Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Jails ought not serve as our primary care facilities for persons with mental illnesses

This is a student’s editorial written as an open letter to our governor:


Governor Rauner,
Are you aware of how many residents in the state of Illinois are in jail or prison because they suffer from a mental illness? As of December of 2015, there are 11,000 mentally ill persons in our jails and prison systems that need care rather than a punishment (Tribune Wire Reports, 2015). This means we are paying not only to house these persons as inmates, but also for their mental health care. If we were to place those who are mentally ill in a treatment clinic center rather than jail or prison we would be paying a tenth of the current cost. That is, community mental health centers can treat persons with mental illness for a fraction (about 10%) of the costs to our state when we fail to treat those people, they commit crimes, and our justice system and corrections system then must take care of them. I attended the recent Advocacy Day in early April presented by the Illinois chapter of the NASW where we discussed the lack of a budget and the cost that are building up due to lack of a budget. Sheriff Thomas J. Dart of Cook County spoke to us about the crowding of persons with mental illnesses in his Cook County Jail. 

There are so many options to save the residents of our state money and to create money to actually pay and fund a budget that is either proposed by yourself or the other members of the Illinois government. You and others in the General Assembly ought to be creative in thinking about what policies can save taxpayers money in the long-run, and sometimes it will be wise to invest state spending in some areas, like education or mental health care, because in the long run those public expenditures save public money or raise revenue by avoiding costs associated with incarcerating so many people.  By changing the housing of those with an illness to treat the illness, we can create jobs, lower public spending, and open up more resources. Just in Cook County’s jail, on a daily basis there is a 25% housing rate for mentally ill persons (according to the Cook County Sheriff’s Office of Mental Health Policy and Advocacy). This is one jail, representing one county in our state. If this statistic is true for all jails in the state, we are looking at thousands of mentally ill persons who are not getting treatment in the best environment, eating money of the state, taking up time for people who should be dealing with criminals rather than dealing out medications, or getting medical care for an inmate. Think of it, a quarter of the inmates in Illinois jails and prisons (!) There are more people in jail and prison than in our hospitals with medical needs regarding mental health (‘New study finds more mentally ill people in jail and prison than in hospitals’, 2016).

In order for Cook County to deal with the large numbers of mentally ill inmates they have created a program to assist care for those individuals (Collins, 2015). This has become one of the top mental health facilities in the state and it’s in a jail. There is no need for this to exist, let alone lead in treatment for the state. This is backwards from how the system should work. 


We need to put more effort into bettering our mental health clinics, homes, and centers including the treatment in hospitals. Our department of corrections system should not be shouldering out mentally ill persons and treating them as convicts. They should instead be given help, guidance and medical treatment to better their lives. 



References:

New study finds more mentally ill people in jail and prison than in hospitals. (2016). Retrieved April 13, 2016, from http://www.thejha.org/node/54

Cook County Sheriff’s Office of Mental Health Policy & Advocacy. Office of mental health policy and advocacy. Retrieved April 13, 2016, from http://www.cookcountysheriff.com/MentalHealth/MentalHealth_main.html

Collins, S. P. K. (2015, September 18). What happened when an Illinois county rehabilitated mentally ill offenders through treatment. Retrieved April 13, 2016, from http://thinkprogress.org/health/2015/09/18/3702804/cook-county-mental-health-treatment/

Tribune Wire Reports, (2015, December 24). Illinois settles class-action suit on mentally ill inmates. Retrieved April 13, 2016, from http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/ct-illinois-lawsuit-mentally-ill-inmates-20151223-story.html

Cuts in social welfare spending are harmful

There are opposing views on social welfare.  Not one person is right about the definition or ideology of social welfare. Social welfare programs have grown, shrunk, stabilized, and declined over the years.  Many want to eliminate programs because they think that millions are taking advantage of them.  The sad part is that thousands need these social welfare programs to survive.  

As a social worker there will be obstacles and clients that will make things difficult, but a great social worker will gather those resources to help clients reach their goals.  The majority of government officials and the general public feel that the majority of people on public aid are taking advantage of the programs. What is interesting is that the general public, who once were part of the middle class find themselves in the same situation as the poor and they may now understand that there are some who need those welfare programs   

  If they do get rid of welfare programs, where will these people receive assistance?  This is dehumanizing the life of another human.  This bothers me and I want to get others to understand that not all recipients of welfare programs put themselves there.  Our own country did this by eliminating jobs and outsourcing to foreign countries to save money. Groups of people need to be educated and learn that some people do not want to be on these programs but circumstances play a role.  

I strongly believe that government intervention is necessary in order to control and regulate social welfare while keeping ethics in mind, but at the same time, it is not necessary for everyone. People have the ability to change their lives for the better with hard work and dedication, but I also know that in some cases that people cannot help themselves or get ahead regardless of how hard they work.  They need the assistance to get by.

So far, there have been several topics talked about in class that affect me personally. Poverty and discrimination affect me directly and I can empathize with others in similar situations.  Being a social worker will be a difficult job, struggling to find the necessary resources out there to better help clients that I will come into contact with.  Cuts in funding have affected all the areas of the economy, especially education and social welfare programs that affect the poor, disabled, and others who have lost jobs, homes, and families.  

  Simply getting into college is a challenge for everyone. The difficulties do not end once you have received that much hoped for college acceptance letter. The truth is that many students with skills, qualifications and a desire for a college education are stopped short in their quest for knowledge and better employment opportunities by the high costs of tuition and student living expenses. Unless a tuition-needy student wins the lottery, his or her most realistic options for getting a college education are interest-consuming college loans or scholarships. Most scholarships are difficult to find or they do not apply to certain groups of people.  One of my biggest problems with education is that our government wants to give free education to immigrants, but most are here illegally and I struggle with the fact that they are offered a free education when one of my children has loans and no job to pay them back.  

In response to this financial need, many corporations, government agencies and civil groups have instituted scholarship programs that give students more of a fighting chance in the high competitive race for financial aid. This aid is going to be affected by the education funding cuts. These cuts would decrease the number of professionals that are going to graduate in the future, which at the same time would affect the technological and scientific growth of the country, fields in which the United States holds first place in the world. Also, this reduction in education funds would reduce the options for young people making them even more confused about what life has to offer them and what they can do in the future. In some cases this situation can confuse the student so much, putting them in a situation which can destroy their view of the American Dream.  But, even in today’s society having a college degree does not guarantee a job in these economic times.  I think the schools should look at the careers that are promising and offer degrees that can potentially lead to a job.  There are many degrees that are offered through many colleges that do not pertain to any job that is out there, leaving millions of students with loans that they cannot pay back.  Colleges need to stop giving out degrees that will not land a student a job after they have worked so hard.  This type of scenario leads young adults down a path of destruction, possibly depression or other destructive things in their lives which could potentially put them in a social welfare program that also is being affected by cuts within our local, state, and federal governments.


Cuts in social welfare programs are affecting other people like children, seniors, the disabled, mental patients who cannot do anything to support themselves. This will create bigger problems, because we would have more homeless people and more crime, pushing the economy to fall even more. All this together would decrease the standard of living of the country and would leave a very difficult situation for future generations. There are ways to fix the state of Illinois’s budget issues if everyone would work together to make a better situation for everyone involved.

You make a very important point when you observe that people prefer not to receive assistance.  Surely 96% to 99% of all adults would rather be self-sufficient and independent with their finances while enjoying a decent life compared to the alternative of needing to rely on the charity of others or government programs to provide them with the resources to survive.  The question is what prevents people from being independent and self-sufficient.  Some people have disabilities or health problems or mental health issues or developmental disabilities that would make it difficult for them to be financially independent, but policies can enhance their autonomy.  Also, on one hand, we probably expect too little of many people with these problems, and we fail to create workplaces or economic roles where such persons could thrive and contribute.  Yet, on the other hand, we are also probably guilty of sometimes expecting too much, and demanding things of persons when there is no reasonable way for those persons to meet the expectations we place upon them. 

   Among those who are dependent, some will have developmental disabilities or physical disabilities that would make it difficult for them to find employment, but we are making progress in finding ways to remove barriers and prejudices and human-imposed limitations on many persons with disabilities or developmental issues.  Others in the population of persons who are dependent probably cope with serious health problems or severe mental health problems that make economic productivity difficult or impossible for them.  It is generally a good idea to help these people feel they are contributing, and help them to get routine in their lives, and give them things they can accomplish, or ensure they have opportunities to have meaning in their lives.  Yet, it may be the case that the free market doesn’t provide such things, and we may need to be creative and find ways to include persons with such problems in our economic life without giving them a sense that they are parasitical or worthless simply because they don’t make significant economic contributions. 

Others who are dependent may have personality disorders, or addictions, or other behavioral issues that make it difficult for them to find and hold a job. For these people we ought to have treatments to help them change and become healthier and enhance their functioning, and until we provide such services, many of these people will not be able to thrive in the labor market, and they will be dependent.  Most people who are dependent on welfare are just going through a phase in their lives where they are temporarily down and poor.  They will naturally work their way back into more prosperous circumstances, and their temporary dependence should really be of no concern to us.  Naturally there will also always be a group of unemployed persons who would be employed if we created an economy with full employment, but our free enterprise system depends on their being a threat of poverty and destitution as a spur to make workers accept bad jobs with low pay, so there will always be healthy and capable people who can’t find work, and temporarily need help while they continue looking for some way to get back into the economic life where they can earn their livelihood.  Finally, there must be a group of persons who are sturdy and healthy and quite capable of functioning well, and they could work, but they refuse to do so, and prefer to use the welfare system. But how many of the dependent Americans really fall into this category?  I think if we guessed 2% or even 1% we would be exaggerating their numbers by at least tenfold. 

Once people see things as you and I do, they will hesitate to cut welfare and human services.  As things stand now, there is a narrative of moral deviance and the poor.  People who use welfare programs are dehumanized and described as reprehensible and lazy.  

But one thing I’m not so certain of is your claim that universities must cease offering degrees that lack vocational direction.  Certainly vocational training has its place in higher education, but colleges are not tools of the capitalist system with a function of producing good workers.  Rather, universities produce citizens, scientific research, gains in knowledge, and graduates who have a set of skills and moral frameworks that ought to make them better people.  They ought to have improved their communication and thinking skills in ways that will make them better friends, better family members, better citizens, better neighbors, and also better workers.  Most college students will probably not find employment in a field closely related to their major or academic concentration, and that is fine.  

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

MAP grants are not getting adequate funding


For my second reaction paper, I will be discussing my feelings on the lack of MAP Grant funding in Illinois for the 2016-2017 school year.  The 2016-2017 school year is supposed to be the year I graduate with a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work.  As a MAP Grant recipient, I am absolutely terrified that, because of the budget impasse in Illinois, MAP Grants will not be funded for the next school year. 

The Senate, House, and Governor Rauner have yet to come to an agreement on a state budget as of this writing.  Because of this, many social service agencies have closed, countless people have become unemployed, public universities are in jeopardy of shutting down without funding. It would be easy to construct a vast list of other negative effects of the budget impasse.  It is my understanding that Governor Rauner has proposed a state budget that would ultimately give him the ability to decide to move money around to different services as he deems necessary.  Of course, the House and Senate will not agree to this as giving control to Governor Rauner removes their own control of the state’s money allocation.  

Many attempts have been made to create a budget that is a suitable compromise for the branches of government previously listed.  However, each of these proposals have been rejected, still leaving us without a budget nearly nine months into the fiscal year.  While I had been following the budget crisis, it had not personally affected me until Governor Rauner vetoed a bill to fund MAP Grants.  

I have no idea if I will be able to finish my schooling next year.  I do not feel comfortable taking out even more students loans than I currently have to finish paying for my schooling when loans will most likely be necessary to pay for my master’s degree that I plan to enroll in after graduating from UIS.  I work at a job that I cannot afford to pay my bills without working overtime. I am not complaining about this; I just do not want to have to do this for the rest of my life.  

After Rauner vetoed the bill, a veto override failed by a mere two votes.  Now, instead of working on new proposals for the state budget, lawmakers are on “break”.  How many employers do you know that allow their employees to take an extended break when their primary job duties have not been fulfilled? It is absurd to me!  If MAP Grants are not funded, thousands of students will not be able to attend school next year, leaving universities with fewer students and less revenue.  Community colleges are funded through the MAP Grant and will be at risk of closing as well. 

Yes, I understand MAP Grants cost the state government a large amount of money.  However, MAP Grants are an investment.  MAP Grants allow students, such as myself, who would not otherwise be able to afford it, to attend college and earn a degree.  Degrees are crucial to obtaining a job that a person can live comfortably on.  If there are less college graduates (or even less universities to attend), who will fill the positions that require a college degree?  Would less qualified people be filling these positions?  Having under qualified employees in degree-required positions could lead to problems with companies’ productivity and profits.  The list can go on and on for negative effects caused by MAP Grants not being funded. 

Lawmakers need to get back to work from their vacation and come to an agreement on a budget, and make sure that budget funds higher education.  Higher education is a critical part to America’s economy.  I have already written about this topic to Governor Rauner and my Representative, Sara Wojcicki Jimenez, explaining my personal situation and the great impact that no funding for MAP Grants would cause to not only myself, but the entire state (and eventually even further).

I am glad you have written to Sara, our Representative in the General Assembly.
According to the Illinois Student Assistance Commission, the funding for MAP grants in FY 2014 was about $372 million, and about 136,000 students received aid.  Another 160,000 eligible applications for MAP funding were turned down for assistance due to lack of funding, so clearly this policy could reach full power if it were funded at about $800 million per year.

Keeping our state spending at levels we had in FY 2014 and 2015 would create a tremendous deficit, because the temporary increase in the flat income tax went away at the beginning of 2015.  I think there is a structural deficit of about $6.5 billion between what the General Assembly wants to spend and the revenue it takes in with taxes.  We could extend income taxes to retirement income over $50,000 per year and take in over a billion.  We could raise the flat income tax to 5% and increase standard deductions to make it a less burdensome tax to low-income persons and raise another $4 billion or so.  We could add a sales tax to many services and raise another $1 billion.  We might even be able to cut a few hundred million by encouraging greater efficiency in some state agencies or in higher education, or by legalizing marijuana and taxing it.  We could also probably survive a cut in spending of a billion or two billion.  At any rate, it would be possible to get rid of the state’s structural deficit by raising some taxes and cutting some spending.

However, as things stand now, the Republicans say they will not support new taxes.  The Democrats say they will not raise taxes unless some Republicans cross over to vote for higher taxes.  The Governor says he will not support any net increase in taxes (increase in revenue) unless his “Turnaround Agenda” is passed, and at least three of the five items on that agenda will never be passed by the General Assembly so long as Democrats hold majorities in it.  This is the nature of the impasse.  If Democrats would raise taxes without insisting on Republicans going along with them, and then would override the Governor’s veto, we could get a state budget.  However, a couple (or at least one) of the Democrats in the General Assembly won’t go along with that.  If some Republicans would cross over and present a mix of tax increases and budget cuts they could support, and then vote along with Democrats to override the Governor’s inevitable veto, that could also get us out of the budget stalemate.  If the Governor gave up on his turn-around agenda and worked with the Democrats in the General Assembly to create a compromise budget with a mix of spending cuts and tax increases, and left aside his turn-around agenda for the time being, that would also solve the problem.  The Democrats could also give up and just let the Governor do whatever he wants, and that would get us a budget, but the Democrats won’t do that.

Will the Governor give up and compromise with the Democrats?  If you think that this could happen, you ought to continue putting pressure on the Governor?  Will some Republicans cross over to work with the Democrats to create a budget and a plan for some spending cuts and some revenue increases (new or higher taxes)?  If you think this is plausible, you ought to be talking with Republicans in the General Assembly, so it is a very good thing that you have been communicating with Sara.

Some sorts of public spending works like investments to increase long-term growth.  MAP grants are exactly that sort of spending.  MAP grants really ought to be funded at $800 million per year in Illinois, and it is a travesty that they are not.  

The case of Officer Liang and Akai Gurley

In class, we recently had a discussion over the relationship between African Americans and police officers within the United States. Many of my classmates had notions regarding this topic that I agree with, while some did not. Because of this, my second reaction paper will cover the relationship between African Americans and police officers in the United States, as well as ideas conceived by classmates on how to repair this relationship to ensure the well-being of both African Americans and police officers.

The discussion stemmed from a classmate bringing awareness to the case of Peter Liang, an Asian American cop accused of shooting and killing an unarmed African American man. According to journalist Fuchs, November 20th of 2014, officer Peter Liang entered a stairwell with his partner, Rafael Ramos, for a “vertical patrol” ( Fuchs, 2016).  During this patrol, Liang heard a noise that frightened him, fired his gun, the bullet ricocheted off a wall, and struck an unarmed Akai Gurley.  Though, Akai Gurley was shot by the bullet, he was able to knock on a resident’s door and tell the resident to call 911.  The 911 dispatcher detailed how to give CPR,  however, neither police officer performed CPR on Gurley. Instead they are quoted to have  argued over calling for help while Gurley “lay dying” (2016).

Gurley, in fact, died as a result of his injuries. As a result, in February of 2016, Liang  was convicted of second-degree manslaughter, assault, and reckless endangerment, criminally negligent homicide, and a count of official misconduct (2016). The one count of official misconduct stemmed from Liang not performing CPR on Gurley. In response to this count, Liang stated that he felt unqualified to perform CPR, as he did not practice CPR at the Police Academy, and his instructors gave those training answers to the exams (2016). In response to Liang’s conviction, the Asian American community was divided by those that supported the conviction and those that did not.

Those in support of the conviction argue that “police violence” which stems from systemic racism will continue not combatted (Guillermo, 2015). However, some groups argue that the murder of an unarmed African American man by an Asian American and the conviction of the Asian American police officer was used as a scapegoat. These groups contend that if the police officer was a European American then he would not have been convicted, as many have been before.

It is from this idea that some of the Asian American groups have, that if Peter Liang had been a white police officer he would not have been convicted that the class discussion stemmed. Because I cannot speak for any member of the Asian American community, it can be inferred that many groups in support of Liang, believe that because some European American cops or European Americans, in general, are not punished has harshly as people of color or cops that are of color when convicting the same or similar crimes, there is an importance placed on the lives of European Americans that is not placed on the lives of people of color. This importance is perpetuated in both the private and public spheres, more specifically and in this case of Liang, in jobs that are deemed uniformed service or public safety service.

From this idea that the legal system fails to punish white cops as it does cops of color who commit the same or similar crimes, that my classmates began to give ideas on how to repair this system. Some inferred that the reformation of the legal system begins in the Police Academy – that certain incentives be given and that requirements to become a police officer are lengthened. I believe that both of these conditions could result in individuals being more equipped to fulfill their duties as a cop without feeling as if they had the capabilities to abuse the power that is instilled in the job title.  Also a furthered education, possibly promoting individuals obtaining a secondary education, would also be another benefit as the individual would have additional knowledge along with what is learned in the Police Academy.

Aside from what can be done to ensure that individuals become police officers who will not abuse their power, classmates also argued that there should be ways for miscommunications and harsh feelings between African Americans and police officers to be resolved. One way to resolve these issues could be programs that allow one-on-one interaction between the two communities which could also disprove any prejudice or bigoted notions one community may have towards the other. This could also be done with other minority groups and police officers, as well as non-minorities and police officers.

In class, my peers also offered their stances on how they believe African Americans should respond to police officers. These responses seemed to stem from the idea that cops are going to act upon racist, bigoted, or discriminatory notions or may have a superiority complex. While some cops may act upon these notions, some will not. Because of this, I was confused on my classmates’ stances, as I perceived it as them believing that African Americans should believe that when pulled over or approached by a cop they should act submissively due to the cop possibly having these kind of beliefs – submissively as in not objecting to any wrongful treatment they may be subjected to.

There were also comments made on acting African Americans making sure they act respectful to police officers. This is definitely needed, but I believe this should be promoted with all individuals, not just cops. These ideas were easier to digest than the ideas suggesting that an individual allow wrongful treatment by a cop by not speaking out, simply because they are a cop. This not only promotes the continuation of unlawful abuse by cops, but allows for animosity to grow between police officers and the public. 

Overall, I really enjoyed this in class discussion and the different stances that my classmates’ had, whether I agreed with them or not. As for the case the encouraged the discussion, I think that certain subgroups within communities are vying for solidarity within themselves and their community and are willing to come together for any reason – whether it be good or bad. I strongly believe that this case, more specifically, the murder of an unarmed minority would also not be such a taboo topic if there was not varied treatment of individuals who have the same job title. By working with both police officers and various communities affected by police mistreatment or anger these groups may have, matters like this could be resolved without contesting the worth of another’s individual’s life.


References

Fuchs, C. (2016, February 11). NYPD Officer Peter Liang guilty of second-degree Manslaughter in Akai Gurley killing. NBC News. Retrieved from http://www.nbcnews.com/news/asian-america/nypd-officer-peter-liang-guilty-second-degree-manslaughter-akai-gurley-n516796 

Fuchs, C. (2016, February 23). Chinese community divided over NYPD officer's indictment. NBC News.  Retrieved from http://www.nbcnews.com/news/asian-america/chinese-community-divided-over-nypd-officers-indictment-n306946 


Guillermo, E. (2015, April 28). Police violence will repeat itself': Asian groups call for accountability. NBC News. Retrieved from http://www.nbcnews.com/news/asian-america/police-violence-will-repeat-itself-asian-groups-call-accountability-n349601

In this case an innocent person is dead, and the person responsible for that death ought to face punitive consequences.  It seems clear that the death was not intentionally caused, but officer Liang had his gun out of its holster and pulled the trigger when there was evidently no need, and that seems to justify the charge of second-degree manslaughter and criminal endangerment. The fact that Officer Liang did not offer assistance to the man he had mortally wounded seems to justify the official misconduct charge, and perhaps also the criminally negligent homicide. So, it seems to me hardly any fair person could object to these charges being made, and since I haven’t read the court transcripts or attended the court processes, I will just have to trust that the verdicts were fairly reached.

So far, I think there isn’t really any room for dispute, although I suppose some might argue for charges of less serious crimes, or more serious crimes, depending upon their dispositions.  I think the agents of the state tend to make the harshest and most serious charges they can possibly make, because built into the system is the assumption that there will be some sort of plea-bargain and the accused defendant will admit to a lesser charge and spare the state the cost of the full prosecution. 


By the way, CPR usually does not save lives, but it is a criminal injustice for two law enforcement officers to fail to provide the first aid assistance when they have accidentally shot someone, or even intentionally shot someone. 

Should police officers be charged with crimes when they commit crimes?  Of course they should be.  Are police officers frequently given the benefit of the doubt and allowed to get away with justifications for their decisions and actions, and thus escape prosecution and punishment for terrible decisions, reckless incompetence, and criminal behavior?  Yes, probably so.  There is always a problem of “who will police the police?” and this is an inherent crisis in every act of state violence.  The state (largely through its police and military functions) holds a monopoly on the right to use violence, but the use of violence is always a serious matter, and states tend to use more violence than necessary, partially because the people who are allowed to use the violence frequently are frightened, or brutal, or over zealous in their caution to prevent any injury that could be inflicted upon them.    

If police of one ethnic background are treated differently from police of another ethnic background, is this a violation of moral principles?  Yes, certainly it violates the principle that all should be treated equally under the law.  Do European-American police commit reckless acts that get innocent people killed?  Of course they do, and these acts of violence are sometimes recorded and made public.  Are they always prosecuted and punished when they do these horrible things?  No, sometimes they are not, although sometimes they are.  The fact that police are sometimes not prosecuted or punished when they, through incompetence or misconduct or brutal recklessness kill people who ought not to have been killed, is a social problem.  The solution to this problem is to more frequently and fairly prosecute and punish police who deserve prosecution and punishment.  

But, do we always know when police have acted in a way that deserves prosecution and punishment?  No, we cannot always know.  Sometimes actions that seem terrible may be justified and excused.  Sometimes actions that seem excusable and justified may really be terrible and worthy of prosecution and punishment.  There will be ambiguity in many cases.  When there is ambiguity, bias can infect the decision-making processes, and that means European-American police may get the benefit of the doubt (a preference for being very selective and avoiding errors of sensitivity) while Asian-American or African-American police may be held to higher standards (a preference for tolerating more errors of selectivity and avoiding errors arising from not being sensitive enough).

However, bias is something that influences probability, and in single cases, I doubt we can really know if bias is working its devilry. We know there is bias when we can show patterns or probabilities that are tending toward unfair differences for members of groups.  If three or four European-American police are given a benefit of the doubt and one Asian-American officer is prosecuted and convicted, we do not have a large enough sample to be certain whether bias is at work.

So, what is the proper response when bias may be causing an injustice, but we are not certain whether it is?  Sometimes we ought to protest and make a loud noise about the potential for bias and the real threat of bias, even when we are uncertain that bias exists, because it would be an injustice to wait for better evidence of injustice.  Other times, we ought to wait and see, and delay our protest until we are more confident that we can demonstrate a pattern of bias or injustice.  How do we make that decision?

The mixed feelings about the death of Akai Gurley and the conviction of Officer Liang is probably rooted in the mix of complicated moral issues.  Police do seem to have a bias against African-Americans, and this bias certainly has caused some deaths of innocent African-Americans and African or Caribbean immigrants. That’s an outrageous injustice.  Sometimes police are not prosecuted or punished when they ought to be, and that another insult to our sense of justice.  Officer Liang may have been made a scapegoat, and may have suffered greater punishment than he deserved, in an attempt to diminish the public outrage over the behavior of many European-American police who had committed similar or worse acts of homicidal incompetence, and if that is so, then that is yet another tragic injustice that might reasonably stir up our hot indignation.

The problem comes, I think, in comparing relative injustice.  Here is an injustice that seems clear, and here is one with ambiguity, so should I disparage the injustice shrouded in a veil of uncertainty in a comparison to the injustice that is clear and evident?  Here is an injustice that seems worse to me, and here is another injustice that seems not as evil to me.  Should I dismiss the smaller injustice and point instead to the greater injustice?  Here again, we have no clear moral certainty.  Yes, some injustices are much worse than others, and we ought to put greater effort into correcting those greater injustices.  But sometimes the relative level of misery and injustice is approximately similar, and then, what is the point, what is the objective, what is the goal of using our minds to discriminate between which violation of the good is the worse?


Inspiration from the Civil Rights Era

For this reaction paper, I would like to reflect off of the Civil Rights Era.  The Civil Rights Era has always interested me, and we happen to be talking about bits and pieces of it in our Culture, Race and Diversity class currently. 

In preparation for the tenth session in our policy class, there are some links about the Civil Right Milestones.  Just learning about all the aspects of this time and how mistreated blacks were is mind-blowing.  Watching videos of black men being beaten or hosed just for walking down a sidewalk and not moving out of the way for a white person is absurd.  But for these men and women to fight for their rights and get the Voting Rights Act passed in 1965 is uplifting to me. 


When going to the Civil Right Milestone link, I learned quite a bit I did not know.  One thing that caught my eye was the Attica Prison Riot.  For one, I cannot believe (which it still happens today) that people are so mistreated, especially within the prison systems.  For minorities who were arrested (for minor offenses), put into those prisons for long periods of time and had to live in, as stated in the text, “inhumane” living quarters is saddening.  

Learning even more about the March on Washington was also great.  Last semester we read John Lewis’ books March. What I did not realize was that the March on Washington was supposed to happen in 1941. In the article, it states that the march was called off after Franklin D. Roosevelt agreed to ban discrimination by defense industries or government entities, but then, two decades later, the march continued again.  The march actually happened in 1963 to show racial unity and racial harmony. They also wanted to show support of the Civil Rights bill.  And to think, all of this happened due to prejudices against somebody’s color. 

Your reaction essay demonstrates the importance of understanding institutions and heritage when we consider problems in our society and how to address them.  The bravery of the civil rights workers and the brutality and racism of those who opposed them can inspire us today to work for what is right and just even in the face of people who do not see aright the injustices we want to correct. The misery of the prisoners, and their defiance in Attica Prison, and the cruelty and homicidal rage of the people who put down the prison uprising also can remind us that it is quite possible for persons labeled as “criminals” to act with greater humanity than the persons we would tend to label as “heroes” in certain situations. Persons in prisons are routinely depicted as subhuman monsters and brutes in our popular culture, but in too many cases the system that puts people into prisons and treats prisoners as garbage is the real example of monstrous brutality.

It’s also important to note that even though it seems that good triumphs over evil, and our civilization enjoys progress, the darkness has never yet shown signs of being entirely and utterly defeated, and the human tendency to dehumanize the “other” and treat members of the out-group with contempt or hatred or complete apathy keeps coming back to threaten us with new forms of devilry and violent mischief. The marches must be rescheduled or held again.  The people must rise up and make their voices heard.  The people who stand for decency and justice must act, and support group efforts to defeat the darkness again and again, no matter how often it rises up to threaten human rights or social justice.

Good reaction essay.  Studying our history and the heritage that gives us what we have today illuminates our thinking about the problems we still face and the actions we may need to take to avoid the disasters and injustices of the past.

War on Drugs is a sociopolitical masterstroke

The following paper is in reaction to the class discussion we had about mental health and substance abuse. I have chosen to write a brief reaction paper positing a plausible motive behind Ronald Reagan and the Republican Party’s mental health and drug policies, which led to the defunding and the eventual shut down of numerous mental health institutions and substance abuse treatment centers in the early 1980’s. 

In my opinion, The Reagan Administration and The Republican Party defunded and shut down mental health institutions and substance abuse treatment centers in the 1980’s not only because they wanted the private sector to take over the care and treatment of such individuals but also because they wanted/needed such people to be seen wandering the streets and committing crimes to give Americans the impression that the streets needed to be cleaned up.

Think about it: The Reagan Administration declares a so-called war on drugs, pointing to images of mentally-ill poor people on the streets doing drugs, while he implements policies which lead to the release of hundreds of thousands of such individuals on our nation’s streets. The Reagan Administration then grants amnesty to hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants, many of them said to be mentally ill cast outs from the island of Cuba. Then, at the very time that this war on drugs was declared, it seemed to many people who I have spoken to about this issue who lived in the inner-city during that time that there was an influx of cocaine in the city during those years, not a drop off as one would expect during a so-called war on drugs.

Having said all that, the war on drugs has obviously not been a failure. The Republican Party accomplished its goal of increasing the private sector’s role/responsibility in caring for mentally ill people and substance abusers, while also conducing to the probability that such people would invade the streets and scare the citizenry into supporting their policies, which ultimately involved transferring many of those mentally ill substance abusers out of one institution into another, with the added benefit of being able to criminalize and lock up the boogeymen who supplied them with the drugs.

The war on drugs is not a failure; it is a sociopolitical masterstroke.

In the 1980s the federal government and most of the states did not adequately fund the community mental health centers that were supposed to become the agents of delivery for mental health policies, including everything from prevention and community wellness to long-term residential care for people in each center’s catchment area. 

Your reaction treats the government and the Republican Party as if these institutions were persons with fairly simple motives and logical processes, but of course this is a necessary generalization or abstraction, since we know that policy-making processes and political parties and governments are all aggregations of hundreds and thousands of individuals, with each individual having a variety of mixed and sometimes contradictory motives and goals.

There are a variety of moral foundations that would inspire most people to be concerned about drug addiction.  For some people, the rule of obedience to legitimate authority makes them concerned about drugs since they believe God or the government forbids drug addiction and abuse. For others, the rule of purity informs their emotional rejection of drug use, since drugs or intoxication are unclean or impure.  Some are motivated by a sort of conservation ethic, seeing a waste of talent and potential when others abuse or become addicted to drugs.  For many people, a care ethic motivates them to oppose drug use, since persons who become addicted to drugs or abuse them are often hurt, or harm others.  With so many moral reasons why people might want to control or forbid how others alter their minds through alcohol and other chemicals, we tend to forget there could be other motives. 

When Marx said religion was the aspirin of the masses (he actually called it opium, but he meant it in the sense of a painkiller, not a drug of abuse) he was pointing out that powerful elites might prefer people to escape from harsh realities by turning to drugs.  This was a point in Huxley’s Brave New World in which all the people were constantly taking mood altering drugs to improve their feelings, or in Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep where people were turning a dial and pushing buttons on a machine to give them experiences of different moods and outlooks.  People who have a strong liberty ethic might also approve of allowing others to use all sorts of drugs, since the use does not directly cause harm to others.  

You are adding to this list of possible motives for allowing or encouraging drugs by suggesting that some people considered that if drugs were widely available, this would create fear and destruction, and in a climate of fear and destruction, people would turn to political parties that offered law-and-order policies.  This is exactly the strategy of some terrorist groups, who seek to create chaos with terrorism to undermine the authority of governments and make common people so desperate and hopeless about the government’s ability to protect them that they will turn to the terrorists as saviors who can put an end to the chaos. The question is, is it plausible that a significant number of Republicans could have had this sort of mentality, really plotting to use the tragic disaster of homelessness, persons with mental illnesses unable to get treatment or services, and an influx of cocaine into poor communities in order to turn people toward a more traditional value system and a political party that promised law and order?

My rule is to generally assume that when people follow courses of action that lead to terrible consequences, they are most likely to be motivated by ignorance, stupidity, or cognitive biases that prevented them from seeing the harm their actions would cause.  I think callousness and lack of empathy is the next most likely cause of evil policies, following ignorance and stupidity.  Malicious intent or long-range strategies to win personal gain are also possible, but I think they are rarely good explanations when simple ignorance, stupidity, cognitive biases, or indifference and contempt are more readily available as explanations.

Mental health clinics weren’t adequately supported because Republicans (and many Democrats) had other priorities that were more important, including lower taxes, economic growth, decreased government size, military spending, and so forth.  Persons with mental illness, who would benefit from well-funded community mental health services, just aren’t very important to the political parties, at least they are relatively unimportant compared to the needs of that military-industrial complex President Eisenhower warned us about, or the goals of the wealthiest and most powerful people, who generally want lower taxes, a smaller government, and a growing economy, and consider these goals more urgent than public safety nets to provide a decent life for every person suffering from a mental illness or disability. 

Yes, there were some interesting connections between drug dealers and CIA informants back in the 1980s. Most famously, the president of Panama was both an informant for the CIA and a major drug trafficker.  But I think the Hitz report showed that the CIA was mostly guilty of not aggressively investigating the drug connections of some informants and local partners, but was probably not guilty of actually directly using the drug trade to raise money for their support of various thugs and terrorists in Central America. 

Persons with mental illness are brave

Reaction Paper 2
The video of Elyn Saks from youtube.com that we viewed in class caught my attention and I had many thoughts and feelings regarding the video. So much so that I went home and shared the video with my fiancĂ©. We discussed the video in depth and he shared new insights with me. Watching a woman who is so successful and yet a woman who suffers from a mental illness that many would fall broken to. Her strength is grand and inspiring to watch, her story needing to be heard. 

The idea that a person with a mental illness cannot succeed professionally or in any aspect of their lives is obscene and unneeded. Did she struggle when the illness was at its worst? Yes, of course she did, but she rose above with the help of psychotherapy. The ideas of those she spoke with, regarding mentally ill persons reflects the views of many of the population. Many believe that those who suffer with mental illness don’t mind being strapped down, but those restraints are often uncalled for, and the persons with mental illness are still humans. She pointed admitted how she isn’t so different from those people being strapped down to control them because she suffers as well, but in the  eyes of people who don’t know about her mental illness, it seems she could not be anything like those who suffer mental illness; her higher education and status in society makes it seem impossible that she too could suffer from a chronic and severe condition. It seems like it surprises people to hear about members of society who are in higher paying positions that suffer or have suffered in the past from mental illness. 

On the other side you hear about common professions where a mental breakdown is almost expected such as those known as celebrities or those in the media spotlight. Britney Spears broke down and shaved her head when the pressure became to much. Kurt Cobain committed suicide and has gone down in history with Heath Ledger and others, and after each breakdown or suicide there follows a few days of absolute shock, but then come reports of how those who were close to the person watched them slide downhill and break before their eyes. 


To many people it’s okay to place a person who suffers from mental illness in a box, and leave them isolated from the majority of the world; yet those who battle an internal illness of the mind may be the strongest in society. Imagine fighting your own thoughts every day just to get out of bed, or eat a meal, let alone drive to work, spend upwards of nine hours there dealing with tasks and other people, drive home, shower, care for other family members, go to bed, and do it over again the next day. Or consider the person who goes to therapy every other day after work to keep in control of their life. Imagine the person who has panic attacks just by walking into a room where there are people and must now lead a discussion group. There are people who “suffer” mental illness every day and those people are the ones who are pushing the world to work and keep progressing. Maybe it’s time to call those with mental illness out to run our world. 

Eric’s comment:
You make some important observations here.  

1) Mental illness is frequently overlooked because it does not always manifest in ways we easily perceive. Thus, persons who appear to be very successful or high status may suffer from mental illness without people being aware of their struggles. 

2) We have a tendency to dehumanize persons suffering from mental illness, subjecting them to unnecessary restraints, or dismissing them as dangerous, or as failures.  However, persons with mental illness may use more courage, fortitude, and mental strength in their inner lives than those who sail along through life without the problems associated with facing a mental illness.

3) Social work values force us to consider how persons with mental illness may be good role models, or we may use our social work perspectives to see that persons with mental illness offer strengths that could make contributions to others.

4) Sometimes when people have mental health problems, the people around them don’t know what to do for them.

I would like to point out that for most people with mental illnesses, a cure would be most welcome.  the fact that anyone must endure a chronic and severe mental illness is a great tragedy.  Of course we may find some ways to appreciate the nobility of how people cope with mental illness, and their struggles against diseases of the mind may give people opportunities to accomplish things that make a great different in their lives.  In some sense, all problems in our lives are cases that allow us to demonstrate our quality, or help us grow and develop. 

 Persons with a mental illness are perhaps very much like people with the flu, or persons with cancer, or persons with heart disease.  They may recover or enjoy a cure, or they may suffer for the rest of their lives.  But, just as almost everyone sometimes has a physical illness, diseases of the mind or brain abnormalities strike almost everyone at some point.  Depression or some related mood disorder, or an anxiety disorder, or a substance dependence, or a learning disability, or some other sort of mental illness, perhaps mild and not especially dramatic as a source of impairment to functioning, afflicts almost all of us at one time or another.  The psychotic disorders tend to be the most florid and interesting, although personality disorders and dissociative disorders are quite intriguing as well. Sometimes when people speak about persons with mental illnesses it seems they really only mean these sorts of things.  

Sunday, April 3, 2016

A student reaction paper. The student is not impressed by any presidential candidates.

This is a student reaction paper about the 2016 presidential elections.  This was written in March of 2016.

Reaction Paper 1
I decided to write this reaction paper on the election that is currently capturing public attention.  I have had many different reactions to this election due to the fact that I find it to be somewhat of a joke.  Politically the things that America is letting go on right now are embarrassing, and are also beginning to spark many different controversies.  

In the presidential election, we have Donald Trump, Hilary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and a series of other candidates.  These candidates are all fighting to become the President of the United States, but they are all lacking in some department of what I feel—or better yet, what America feels—a president should have when it comes to their demeanor and the way that they go about what they are doing to make America better then what it has been in the last 20 years.   

The major reaction that I have towards this election is the fact that it has been a very clear case of racism and bigotry that has been tolerated.  Starting off with Donald Trump, Trump has put people down in ways that I never thought would be imaginable for a presidential candidate.  Saying things like, if elected he will build a wall so that, Mexicans can stay where they are and won’t cross the border. Even after saying something so wrong, he is currently leading in the polls.  Thinking about this, I say I believe that the reason Donald is leading, is because he is saying all the things that some people want to say, but feel that it would be completely inappropriate, which it is. 

Hilary Clinton is the first woman to ever run for presidency.  She brings a lot to the Democratic Party that could be useful to America, but the reaction of the public is not so positive when it comes to a woman being in office.  I feel that nobody really takes her seriously when it comes to actually stating the issues.  People believe that she’s not really sure of what she wants to bring to the table when it comes to her becoming president. 

One of the favorites of the election is Bernie Sanders.  He is clearly one of the best candidates for the job.  But, he has had some negatives about his campaigning.  Bernie is an active member of the Black Lives Matter movement and trying to get free college education, but I think with him he speaks before he’s thought what he’s saying completely through.  Yes, it is perfectly fine standing with the Black Lives Matter, I feel that you cannot be so pro black that you are anti-white or any other race.  Becoming the president is a serious action, and you have to take in the account of all of the people who live in America, not just the black ones.  Then, when it comes to the free college education, I feel that that is a great thought, but it’s not logical.  Being the president takes logical thinking and thinking that taking millions of dollars away from colleges is going to be the solution to the lack of education that is prevalent in the states today, he is wrong.  Because, even after free college, there will still be that hand full of people who don’t want to go to school. 


All of the things that I have stated in this paper are how I am reacting to the presidential election that is going on this year.  Although I did not go into extreme detail about all the candidates that are running, I feel that I brought a lot into play. 

You have examined the three candidates that seem most likely to actually get into the White House next year.

You perceive that candidate Trump says terrible things, but many of the people who like him want to say those things, and they support him because he is giving voice to what they feel. Keep in mind that Mr. Trump says all sorts of things.  Many of the things he says are outlandish, crude, stupid, ill-informed, and false.  Many of the things he says are true, inspiring, accurate, clever, or honest.  I suspect some of his followers are paying attention to the good stuff he says and ignoring the bad stuff.  Also, some people like the good stuff and the bad stuff. Essentially, he is building emotional support with a narrative about how terrible political leadership has been, and how dishonest the press is, and I think many Americans will agree with those two points.  It is easy enough to dismiss Trump based on the the odious and obnoxious things he says, and his seeming personality disorder, but

You perceive that people don’t take Hilary Clinton seriously.  I wonder where you are getting that impression?  Do you look at political polling? She seems to be the most likely person to become our next president.  You report that people perceive her as being unsure about what she wants to accomplish when she gets to the White House.  That is an interesting observation.  Do you mean that she is mainly defining herself in opposition to the Republicans?  That is, rather than talking about what she could accomplish, she is promising to continue what Obama has done, and defend us from Republicans?

You think Sanders does not think through what he is saying, and may speak without carefully considering his words.  He seems pretty consistent from me.  It seems to me he is saying essentially the same stuff he and other Democratic Socialists have been saying ever since the 1970s.  As for taking money away from universities, I believe his policy idea is to have taxpayers give universities the money that normally would have been collected from students.  The “free college” would be paid for by taxpayers rather than students and their families.  Perhaps students and their families would still pay fees, or costs of housing and food and textbooks.  Presumably there would be some sort of a policy for keeping Universities prevented from raising tuition to ridiculous amounts.  By the way, the State of Illinois currently has policies that give “free education” to certain persons (especially veterans), but those free educations are not funded, meaning that, exactly as you imagine, the public universities must educate those students without any tuition revenue from either the taxpayers or the students.

Your reaction paper does not mention Jill Stein, who was on campus giving a speech earlier in March.  She is a presidential candidate for the Green Party.