Here’s the lowdown. Not from 1967, and not from someone PAID BY THE FACILITY. From someone there within the past five years.
I don’t see the big deal in trying to ban people from watching the 1967 film ‘Titicut Follies’.
Not because it wouldn’t be disturbing, but because (and if you don’t believe this, you could probably use a BSH evaluation) EVERYONE KNOWS that no matter WHAT it shows, the party line will be: “That was X years ago…things are much better now.”
And, since no movies have been made showing BSH life since ‘Titicut Follies’, almost 50 years ago, how exactly can that statement be either proved or disproved, at all, with any reliability?
Well…the only people who KNOW how things work there now (or, recently, at least) are:
2) Inmates…I MEAN “Patients”
Right? I mean, how can anyone deny the most incredibly BASE and SIMPLISTIC logic that makes that an inevitable fact?
So the only people that know how things work there now – and therefore the only people who have ANY credibility in saying “It’s better”, “It’s worse”, “It’s the same”, or anything else in that regard – are employees and inmates.
Since the employees are all part of the same fra(with a little ma)ternity, since the state PAYS THEIR SALARIES, since they all have a common interest in having BSH portrayed as “well-run” and “humane”…is it REALLY a stretch to say “Well…opinions from BSH employees would tend to be exaggeratedly positive, at best.”
You know…because that’s their JOBS they’re talking about. WTF do you expect?
“Yeah, this place is a sh1thole, we treat people horribly…so, where’s my next check?”
I mean, to believe you’re going to get anything CLOSE to an “objective” opinion from staff (who get paid by the state) and the state (who pays the staff…see the symbiosis?)…well, now THAT is insane.
It’s insulting any reasonable person’s intelligence to suggest that is the case, and/or to suggest they BELIEVE that is the case because “well, we told you to.”
So the QUESTION is…how do you get an accurate portrayal of the way things are, NOW (or at least, very recently), when staff has a vested incentive to make things seem better than reality and “patients” (admittedly, in the same not-insulting-your-intelligence way) a vested incentive to make things seem worse than reality?
Well, you find people that 1) USED to work there, and are willing to tell it like it really is (in their experience), and people that 2) USED to be “patients” there, are NO LONGER patients there, have been completely removed from the BSH “system”, have no great bias towards the system for exceptionally horrific personal treatment, have NO personal incentive to praise OR criticize the system, and who are willing to be honest and even-handed in their evaluation of a system they, IN FACT, experienced first-hand.
As for number 2: Hi. That would be me.
So here goes:
First, anything you see in ‘Titicut Follies’ is COMPLETELY irrelevant. That’s 1967. There is no intrinsic connection between that, and modern BSH. Don’t be upset about what happened there almost fifty years ago. Be upset over what MIGHT BE happening there NOW.
Second, any comments suggesting that BSH has “improved” or “advanced” from ‘Titicut Follies’ – made by people with a vested interest to say so – are just as COMPLETELY irrelevant. Of COURSE they’re going to say that. Doesn’t make it true or untrue…it’s the standard party line, and so such statements are utterly meaningless.
To put any weight in either as realistic evidence of “Today’s BSH” is sloppy, lazy, and ignorant at best. And, I happen to know from actually BEING THERE…just plain WRONG. IMPO, of course.
The fact is, BSH is both better and worse than shown in ‘Titicut Follies’.
Let’s look at the positives and negatives one by one:
1) Obviously, available medications have improved. The amount of different medications, the skill at prescribing said medications, the effectiveness of said medications (since everyone isn’t just given the same tranquilizers and “hope for the best…”) is improved. I’ve seen that…it’s a fact. OVERALL, it’s a fact. Now, this – to me – is more indicative of the progress of medication therapy IN GENERAL than to any change in “philosophy” at BSH; they work with what they have, and now they have a lot more options. They would have to be colossally inept and/or malicious NOT to prescribe more effectively.
1b) In a thirty day period of observing medication prescription and dispersal, my AUTHENTIC observation was that – for the most part – patients were given at least arguably appropriate medications at at least arguably appropriate levels. Also, FOR THE MOST PART, patients’ concerns over medications were given at least SOMEWHAT of an audience and the patients’ own evaluations of their feelings were taken into SOME account.
So, from what *I* observed, as someone RIGHT THERE, this area (once you were out of ITU…see “Negatives” below) was handled fairly well, and fairly professionally.
2) Obviously, facilities visible to the casual visitor (the main grounds, the visiting room, anything of that sort) are relatively clean and well-kept. This is GOOD, I guess…but what does it really mean? Nothing. Unless you’re DUMB enough to think that “Well…the lawn looks nice, so…the cells must be nice too.” I mean…really? It’s appearance, it’s good for business since people that CAN COMPLAIN (visitors) see it; of course it looks decent. Nothing to do whatsoever with what goes on inside, for better or worse.
2b) OVERALL, in my observation, facilities were GENERALLY both in decent shape and available to MOST patients (See “ITU” below). There was space to exercise, there was space to go outside, there was a decent-sized library (good enough, at least), there was adequate space for patient size, and so on.
So, again from MY observation, facilities were adequate in terms of exercise, outside space, medical, library, etc.
There were even Church (well, large room with lots of chairs and a priest) services for those that wished to attend, and the occasional MOVIE.
All of these things: Medical, library, exercise, church services, etc… had one thing in common. They were provided by employees that were NOT guards. Make of that what you will. It seemed the general attitude of the guards (IN GENERAL…) towards all these things was indifferent tolerance. Sort of “Fine, whatever…go, don’t, whatever…just don’t fck with me and don’t fck up my schedule.”
Which, come to think of it, is a pretty reasonable attitude, given that they weren’t there to be your friend, they were there to guard you. Guard the non-guards from the patients, guard the patients from the other patients, etc…
3) Most of the “professional” staff (Doctors, Psychiatrists, and the like) behaved in a fairly professional manner.
4) SOME OF the guards behaved in a decent, professional, responsible manner. They did their jobs, and as long as you didn’t act like a pr1ck or intensely fck with them or their responsibilities, they returned the courtesy to you. Which, really, is all you could realistically ask.
1) Obviously, since people who end up LEAVING BSH (patients, that is) can speak freely about their OWN experiences, treatment toward those both a) EXPECTED to leave and b) EXPECTED to be coherent and at least somewhat literate would tend (IMPO) to be more civilized and less abusive. Make of that what you will.
1b) Example: I was in ITU at the same time as someone else who was extremely vocal. I HEARD what this person said, and what was said to them AND about them. I UNDERSTOOD how this person was viewed, in general, by the guards that I heard. This person was viewed as a) someone that could be safely mocked and/or ignored, b) someone whose complaints to anyone about such treatment would be ignored, c) someone that had noone on the outside advocating for them or keeping tabs on how they were treated. There was noone there that gave a sh1t, and even if there WAS, this person was too mentally ill to coherently complain, and even if they COULD it would be their word against 2+ guards. In other words, he was FCKED, and the guards knew it. And, you know, I’m sorry…I don’t like bullies. And the ones who picked on this guy…that’s all they were; bullies aren’t any better or worse with a uniform and a badge.
Now, *I* was much more coherent than this person. I was much more able to understand what was happening, to REMEMBER what was happening and repeat it to my lawyer when they eventually showed up. I was much more able to verbally defend myself from constant random insults; the only “treatment” you received in ITU was being treated to abuse. Quite frankly I didn’t give much of a sh1t what they were saying about ME, but I *DID* care that they were verbally and emotionally abusing someone who was obviously in SEVERE emotional pain and who was just as obviously UNABLE to defend themself from such abuse. So, I basically tried asking (reasonably) why they were abusing someone for no reason. And when they told me to go fck myself and kept laughing at him (and me), I just said random bullsh1t back to them whenever they said random bullsh1t to him. And, like the DUMBA$$ COWARDS they were (and most bullies are), when confronted with a non-helpless opponent, their balls shrunk and they shut the fck up. And FCK ’em. You see, I was much more able to respond coherently…I was also much more able to COMPLAIN coherently and REMEMBER to do so. So, for these reasons, I was not subject to anywhere near the amount of abuse as this other person.
2) From conversations overheard from MULTIPLE sources, including directly from people supposedly affected who seemed perfectly coherent and reasonable in their statements and explanations, the duration of one’s stay at BSH was – at least at times – not of primary concern to those in charge. All 30-Day Evaluations are equal, but some 30-Day Evaluations are more equal than others.
2b) From what I remember, and what I gathered, and what I heard, and what I pieced together from coherent information…there were some people who had been at BSH FAR longer than they should have been. Whose “evaluation” had ended, according to THE LAW in such matters, but who remained there regardless.
I’m not talking about 31 days instead of 30. I’m talking WEEKS, even MONTHS over the LEGALLY ASSIGNED time. And it seems to ME, that these people were those least able to advocate for themselves, and least able to have others advocate for them from outside BSH.
3) SOME of the “professional” staff behaved in a lazy and unprofessional manner.
4) A LOT of the guards (I can’t say what percentage, or “most”, or whatever…it’s too far back to be that precise) were just a$$holes, plain and simple. They obviously had fun making fun of/pushing around the patients, got off on their mini power trips, didn’t give a sh1t about what they were supposed to be doing, and cared a hell of a lot more about “So, what are you doing when your shift’s over?” than “So, what should I be doing now for, like…my job?”
5) This is very subjective, admittedly…and it does NOT apply to ALL “evaluators”…but consider this:
It is a FACT that MANY “patients” (myself for one) there had not been found guilty of *ANYTHING* in a court of law.
Because you are sent for an “evaluation” of your mental state does NOT (supposedly, at least) have ANYTHING to do with “guilt” or “innocence” of ANYTHING…it has to do with: “Is this person mentally competent to stand trial?”. That’s the key…STAND TRIAL. Trial. Where you go, being presumed innocent until proven guilty. You know…the criminal “justice” system.
However, let’s be real. If the case that will be brought against anyone “evaluated” will be (and I think it will) ‘State Of Massachusetts Vs. X’, do you think the State of Massachusetts wants ANYONE to be found innocent?
In other words, do you think the State of Massachusetts WANTS to bring a case against someone and LOSE? Of course not.
Now just think for yourself, but here are a few facts:
– The District Attorney/Assistant DA/Etc are State employees
– Everyone working at BSH is a State employee
– “Evaluations” that strengthen the State’s case and weaken the individual’s benefit: The State and injure: The Individual
– Generally, organizations that are on the same side tend to work together.
This has been a subjective analysis made by someone that was relatively lucky in that he wasn’t dumped there and forgotten. A lot of people with mental illness DO NOT have anyone noticing when they “vanish”, and it is therefore much easier to get away with poor treatment on such people…
Because, who the fck are they gonna complain to?
A mentally ill person, against an entire SYSTEM, with noone to help them? Complaining to…what…”internal affairs”?
Oh, yeah, that sounds really effective.
IN ALL FAIRNESS: There were many people I encountered at BSH who were NOT abusive; psychiatrists, officers, counselors, even patients who went out of their way to help those that obviously needed help.
Some. There were SOME of those people. And there were also PLENTY of people that gave exactly as much of a sh1t as they had to: namely, none.
Things are as they have been, and will be, in any place where power is curtailed only by those that wield it and where those that are subject to it have virtually no recourse.
Think about it: There most certainly ARE at least some sadistic SOB’s working there…do you really think, if one of them had a problem with a “patient” they would hesitate to toss them into ITU (solitary) until they were good and ready to let them out? Based on WHATEVER rationale they wanted to use?
Because, it would come down to this:
Noone in ITU (“patient”) sees anyone else in ITU. Therefore, each “patient” has only their word working for them…if they are even coherent enough to have THAT (therapy does NOT take place in ITU, and medications are sloppily prescribed AT BEST).
On the other hand, every guard has at least one other guard working with them.
So…if a patient says he was abused, beaten, degraded, etc…and a guard denies it, and has a partner to back their side up…who gets believed?
THINK ABOUT IT.
Now, does this mean all guards/authorities are sadists and all “patients” are poor, helpless victims? Of course not.
I saw instances where people in authority were acting perfectly reasonably and “patients” decided to insult/threaten/attack them.
But if you don’t think the opposite happens too, you’re just living in a fantasy world.
The fact is, you can be sent to ITU for the SLIGHTEST things, and once you’re there you DON’T GET OUT until they’re good and ready to let you out.
And the daily serenading of the “patients” with insults and laughter by (some of) the guards is of questionable treatment value, I think. And when “patients” get upset that they’re treated like rat sh1t? Well, they’re being uncooperative…another day in the hole.
If you get sent there, and noone outside BSH knows you were sent there (if you even have someone outside BSH that would care), you’re fcked.
THEY DON’T TELL PEOPLE. People outside have to DIRECTLY find out. Meaning they have to ASK if a person is there. And even then, from my recollection, “patients” in ITU are neither confirmed nor denied. So you can godd@mn ROT there, in some instances, if they feel like letting you.
No confirmation, no visitors, no therapy, and quite often no hope.
How, exactly, is this “Intensive Treatment”?
ITU – what a joke. There was NO therapy in ITU. ITU was BSH’s LTI-speak for “Solitary”. It consisted of being thrown into a CELL no larger (and probably smaller) than you imagine a jail cell being, with a lumpy beanbag “mattress” in the center that was relatively unstained if you were lucky. You received a threadbare “blanket” that covered maybe half your body. The lighting consisted of one bulb flickering overhead (the light from the hall was blocked by the very-reinforced door) and the occasional stream of light from the one heavily barred window VERY high in the cell. The toilet seemed to work all the time, but ODDLY the sink seemed to sometimes work, sometimes not. And noone would come in to adjust it…it simply did NOT work sometimes. Same mechanism, different result. So if you want to be really charitable you can say shoddy pipe system, and if not you can say wellllllll maybe some of the guards might have fcked with some of the inmates…PATIENTS. The food delivery system went thusly: “Here’s your *insert name of meal here*”…your responses available were “Ok/thank you/etc”, in which case the food was slid through a small horizontal hole briefly opened in the doorframe, or anything else (ranging from the extremely benign…”I just threw up I can’t look at food now” to the extremely malignant… “Fck you motherfcker!”) in which case you were marked as “Refusing Food”. That was a strike to getting out of ITU, so accepting it and then passing it right back 15 mins later was the way to go if you thought you might vomit. Otherwise, even the most polite, benign, REASONABLE response (“I just threw up, I can’t look at food, I’m sorry”) was taken EXACTLY the same way: “Patient Refused Food”.
I have ABSOLUTELY no idea what the “Guards” were there for – and they were there, always. I mean, the cell doors were THICK, REINFORCED doors…noone was “breaking out”. Basically all *I* heard the guards do was talk about their personal lives and make fun of the patients, some of whom were obviously in EXTREME mental and/or physical pain.
I’m not talking about me, either. I’m not whining because they were mean to me. I’ve been around mentally ill people. I can tell when someone is SEVERELY mentally ill – severely depressed, suicidal, etc…
I HEARD, for a FACT, at least one patient who was OBVIOUSLY, to even the most casual observer, in EXTREME pain and distress…and not only did they do NOTHING to help them AT ALL, they actually went OUT OF THEIR WAY to yell at and MAKE FUN OF them. They seemed to think it was funny.
And wow, that takes a lot of balls, huh? To have a weapon, be backed up by another guard with a weapon (at LEAST one other guard), be in a position of complete power, be separated by a reinforced, multi-locked door, and make fun of someone in the equivalent of rags, with no weapons and a supposedly compromised mentality.
I HEARD this happening. And the patient wasn’t yelling psychotic sh1t at the guards…they weren’t screaming threats, they weren’t acting like fcken psychos, they weren’t acting “dangerous”…they were screaming IN PAIN, they were asking for HELP. And the response was – from some at least – “Oh, shut up!…So, anyway, did you see the game-”
So basically, you have to bite your fcken tongue, accept the verbal abuse from the guards and the sh1t conditions, act reasonable even though you’re being treated UNREASONABLY, be very calm and pleasant…and then, maybe, you get out of ITU and into the main system.
Placement in/removal from ITU was seemingly based on the morning rounds doctor’s mood and how compliant you were.
I don’t mean he was reasonable and you screamed at him. I mean, he asked questions and if you didn’t give the proper answers (to his liking, IMPO) then they slid the little door shut and you waited til the next day for another chance at it.
Once in the main system, this is what I saw/experienced:
As in ITU, there was NO therapy. There was NO “treatment”. You were given the meds your outside psychiatrist had ALREADY prescribed for you (unless they reduced or cut them off), and that was it.
ITU “therapist” meetings were to decide: “Does he get out of ITU today or not?”. Nothing more.
Main system “therapist” meetings were extremely infrequent. You could ASK to see a therapist, but that was a request…it could very easily be denied.
And I think everyone KNEW that the therapists weren’t there to give “therapy”, because the vast majority of requests that *I* saw/heard about were about getting things done such as obtaining a form necessary to put numbers on for people you could call, getting paper to actually write on if you wanted to communicate with someone outside the facility, etc…
This whole Op-Ed piece is written pretty chaotically, but I think it gets the point(s) across.
IF YOU KNOW SOMEONE AT BSH, AND YOU CARE ABOUT THEM:
Make sure they’re being treated humanely.