that matter, the potential impact I have to make by spreading this information could far outweigh any other achievements I have to point to. Time will tell.

Request for Jail Photographs [12 Jan 2005|10:01pm]
note: I backdated this entry, but that doesn't stop it from showing up on your "recent posts" lists, apparently!

To: Ken Ray (DAJD director, King County)
Date: January 12, 2005
Subject: Request for Jail Photographs

Dear Mr. Ray,

I have asked the Department of Adult Detention about getting recent pictures of the inside of King County Jail. I’m most interested in the specific isolation cells on the seventh floor where I spent several weeks pre-trial in 2004. I’d also appreciate photos of the common areas, booking rooms, and the holding tanks used to move prisoners to the municipal court (though these are of secondary importance). If images are not readily available, I’ve offered to come onsite and take them myself. Obviously none of these photos would feature guards or inmates.

My desire to acquire this documentation stems from a larger objective of building a comprehensive and “reality-based” roadmap of Seattle’s mental health landscape. I am sure that a civilian review board exists that understands most of the puzzle. Yet the complexity of managing the mentally ill has given rise to institutional structures that easily baffle the average person…not to mention clients of the system. There is no question that some of these clients have developmental disabilities preventing them from navigating the clearest of situations. Yet I speak from experience when I say that the facilities themselves play a big role in disorienting those who might otherwise be much more compliant. This aspect is not adequately captured in words.

The hopeful outcome of such openness would be to bring more public attention, understanding, and funding to the area. Despite that, this request has been orally denied in visits with several jail officials. They cite security reasons that exempt this information from the umbrella of disclosure that applies to other public facilities. Elizabeth at the Department of Adult Detention was willing to give her first name and serve as a spokesperson for refusing the inquiry. Yet she indicated that even a written denial signed by a representative of the D.A.D. would only be provided in the event of legal action against King County.

Though I have not yet been able to get a truly explicit rationale of your department’s policy, there are three main reasons that I can think of offhand:

* Increased jailbreak potential from exposure of locking mechanisms, window barriers, and cell layouts.

* The safety of a civilian photographer in a potentially unstable environment.

* Serving every photograph request would lead to increased costs and administrative burden.

It seems to me that we could strike a compromise that would serve the interests of operational "transparency" while addressing these concerns. The visible features of the cells are extremely simple and could be verbally recounted or drawn by anyone who has been inside, so the first issue does not seem relevant (especially if cell numbers or other identifying information were voluntarily "blacked out"). Since physicians and lawyers are admitted on a regular basis, I would also not be personally concerned with safety of a visitor…and a waiver of liability could also ease this concern. The third points to some possible solutions, such as limiting the number of requests served on a semi-annual or annual basis.

As for whether a lawsuit deemed to have merit by a court should be a prerequisite to any official response, I’ll only suggest that few inmates who spend time in the facility could reasonably afford to file legal action. Additionally, a case against King County might be disproportionately difficult to sell to judges who are (understandably) empathetic to the constraints placed on their peers in the correctional system. In any event, I only ask that an "in writing" expression of that policy be provided--outside the context of a lawsuit.

Thank you for your time.
5 comments|post comment

DOSE OF REALITY (poem) [11 Nov 2004|08:34pm]
DOSE OF REALITY

though its existence
some might doubt
there *is* a sugarcandy mount
whose saccharine peak
one soon discovers
is much more Equal
than the others
2 comments|post comment

TURNAROUND TIME (poem) [02 Nov 2004|07:31pm]
TURNAROUND TIME

Sweeping the dreamscape
were radian clocks --
ticking and talking to me
as I watched them
clean every man's mind.

They didn't clear mine.

It appears I was flawed!
A sick voodoo god
who misunderstood pain,
and time and again
pulled pins off grenades.

Mistakes had been made.

Taking E before I
tended ordered events...
rules persistently bent
caused memories to melt
of those who meant well.

There is asphalt in hell.

Here tides play me music -
it's sometimes confusing.
I still pick up seashells
to answer her calls...
selling oceans to ears.

If you listen, you'll hear.




explanation behind the cutCollapse )
post comment

GREEN (poem) [01 Nov 2004|12:39am]
GREEN

from out of a keyhole
too long look-ed through
came an inkling that inkled
(as inklings oft do)

and I knew then I'd lost it
distracted because
of the has that had been
and the never that was

this reflection I share
with the man in my car
it's best not to know
how unhappy you are




explanation behind the cutCollapse )
2 comments|post comment

REGRET (poem) [15 Oct 2004|12:49am]
REGRET

I asked those questions
  long ago
of Heaven's lofts
  and realms below
she sadly smiled,
said "I don't know -
  but hell is where
    the quitters go."
6 comments|post comment

FINISH LINE (poem) [10 Sep 2004|12:52am]
FINISH LINE

I ran mechanical
as broken clockwork
each alarming minute
turned metal to ribbon
heartstrings snapped
like thin red tape
gears spinning so fast
I forgot to say
post comment

THE WATCHMAN (poem) [25 Aug 2004|12:42pm]
THE WATCHMAN

He wears a watch upon each wrist
his left is blue
the right is red
Blue is set five minutes back
And right is five ahead

So if you ask him for the time
Then just his sleeve
And he will know
If your steps sped slightly up
Or if your pace was slowed




explanation behind the cutCollapse )
3 comments|post comment

REVELATION (poem) [25 Aug 2004|12:30pm]
REVELATION

Lost upon the causal sea
I’m sickened by the salt
that fell from favor
with the savior
for it can’t affect the rot

Edicts must have been in order
For I couldn’t sleep at all
took two tablets
in my habit
and awoke too late to call

So if worms would chill my body
While these locusts warm my head
then the rapture’s
Just a chapter
in the final book I read




explanation behind the cutCollapse )
post comment

DECAY (poem) [21 Aug 2004|12:54pm]
DECAY

he's the squalor
from fractured halls
and he's hanging his plaque
on those velvety walls
bet your teeth he wants in
to your insidest track
and
he reeks
he reeks
he reeks of the havoc...
he's rot



explanation behind the cutCollapse )
post comment

Benefits and Hazards of "Mental Health Court" [06 Aug 2004|02:19pm]
(please read The Aerial View as a companion to this article.)

If we are to believe in justice in our society, we have to have faith that no one should need to break laws to be happy. Therefore, anyone who is convicted of a crime should be regarded (at some level) as having a mental illness. This would mean someone isn't just "criminal" or just "insane"...but that there is only one status: "criminally insane". If you cannot see someone in both lights you are either missing the compassion for the criminal (to recognize them as sick) or you are falsely labeling someone insane (by not requiring yourself to show the harm in their belief system). An ideal world would thus build a strong formal relationship between the criminal justice system and the mental health establishment.

Yet few people know just how intertwined psychiatry and the legal system have already become. Seattle is particularly aggressive in this respect, with a special Mental Health Court, which handles all of the cases of those who have been tagged as being of a "psychiatric" nature. There are certainly instances where this affords the greater compassion you would expect--such as lenience to those who commit crimes out of pure confusion instead of malice. Yet for those expecting due process, it can be a haphazard and dangerous combination.

This comes from the illusion intrinsic to this very parental system, because it is actually a psychological review board shaped like a court. It's an awkard adaptation, on par with a cassette-shaped audio cable. The lawyers, case workers, and judge can all work together off-record, and then playback the scenario they want later in the mode of court protocol. "These people shouldn't be in jail, they should be in mental hospitals or outpatient programs," is the primary mantra of view of everyone involved. The question of whether the crime is minor, major, or even whether you are guilty or not isn't the big issue.

A paranoid defendant who believes that a conspiracy is being pushed against them is somewhat correct--their presence here is largely a formality, and there's little interest in what they has to say about the incident which brought them into court. Most decisions are made based on what the psychiatrists report. Angry defendants might think this is an issue of competence with their lawyer, and try and represent themselves...or try and speak to the judge to explain what's going on. This is a bad idea and interpreted as further signs of incompetence.

It wouldn't be so bad if there was a sincere effort made to orient people to what is going on, but largely it is assumed that such efforts are unnecessary because the participants are "too crazy to understand". I speak only for myself when I say the following things were surprising findings, and whenever something surprising happens it can be very disorienting:

Did you know that the police don’t need a warrant to enter your home, even if you own it and are there alone, if there is "probable cause" to believe that you pose a threat to yourself?

Did you know that you could be taken against your will to a hospital, and held there by force, without being placed under arrest? If this occurs, then you are personally responsible for the bills, which are basically guaranteed to exceed $1000.

Did you know that you can be locked in an empty room in a hospital, with no information of how long you’ll be held there or when someone is coming to see you? After that you can be put through various systems of extreme physical restraint merely for calling for help.

Did you know that the assessment of whether you would be able to behave yourself in a courtroom is made before you get a chance to step foot in a court? This means that if you have a feud with jail guards over the treatment you are receiving, that could keep you from standing before a judge indefinitely.

Did you know that the prosecution is able to claim the defendant is not competent to be prosecuted? If they do this, then the clock stops on your right to a speedy trial…and your case can be put off indefinitely…even if you want to face the charges (such as in the case of, say, a simple misdemeanor?)

Did you know that placing your free phone call from jail is considered "discretionary" based on your mental state, and if the jail guards don’t want to let you make it, they don’t have to?

Did you know that it's not possible to get photographs even of an empty cell inside King County Jail, without a superior court order, to see what conditions prisoners are kept in?

These are things that every citizen should know. Although I ultimately have come to understand that the structures have arisen out of a largely well-meaning department of social services, they serve as a confusing splice in the legal system most Americans take for granted is there when they need it--with some hard guarantees.
12 comments|post comment

MYSTERY (poem) [03 Aug 2004|02:20pm]
MYSTERY

I placed a box
inside another
one box showed
one box covered

one secret's mine
one not revealed
the inner box
by others sealed




explanation behind the cutCollapse )
4 comments|post comment

STARDUST (poem) [27 Jul 2004|05:32pm]
STARDUST

heart's desire
sired us
  but can stardust
cure the virus
that the spirits
gave a meaning
while my head
    was dreaming
  screaming in
a frame mainly
chained I was
forced to lie
  myself awake
    she tells me when
they make mistakes
    people die in here




explanation behind the cutCollapse )
5 comments|post comment

COMEBACK (poem) [22 Jul 2004|11:33am]
COMEBACK

Shoved every last card
thru the door in the ceiling
then poured through the glass
splattered with feelings
reflecting the shatter
which shuttered my mind…
I’M NOT COMING BACK
I’M NOT COMING BACK

Each point of view
the clipboards are moving
their white coated lips
all the lies are unchewing
“no doors on the ceiling!
shift ninety degrees!”
I’M NOT COMING BACK
I’M NOT COMING BACK

I’ve run down this dream
Skipping sync with the sane
Now a terse drink is causing
one last window pain
Don’t affront me and ask
if I’m home anymore:
I’M NOT.
COME IN BACK

‘CAUSE I’M NOT COMING BACK




explanation behind the cutCollapse )
3 comments|post comment

A strong bad email, ghostwritten by...me. [18 Jul 2004|02:13pm]
Thought I'd try my hand at scripting an answer to a Strong Bad email. In 15 minutes I wrote a response to this question (well, maybe it was more like 30 if you count the tweaking I did later...):

Dear Strong Bad,

Someone I know is having halluciniations, claiming to see all sorts of crazy things that no one else can see. What do you think we should do? Does he need medication?

Bonnie D, VA


But is it funny?Collapse )
4 comments|post comment

THE GIFT (poem) [21 May 2004|05:38pm]
THE GIFT

humans are buried
alive in their bubbles
the rubble of wrappers
refuse to revise
till complete
they unknow
what the pack advertised
so if you should unwrap one
a word to the wise:
retain your receipts and
dare not close
thyne eyes




explanation behind the cutCollapse )
5 comments|post comment

Robots are everywhere, and they eat old people's medicine for fuel. [20 May 2004|04:59pm]
http://www.noonelikesyou.net/TFT-robots/

...and courtesy of the SNL Transcripts Site (featuring 2,334 transcripts from "Saturday Night Live"
!), the Old Glory Insurance ad:

Old Lady #1: When my ex-husband passed away, the insurance company said his policy didn't cover him.

Old Lady #2: They didn't have enough money for the funeral.

Old Lady #3: It's so hard nowadays, with all the gangs and rap music..

Old Lady #1: What about the robots?

Old Lady #4: Oh, they're everywhere!

Old Lady #1: I don't even know why the scientists make them.

Old Lady #2: Darren and I have a policy with Old Glory Insurance, in case we're attacked by robots.

Old Lady #1: An insurance policy with a robot plan? Certainly, I'm too old.

Old Lady #2: Old Glory covers anyone over the age of 50 against robot attack, regardless of current health.

[ cut to Sam Waterston, Compensated Endorser ]

Sam Waterson: I'm Sam Waterston, of the popular TV series "Law & Order". As a senior citizen, you're probably aware of the threat robots pose. Robots are everywhere, and they eat old people's medicine for fuel. Well, now there's a company that offers coverage against the unfortunate event of robot attack, with Old Glory Insurance. Old Glory will cover you with no health check-up or age consideration.

[ SUPER: Limited Benefits First Two Years ]

You need to feel safe. And that's harder and harder to do nowadays, because robots may strike at any time.

[ show pie chart reading "Cause of Death in Persons Over 50 Years of Age": Heart Disease, 42% - Robots, 58% ]

And when they grab you with those metal claws, you can't break free.. because they're made of metal, and robots are strong. Now, for only $4 a month, you can achieve peace of mind in a world full of crime and robots, with Old Glory Insurance. So, don't cower under your afghan any longer. Make a choice.

[SUPER: "WARNING: Persons denying the existence of Robots may be Robots themselves. ]

Old Glory Insurance. For when the metal ones decide to come for you - and they will.
13 comments|post comment

To Whom It May Concern [19 May 2004|04:03pm]
(please read The Aerial View as a companion to this article.)

To Whom It May Concern,

I have a degree in electrical engineering from Cornell University and a strong career track record with Microsoft and other technical organizations. After five years working for Microsoft's Research division, I left that job to pursue other callings. My girlfriend and I did extensive traveling, which was very new and opened a lot of doors for me. I slept more than usual, and developed strange abilities to remain conscious during dreams and investigate those environments with nearly the same degree of lucidity of waking life. This led me to a series of doubts about the objective "reality" of the world we lived in.

Combining that with the stress of trying to balance my relationships, finances, and projects became too much for me to handle. By 2003 I hit a breaking point and wrote a lot of strange things that were quickly interpreted by my friends and neighbors as insane. I broke several of my possessions...and gave away many others. I also ran around near where I lived in Belltown at odd hours, doing things without having any obvious reason: hanging out with the homeless people, leaving packages addressed to myself and enigmatic gifts around the building, or artistically rearranging the cigarette butts on the sidewalk. I even went so far as to pull a fire alarm and then deny doing so.

Eventually I was picked up by the authorities for jumping around outside my building with a drinking straw and yelling at people, and sent to the hospital. What should have been a calibrating experience turned out to be the start of a terrifying adversarial relationship with the mental health and criminal justice systems. Speaking of the first time a person enters a forced-treatment situation, Ian Chovil notes that:

This first involuntary hospitalization becomes an important memory of what mental health services are like. It is definitely not the ideal way to introduce someone to a medical condition they will have to adapt to and manage on their own for possibly the rest of their life. [...]
Without the trauma of involuntary hospitalization and treatment it is much easier to engage the patient, essentially win their trust.

(from http://www.chovil.com/fpep.html)

From the perspective of someone who fell in with this forced treatment system in Seattle, I will say that the trust is not deserved. Even though I had no record of ever harming anyone physically, or struggling with the police, I endured a tremendous amount of physical and psychological torture. Indeed, the most severe handling is not reserved for those who commit the worst crimes, but those who challenge the legitimacy of the authority structure. The more that I was treated in this fashion, the further I would retreat into my delusions...because they seemed the only way I could survive the circumstances.

I've documented my experiences with Harborview's psychiatric ward, where I was isolated in a blank box with no roadmap. I was caught in a Catch-22: they wouldn't converse with me until I was calm, and I decided I would try to call for help until someone would speak to me as a human. Repeated modes of physical restraint were employed against me for using the intercom, and this was the most inhuman and terrifying experience of my life:

http://www.livejournal.com/users/seattlesque/70563.html

I have also spoken about my rather excruciating experiences with King County Jail, where I didn't even know I was being taken to a "special floor" because of my psychiatric designation. Sent into a dirty environment without socks, underwear, or any form of supplies...and not given a chance to make a phone call, I again used the intercom asking for answers or to speak to someone in charge. This dispatched me into a dungeon-like environment where I would spend the next two weeks in isolation, terrified and delusional, and again facing the implicit Catch-22:

http://www.livejournal.com/users/seattlesque/75624.html

The themes are very similar in both cases, and they reflect the sad truth of how the disenfranchised are handled by mechanical processes performed by humans, but which lack human responses. Patients and inmates are handled like cargo, and standing up for the idea that you have some sort of rights will get you silence and disdain. Acting out will push you further into situations that are intended to implicitly demonstrate "who's really in charge", and that you only have rights "in the movies"...which creates frightening scenarios that can only exacerbate one's mental state.

These accounts show that these issues are not confined to the pages of "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" or "The Count of Monte Cristo", but are tangibly operating today. Others have pointed out that today's "Psychiatric State" has replaced the "Religious State" that the Constitution was expressly trying to avoid, and this further complicates the issues of those who are trying to be heard. My particular perspective on this was very dangerous to me, since I assimilated these experiences as being part of a spiritual war against the people who were doing this. I thought that some otherworldly power was using me to test just how far they would go against a non-violent individual who had crazy ideas. Rather than be good and quiet when given no roadmap, I continually demanded something approximating "customer service".

If someone on the street did what prison guards or the hospital employees did to me in captivity, they'd be in tremendous trouble. Yet these systems have been homogenized to the point where though the buildings may be different (hospital, jail, court, psychiatric facility), it is the same mental health establishment in control at all points. There's only an illusion of American freedoms and the process you might have learned about in school, and even the court has been co-opted:

http://www.livejournal.com/users/seattlesque/82495.html

I do know that I spent most of the last year in an altered state of mind. Even so, Martin Luther King said that "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." I have a hard time with the gravity of facing a world that is unconcerned with what is being done to those who stand up for their rights, whether they have a mental illness or not.

Thank you for your time,
Brian

(206) 443-1050
5 comments|post comment

Experiences at King County Jail [15 May 2004|04:15am]
(please read The Aerial View as a companion to this article.)

I was arrested on the street on April 28th, 2004. Much as when I was taken to the hospital, I didn't have a problem with the idea of being arrested. Though I had broken an object on the street (a wine glass), that glass did belong to me after all. And though I had yelled at a lot of people over time, I hadn't threatened anyone and had no history of violence or criminal record.

Similar to my experience with hospitalization, I had been having otherworldly experiences, and didn't know what to expect when I got in the police car. In the worst case scenario, I was ready to face the consequences in court, since I wanted to draw attention to my case and what had been done to me at Harborview. Plus I figured that having been threatened with explicit physical violence by several people gave me a one-up, because if they got called into court they'd have to own up to assault. Once again, the worst-case scenario was much worse than I would have thought.

I was prepared to make a phone call and see a judge, but instead I had to change into prison clothes without any socks or underwear, and was given a plastic cup...which seemed like something of a non-sequitir to be my sole possession. When I asked questions about my charges, they told me that they were taking me to court. We passed by glassed-in areas with dozens of people, many of them sleeping on the floor and looking like zombies. I was told to grab a mat from a pile of ripped up green plastic mattresses, and sent into a reasonably-sized room with a table in it but no bunks. A couple of mexicans were sleeping on the floor, with their heads on rolls of toilet paper. Trash was everywhere, and the toilet was clogged up with garbage. The environment was so surreal, it resembled one of the levels of hell in Dante's Inferno.

There was a Qwest phone on the wall but no directory. When I picked it up, it announced that collect calls would be five dollars and eighty cents for the first minute, and eighty nine cents for each additional minute...with a ten-minute-per-call limit (an amazing display of corporate greed). I protested this situation and said I had not been presented with charges or been allowed to make my free phone call and I needed a white pages. In response to my concerns, the guards ranged from being indifferent ("not my problem, I just work here, when court wants to talk to you they'll call you") to sadistic ("if you don't shut up, we're going to beat the crap out of you").

There was another English-speaking inmate in the room who I could talk to. Our dialogue was quite interesting and he did some curious things that furthered my belief that this was a place where souls were being trapped and needed rescue. What I didn't know...which I should have been told...was that I was on the 7th floor of the King County Jail, which is essentially a "psychiatric" floor. Not only were the other people I was speaking to considered crazy, but the mess and the lack of resources...as well as the very frightening appearance...was all because that area was allowed to atrophy. The guards, similarly, have little patience because everyone they deal with is dismissed as a nut. You wouldn't know this, because they don't bother to explain it to you, because (of course) you are crazy.

In any case, I attempted to use the prison intercom to call for help regarding my situation and was persistent in demanding I be allowed to speak to someone in charge (e.g. the manager of the person who answered the intercom). Each room has an intercom, and it is through this intercom that you are supposed to make your requests or announce emergency situations. The intercom has a single button, and you push it and talk, but you won't necessarily get any feedback. You almost certainly won't if the operator has decided not to like you for some reason, and your message can (and often is) just tossed into the void with no reply. I will say that in this respect, Harborview has the leg up, because they have intercom systems that will keep ringing until someone answers.


a simple intercom unit with no way of knowing whether the person on the other end has received your message, is ignoring you, or if the unit is working at all. This is what they have in King County Prison, and the idea is so outdated you can't even find this design if you look to purchase intercoms on the web.


a more complex intercom, similar to the ones at Harborview Hospital, which can be rigged to "keep ringing" until your call request is received by an operator...and which displays a light indicating whether the person is actively listening on the other end.

Rather than listen to my concerns, the staff decided to deem me a nuisance. So on the first day I was there I was thrown into a a rather horrifying and nearly soundproof cell. When I begged for assistance with my problem of needing to know what was going on, the intercom people openly mocked me for how "stupid" I was. When I tried to defend myself and reason with them about my intelligence, they said (essentially) "if you were smart, you wouldn't be in jail." Because I was unable to reason with the intercom operator or the guards who came to my door regarding the violation of my due process, I yelled for help and banged on the walls. They threatened me with pepper spray and a host of other nasty options...all this while trapping me in a room expecting me to sleep with no mattress, having had no food, and with only access to hot water to drink out of the tap.

With the intercom dead, trapped in isolation so that no one could hear my screaming (or at least no one who could cared enough to respond), I resorted to taking the hot water cupful by cupful and throwing it under the door. This generated a commotion in which they called plumbing down to turn off my water. I was hoping to generate some kind of disturbance to get a manager in there, figuring that even if no one else would listen to my rationale for needing attention I could at least yell to the plumber ("HELP!!! I AM TRAPPED HERE WITH NO DUE PROCESS!!! CALL THE NEWS STATION!!!") Little did I know that this water-tactic on my first night was going to trigger a deadly status flag on my door--"he makes things flood". This was used as an excuse to keep me without running water for the next two weeks of my stay.

For the next several days I received no food. Each shift was told that I had eaten or refused my meal, when no meal had been offered. I had to beg for water and sometimes they would turn it on long enough for me to drink out of the tap or flush the toilet, but then they would turn it immediately off again. By around the turning of day five or so, meals started coming...though they had other peoples names on them and looked like they were spoiled or just leftovers stuck into a styrofoam container. I rejected some of these outright, even though in retrospect I probably turned down a meal or two that was completely up to par for prison food (I had no basis for judging this). By the end of day six or thereabouts, the food problem was turned around and I was willing to eat what I got (although I still got spoiled milk a few times).

Through this I had no shoes, no toothbrush, no soap. Some of the time I had a blanket and sometimes that blanket was confiscated and I had to stay up all night (there was no way for me to sleep on the cold floor). I howled and yelled and begged with the people to care about what was being done to me. Due to the psychologically torturous situation, sleep deprivation, dehydration, and malnutrition...I definitely did some weirdo things around day four, including taking everything in the room and putting it all in the toilet that I could not flush because there was no running water. My hope was to generate some kind of loud-enough emergency alarm that would escalate and I could talk to someone...a prison director, a doctor, anyone who could display some non-hostile human behavior.

I don't know if my slip into delirious and "insane" behavior was a necessary step in the process of getting heard or not. But around day seven or so I was able to see a real doctor who checked me out and asked good questions. So I got a chance to tell my story to someone outside the prison system who could listen, even if they couldn't do anything about it. We found I had lost at least 15 pounds, I was down to 130. It was shortly after this that I was let out of the cell and permitted to take a shower, and shortly after that that bartosz came to visit me for the first time. I was quite overjoyed to know that the outside world had not forgotten about me!!!

Yet the fight wasn't over. In fact, being let out of the cell strengthened my resolve so I felt like taking on the system while I was there was the best use of my time. There is no excuse for locking a guy up in a cold room and making him act insane to get attention. I was prepared to challenge that intelligently instead of just giving up and waiting at their mercy, much as I had stood up to Harborview. So I kept on pushing...staying up through the night and trying to go through the steps that would put pressure on the people who were perpetuating this flawed system.

I took the "no water" issue head-on. You cannot put someone in a room and deny them water when they ask for it...I reasoned that has to be against the law, or Geneva conventions, or something. I repeated that I had a medical emergency--that I was "dying of thirst". (Technically this was probably not true...I wasn't going to die, but I was thirsty...and who are they to decide what it takes to be dying of thirst?) I couldn't get a response from that, despite the fact that I kept giving speeches to the intercom...along the lines of:

Since you're not responding to my emergency call, it seems you are saying that since I can make an intercom call I must not be dying of thirst. If your argument is taken to its logical extreme, only someone who has actually died of thirst can warrant service...because up until that point they were still alive and didn't need water. What you're doing is akin to someone calling 911 and having the operator tell them "what are you complaining about, you have a PHONE. you could call for anything you want, why are you bothering us? we're looking for the real emergencies, the people who don't have phones."

Rather than turn my water on and accomodate me, the guards took this as a challenge and we definitely didn't get along. I was also freezing to death due to being in a cell with two exterior walls and what pretty much amounted to air conditioning coming in a vent in the ceiling, and I had to hop around to stay warm. Bear in mind there are no bars, hence the solid room has its own temperature which is different from the environment the guards are in. I'd try and appeal to their human empathy but they showed nothing but contempt and hatred for the freezing guy in the cell. Our exchanges would go back and forth, with everyone it was different but the tune was the same:

me: "don't you want to improve the criminal justice system so people get treated more fairly?"
guard: "not really."
me: "why not?!?"
guard: "it's impossible. I'm just one person."
me: "well, I'm one person too. together we could be TWO people, and then we could get more..."
(guard walks off, typically they wouldn't spend more than about 15 seconds at the door while doing their rounds)

It was so frustrating. I'd yell at them about divine justice and how since they thought that was an acceptable way to treat people who haven't been convicted of a crime we sure are wasting resources by having them live in houses. I proposed that the prison guards should be given cold cells to live in with no heat, clothes, bed, or water...because that's all they seem to think humans need. Being faced with days of this made me into a manic street preacher.

There were other manipulations too. Every day a nurse would come by and try and get me to take medication...obviously because I was making too much noise and too "hyper"/"manic". Apparently by refusing to take the medication (I didn't want to be "drugged") there were certain individuals on staff who made up rules like "if you don't take your medication, you're not going to be let out of the cell for a shower today"...and they'd elect to write down that I had "refused" to be let out, when they were supposed to offer it independently of whether I took medication or not. In any case, the rules were not presented to me.

At one point near the end of my stay, possibly the most evil thing of all happened. I was cold and had no water, and I requested a medical "kite" (they call the service request forms "kites"). The officer in charge brought me one with no pencil and told me to "deal". So I pulled the name sticker I had saved off of one of my styrofoam food delivery boxes and put it on the form, then used rips to make the word "HELP!" out of the middle using my fingers. With some toothpaste I had acquired I then wrote "NO H2O" and "COLD" on the form, and laid it in the middle of the room. I then proceeded to bang on the door to try and get someone to respond to my request.

Instead of bringing me water or a blanket, what they decided to do was this: to write on the log outside my door that I had threatened to kill myself by strangling myself with my pants. Then a group of them (about 7 or so, including women) took me out of that room, stomped on me and took my clothes, and left me naked in another room with absolutely nothing--no water, no blanket, not even a toothbrush. I hopped around for the eight or nine hours or so it took for morning to come around. Because there are no bars--just glass and metal and institutional sliding locks--the air conditioning make the rooms frigid, even in summer. Because I have Raynaud's Syndrome and an extreme sensitivity to cold, this was just getting worse and worse for my body...and as I'm writing this I still can't feel my feet or walk straight.

UPDATE: for similar (but somewhat more egregious) behaviors, a guard in Iraq has been convicted and and faces up to 15 years in military prison. By contrast, I think the maximum penalty for breaking a wine glass on the street is some kind of misdemeanor. I think you can get a year or something.

After that incident and when the next shift found me in the morning, it was actually a quick trip forwards...some good officers seemed to catch the drift of my situation and started equipping me with everything I needed, including running hot and cold water in my room. Of course the next day I had to defend myself against the suicide accusation to the doctors. The last couple of days were spent on a mat, under a blanket, with showers and meals and everything going along fine...and not being pushed with medication. I'd like to commend in particular an Officer Ferris, who made the first genuine effort to stop and talk to me about a desire to improve the criminal justice system. He was also the first to make a time-promise ("I'll go see if I can get you a blanket, but whether I can or not I'll be back in 10 minutes to tell you the result"), and to try and make clear what was going on ("you're receiving your food in styrofoam because they're afraid you would throw a tray if you had one"). That guy should get a big raise and teach sensitivity classes to the other guards. Period.

Ultimately I was bailed out on May 14th by bartosz. But unfortunately, I wasn't in a very stable state of mind after going through this, and without being able to get an audience for these concerns. When I finally went to my court date I was absolutely furious that I didn't have a chance to speak to the judge about this, and that the prosecution was trying to declare me incompetent to even stand trial. (I have documented the nature of the mental health court, which actually employs this.) Consequently I threw a fit around my building and ended up being picked up and spent another month in jail. I don't really know what to say about that month other than it was more of the same, though I knew some about the process at that point. Eventually I was let out when I agreed to treatment.

I feel this should frighten and disgust those who believe in the American criminal justice system...just as my experiences with the psychiatric medical establishment were somewhat beyond belief. I know that jails are desensitizing environments, and being a jail guard has to be a tough job in a lot of ways...you deal with a lot of difficult cases and you sort of have to separate yourself from the job in order to make it day to day. But this is a very sensitive piece of our justice system--you can't play fast and loose with no accountability. Especially when the entire premise *is* accountability!
30 comments|post comment

The Future===> of SP.AM [18 Apr 2004|10:22am]
[ mood | anxious ]

Today I received an email which read "ELNARGE Y0RU PE|NS chock hedgehog", which gave me a chuckle. On top of that, the mail was in HTML format with a rather fascinating artistic way in which the advertisement's URL was called out from a stream of pseudo random gray text that served as a background.

It seems to me spam is going to evolve in two different directions, and both are going to be very interesting. On the one hand, we're going to have chat robots that will try and engage you in realistic-looking conversations...though ultimately it will turn out that they're trying to sell something. Yet this will be no different from making a "friend" and ultimately finding out that the reason they were being nice to you is because they want you to buy candles they made. That kind of sucks, but it's a problem as old as time...and as long as you're enjoying the conversation in the meantime, who cares?

On the other end of the spectrum, we'll have the logical extension of "chock hedgehog" with machines that are consistently generating content that mechanistic filters cannot differentiate from intelligent communication. I enjoy chatting with xpaerimtlslaekv...who for all I know is merely a "spam"-generating robot that's gotten aggressively good at remixing web content through algorithms in order to generate mutated work that looks like the product of a complicated mind. When confronted with fascinating art, why worry about how it was made?

The Robot Liberation Movement is well underway, and it's important for us to remember that in a very real holistic sense...We Are the Robots!! (as Kraftwerk has duly pointed out).

On a related note, this comic is Totally Awesome.

3 comments|post comment

navigation
[ viewing | most recent entries ]
[ go | earlier ]