Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Jasper Levi, Adult Offender # blah blah blah

My best friend is in prison...and it sucks.  Big time.  He's been gone for twice as long as I knew him on the outside, and yet, I still miss that little shit.  Every.  Single.  Day.  How does one maintain a friendship with someone who has been incarcerated for twelve and a half years?  Very carefully.  I buy more stamps in one month than most people buy in six.  I take pictures of really random, stupid shit, because I know Jasper will get a kick out of seeing it.  I cry.  I pray.  I smile.  I hope, and I dream.  Someday, he'll get out, and I won't have that void in my life anymore.  I'll have my best friend back.  My husband will have his childhood friend back.  My mailman won't look at me funny anymore when I get letters stamped "From a Correctional Institution".  Right?  He'll come home, and it will fix everything.

Except it won't.

It won't, because the world he left is not the world he is coming home to.  Best case scenario, he will have been locked up for 14 years when he gets paroled.  And that is if, and I say if, he doesn't get flopped (denied for parole).  Now, he has a fairly decent chance of making parole, but it's all a gamble, so we'll see.  So, 14 years.  He has been incarcerated since 1999, so before 9/11, before facebook, before smartphones, before a lot of shit.  This is a far different world than the one he left.

And beyond that, the issues that caused him to make the decisions that landed him in prison have not been fully addressed yet.  The percentages vary, depending upon which survey you read, but somewhere between 40% and 65% of all inmates have an untreated mental illness.  And then people act all shocked and shaken because our recidivism rates range between 50% and 80%, depending on the type of crime?!  Well duh!  If there is a problem, and you don't take the necessary steps to solve the problem, it isn't going to solve itself!  Jasper has been pretty lucky, because he has had consistent support from his family, and myself, during his entire incarceration, enabling him to work through most of his issues on his own.  He is a far better man now than he was when he went in. Most inmates don't have that support.  And when the system fails to get them the mental health help they need to make better decisions, they get out of prison...and crash and burn.  Then they go back to prison. I have volunteered with offender advocacy programs and programs designed to reduce recidivism rates for many years now, and I have seen it over and over again.  The only way the reduce our recidivism rates is through quality targeted mental health and addiction treatment.  Period.

So, Jasper will (hopefully) get paroled in 15 short months.  We are no longer the children we were when he left.  Will he have developed the skills that he needs to not repeat the mistakes he has already made?  Will he have corrected the thinking errors that caused him to lose 15 years of his life?  Will he acknowledge, and seek treatment for, his mental health issues?  Time will only tell.  Until it happens, all I can do is buy stamps, take pictures of random stupid shit, cry, pray, smile, hope, and dream.


Do you have any experience with the criminal justice system?  What is your opinion on the link between untreated mental illness and crime?

Monday, August 15, 2011

Judge not, lest ye be judged

So, I am at the grocery store the other day, with Kastle.  He is not having the best day, and he is starting to get really overwhelmed.  I can see the meltdown coming, and I am just trying to grab the last few things that I need, and get out the door before it happens, and BAM!!!!  Opps.  Too late, Mom.  Missed the boat on that one.  He throws his cheese sticks, and I end up chasing him down the aisle.  All in all, it was a pretty minor meltdown, I got him calmed down in less than sixty seconds, he picked up his cheese sticks, and we continued shopping.  Would have been a pretty minor event, except for...Her.  I do not know who she was, had never seen the woman before in my life.  She just happened to be in the same aisle we were in.  She felt the need to come up to me and explain to me what a horrible mother I was, and how I was raising a "nasty, brat child", and how if I really cared about my son, I would send him to Real Parents that would Really Discipline Him, because I was a Failure.  Now, I am the mother of a special needs child, who has a mental illness.  As such, you have two choices:  A)Develop a really thick skin, real quick-like and in a hurry; or B)Have a mental breakdown.  Because you will always be judged.  By everyone.  And not just by random strangers, but by your friends, your family, your neighbors, your children's teachers, damn near every person you come into contact with.  Honestly, it doesn't really bother me anymore.  But I just can't help but wonder what world that these people live in that they think they can just say whatever pops into their head, at any point in time, to any person, and it just doesn't matter?  Its ok?  Nobody is perfect.  You wouldn't like to be treated like that.  It can really hurt.

This scenario does not only apply parents with mentally ill children.  The bum you see begging on the corner?  He could be mentally ill.  Or he could be a vet that is disabled, and cannot work.  Or maybe you are right, he really is a drunk, but you still don't know what events in his life led to his alcoholism or drug abuse.  The pregnant teen?  She could be a victim of rape, or incest.  Or maybe she did use protection, and it failed.  Or maybe she did make a mistake.  Life is punishing her far worse than you ever could.  You don't have the right to call her a slut.  I could go on, and on with a million examples, but my point?  Everyone you meet is fighting some sort of battle.  Some peoples' battles are just more apparent than others.  Rather than call them names, or criticize them, why not hold out a hand?  

~Jenny Ness

When have you been judged in your life?  How did you react?  How have you judged others?  In retrospect, what do you wish you had done differently?

Friday, August 12, 2011

Wow, I actually went and did it

So, I have been threatening to start a blog for years now.  I can't believe I actually did it (with some extra special help from Heather from My Husband Ate All My Ice Cream and Fancy Schmancy Blog Design).  My reasons for doing this are somewhat hard to explain.  My son is mentally ill, and life for us can be a challenge. I needed somewhere to express this.  Beyond that, our healthcare system is BROKEN, and I feel that people need to hear just how bad it can get.  But don't worry..its not all gloom and doom around here.  I am fortunate enough to live in one of the most beautiful states in the nation (YAY FOR MONTANA!!!!)  and we have a lot of fun.  More to come soon, stay posted...