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Well, here’s something totally non-“me” related to rile you up

December 19, 2007

From NPR:

Lacking Options, Officials Keep Schizophrenic in Jail

by Libby Lewis

There is a place where seriously mentally ill people are locked away for years in prison with little treatment because there is nowhere else to put them. Is this Romania? China? Nope. It’s the U.S. Virgin Islands, whose residents are supposed to be protected by the U.S. Constitution.

That’s exactly what happened to Jonathan Ramos. Ramos got locked up for riding off on a bicycle from the Wal-Mart in St. Thomas in 2002.

Though the government of the U.S. Virgin Islands dropped those charges a while ago, Ramos remains locked up — and officials admit that it’s because he is seriously mentally ill. He has chronic schizophrenia.

This is part of the United States, and the judge is doing NOTHING to get government officials to rectify this situation.

It’s unconscionable.

One Comment leave one →
  1. klady permalink
    December 19, 2007 6:32 pm

    I agree this is a horrendous situation. But the judge has done plenty of things — he’s ordered the government to change the situation and he’s held it in contempt of court for not doing so. There’s not a lot more any court can do, although the ACLU attorney obviously is trying to devise some other kinds of sanctions. Hard to say offhand whether the court really has the power to do anything more than what it has done already. The NPR story and any other press coverage likely will be more effective than anything the court will do.

    We visited the U.S. Virgin Islands just last winter, staying with some friends who are members of the congregation at the Episcopal cathedral in St. Thomas. The social, economic, and political situation is complex, to say the least. There’s the big divide between the poor and working poor and everyone else, the latter group including some wealthy vacationers and year-round residents of various races and nationalities. Health care services are a major problem even for the wealthy — most people travel to Puerto Rico, Florida, or anywhere else but the U.S. Virgin Islands (which, if you look on the map, you realize are some distance north and east from other islands) for even routine surgeries and anything but the most basic health care. Practically everything has to be imported by ship or air. Construction and repairs are haphazard, corruption, or at least relaxed ways of doing things and paying for them, makes it hard to do anything quickly or efficiently, at least by mainland standards. Government is… well…. an odd mix of local corruption mixed in with entrepeneurs who seek to work the federal system. Anyone who tries to do anything about any local problem finds themselves lost in the middle between the local officials, autocrats and bureaucrats, with their own kind of unwritten rules and ways of operating, and the distant U.S. federal officials, who don’t know much or care much about what is going on locally.

    I’ll see what, if anything, i can find out about this story. I’m afraid it comes to no surprise to me that something like that would happen there. The problem, no doubt, is that there is precious little money for health care as it is and probably the only entity that could really cough up the money for care for these people is the U.S. federal government, and who knows whether Congress would have to act to provide it. Then there’s the problem of precedent for care for others.

    Finally, the seemingly insoluable problem is that if and when these people are sent somewhere for care, that will not solve the long-term problem, which is the need for facilities, staff, and care right there in the US.V.I. While it may be shocking that these individuals are in jail right now, the only alternative right now is to remove them from the community, where they might possibly have friends and relatives, and sending them somewhere else literally quite foreign. I’m not saying that excuses keeping them in jail, but when you demand court action, all you’re really doing is supporting the solution of shipping people away, with only the dispute over who pays the bills left hanging.

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