Mass producing mentally ill citizens in America’s prisons
Smith, Andrew Jackson
Mass Producing Mentally Ill Citizens in America's Prisons
About the author. Andrew Jackson Smith is a fifty year old inmate incarcerated since he was framed for murder by the Mobile Alabama's D.A. Office and Police Department in 2001. His education includes a B.S. Degree in General Studies with a major in Psychology; a B.S. in Nursing; and he has attended about twenty accreditted colleges or universities. He has obtained credentials as a licensed registered nurse; registered medical assistant; registered hypnotherapist; licensed emergency medical technician paramedic; diagnostic medical sonographer; national registered dive medic technician; certified cardiovascular technician; american heart association instructor for basic life support; advanced cardiac life support; advanced trauma life support; credentialed minister and chaplain. He has completed numerous correspondence studies in many areas such as Pharmacology; water purification; laboratory medicine; veterinary medicine. And many hours in American Medical Association's Category One Physicians continuing medical education. He served ten years in the United States Army Special Forces mostly on an A-Team as an Operations and Intelligence Sgt., and as a medic. He served as a private contractor in Saudi Arabia as Supervisor of Curriculum Development at the military medical and allied health school. He has been listed in Who's Who in America.
The purpose of this paper is to point out the dangerous trend that the United States has engaged in by conducting operations in state prisons as is current. The author acknowledges that Alabama's prisons are among the worst in the country, while drawing conclusions from general environmental factors common to all prisons.
Humans are highly adaptable to both extremes of negative and positive environments. This adaptability is first and foremost seated in the mind. The mind defines who the person is. Every thought of the mind is reducible to the neuronal cell unit. That is, the mind is the brain, and is made up of approximately one hundred billion neurons. The adaptability of the brain is refered to as plasticity. Plasticity means the brain will change in structure (anatomy) and in function (physiology) in response to intrusions upon it. When the brain changes, the individual is changed, fundamentally different to various degrees directly dependent upon the degree of brain change.
It is not a new phenomena to note a disproportionate number of mentally deficient persons find themselves housed in America's prison. A variety of deficiencies exist from low I.Q.'s to schizophrenia to cluster "B" type personality disorders such as sociopaths and borderline personality disorder. By any U.S. acceptable standard, these incarcerated mentally ill are inadequately being treated. Likewise, it is not a new phenomena, to know of a population of mentally normal inmates upon admission into prison, who will become mentally ill while incarcerated and after release remain so. These individuals will not adjust appropriately upon re-entry into society. It is inevitable that the A.P.A. include a D.S.M. diagnostic criteria for this common finding throughout the United States as a result of incarceration. It is important to note the direct correlation between length of incarceration to difficulty with adjustment to society.
The primary purpose of prison is to isolate a criminal segment of society from non-criminal (law-abiding) citizens. Security takes precedence once within prison's operations. Security of inmates and staff both. Some states confer sentencing inmates to labor as well, such as is Alabama.
Initial incarceration is no less than traumatic for the well-adjusted psychologically normal American citizen, and this by design. For example, when the author was arrested, he had left his apartment to help and cooperate with police, who had fabricated a story. After some time at the police station, the author was told "his fiance was dead and he was under arrest for murder". He fainted and was proped up while regaining consciousness as a flash occured from a camera to make his arrest photo. He was transported to county jail, stripped, placed in a paper gown and put into a room so cold, that the officers wore heavy coats, hats, gloves, and scarfs in the summer in order to stay warm. This treatment was clearly designed to be torturous by any standard. Lights were never dimmed or off, a radio was played continuously loud, food was scant and cold, no clothing was permitted and inmates slept (when exhausted) upon concrete cold floors without any cover. This continued for months, while the author lost gross amounts of weight, hallucinated, and begged to be allowed a wash cloth at least to cover his eyes. Instead he was frequently taunted.
When his lawyer John White came to visit, he was lied to and told his client had been transferred to another prison. His family would have to go eventually to the Mobile City Commission and complain before they were allowed to visit. The author was by then in such poor physical and mental health, he would have to be rolled in a wheelchair to visit, unable to stand or walk. The author was a totally and permanently disabled veteran who had worked hard in years of treatment to get back into some educational and work endeavors. He would never fully recover from this new damage by the county jail system. He remained in county jail for approximately fifteen months, rarely seeing outdoors, and often the victim of daily violent assaults, typical of county jails. This is the beginning of the psychological damage experienced by inmates.
Once an individual is undergoing stress, a cascade of homeostatic events occurs, one of which is the release of cortisol. Prolonged and increased amounts of cortisol release leads to the destruction of neurons in the brain, Situational depression alters the functioning of neurotransmitters such as serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine. The immunological system is weakened and in an environment of increased pathogens (virus, bacteria, fungus) infections are common place. The inmate is deteriorating physically and mentally at a rapid rate while at the most crucial point of the judiciary process and court appearances where cognitive functions are most needed. Health care in county and state prisons is substandard relevant to U.S. standards and most world standards. While the Secretary of Defense Gates takes suggestions by Generals Petraus and McCrystal to incarcerate enemy prisoners to international standards, U.S. citizens incarcerated are often clearly below those standards.
U.S. prisons are not simply "stressful" (which is bad enough alone to cause permanent neuronal loss in the brain) but would be considered often, at best "soft torture". The public has been lead to believe that this stress is no more than "discomfort" and warranted as part of the punitive treatment. They do not understand that the man incarcerated with criminal behavior will likely be released with mental illness and criminal behavior. And then the public seems surprised at the high rate of recitivism.
The environment in the state prisons is likely to lead to mental illness and permanent brain change reflected in deragatory behavior and maladaptation to society.
It's not the neuron that makes our thoughts. Rather, it's our thoughts that make the neurons. When an individual experiences stimuli, either internal or external , that perception is recieved by the neuron and a cascade of events takes place which may ultimately lead to an action potential or firing of the neuron. Stimuli recieved by the neuron may be excitatory, but also inheritory. As new stimuli are recieved by the brain, the brain acts "new" to accomodate the stimuli, this may be thought of, in a sense, as learning. For example, if an English speaker learns Spanish, his brain has changed to facilitate his newly acquired skill. So, when the stimuli is recieved and the neuron fires with repetitive stimuli, gene expression in the nucleus makes possible protein synthesis of new substances, such as channels, receptors, and neurotransmitters. This essentially makes the neuron changed and in effect then communicates with other neurons, differently and so then is apt to change pathways of communications and thus neuronal networks of parralles and collateral connections. I say "change" frequently because the change may be new and greater communication, but also may be new and blocked or lesser means of communication.
The stimuli triggering or initiating these events are thoughts from internal etiology or from perceptions of our external environment or a combination of both. Let's be brief and clear about what the general state prison environment looks like.
Lights come on about 2AM and stay on until 11PM. If one wants to block there abundant flourescent lights he may put his head under the cover, restricting breathing or tie a "blindfold" around the head. Intercom loud speakers begin also at 2AM and continue till 11PM. There is never an assured time of quiet or darkness. The environment clearly is never conducive to restful sleep. One sleeps on steel with a thin mattress upon a narrow bed and in close (about 2-3 feet) proximity of others.
Smoking is continuous twenty four hours/seven days a week, even in non-smoking dorms. Rules are mostly ignored by inmates and little effort made by officials to enforce them. Homosexual and perverse sexual acts amoung those consenting (and at times "not") are prevelant and commonplace. The result is sleep is poor and fragmented. Hygeine is limited by restricted (and often impractical) hours of "showers on". Soap may be issued once a week, which is sufficient usually for four to five days. Clothing is sent to be washed by inmates, who often steal clothing to barter for other items. There may be two T.V.'s for 200 inmates and are voted upon, and so stay on "Jerry Sprenger" type shows and movies that glorify crime and violence. Games consist of checkers, chess, and dominoes generally. Exercise is in about one hour blocks where usually one basketball court and a weight pile for about 25 is available to over 1,000 inmates. The over-all nuance is in prison of "nothing to do"; much idle time usually spent waiting on "count-times", chow-call, showers-on, or yard-calls. Therapeutic programs are available that are simply "eye-wash" and would never be acceptable in any civilian setting.
Inmates who have access to money may attempt to pursue wholesome activities of study or reading, but these are met with great resistance by the officials and then often made impractical in the environment. Rarely can an inmate pursue, for example, a college degree; near unheard of in state prisons and highly discouraged by officials who often cite that they themselves have no degree and so why should an inmate.
To recap the emphasis then, prisons are proud of an environment considered suppressive and perverse, which reinforces the projected stereotype of inmates to the public. And public officials seem content with this destructive environment, to be considered part of the punitive process and loss of rights, ie. deserved and just.
This social culture in prison would be considered "abnormal" by any reasonable social anthropologist or psychiatrist. And this abnormal environment then provides the abnormal stimuli which shape the brain. It is this external stimuli (abnormal) and internal abnormal reaction or thought process (which is a necessary adaptive and survival mechanism) that triggers the neurons to change shape and function. The abnormal resultant behavioral signs and symptoms can be observed all around you. This, if allowed to continue for months or years, then "hard-wires" the brain to function in an "abnormal" environment, and the person is clearly deemed "abnormal".
Once this person is released, you now have a programed psychotic individual in society. It would be a stretch for any qualified, unbiased, and informed professional to find any "improvement" in one's cognitive neuropsychiatric functioning as a result of prison. The United States is creating an influential genetic isolated island of sociopaths on a regular and revolving basis, ever-growing, as a part of our culture.
If out government was to conduct an experiment and acquire data on this "problem", as stated, a good starting point would be to insert an innocent law-abiding citizen trained in various aspects of human behavior and medicine to observe and report on the conditions and resultant aparant abnormalities, ie. the author. However, government officials, especially those of the judiciary branch seem to absolutely despise a man convicted who professes his innocence. And such a person is likewise despised by prison officials and inmates alike, and so an interesting question arises. Can a morally sound, physically fit, and psychologically normal individual sustain such a state in prison, and if so, how? And this would be grounds for a book of it's on and worthy of reading by any interested party believing prison should afford an opportunity for inmates to be "normal.
Although physical fitness, intellectually sound pursuits, and spiritual morality all play an important role and account for values and purpose in one's life. The single most important factor may be preservation of one's identity itself, to the success of not succumbing to all the derogatory intrusions upon the mind in prison.
This author's habits are designed to avoid destruction of his own identity: spitually, physically, and mentally. He prays daily, jogs daily, teaches classes weekly, studies daily, in leisure time seeks puzzles and relationships with few remaining friends and family, and finds relaxation (as it is) in instrumental music. This is an odd pattern of behavior in prison and assures he remains mostly "isolated" in the close confines and amid over a thousand inmates. This acquired practice to maintain his identity in this foreign land has surely been enhanced by a few key individuals (noted by affiliation and first names) who are familiar with and supportive of the author. Dr. Clark M.D. has encouraged the author and been a dear friend and also provided cognitive stimulating works. Dr. Tori M.D. has been a dear friend to share correspondence. Brother David has furnished spiritual materials. Many (about a dozen) Army friends have encouraged the author as well. One prior inmate has continued to try to improve the work the author does for other inmates.
There is a design that could be incorporated easily in state prisons, so as to make them profitable and would likely be of no greater economic or human capital. But that would entail another "call for submissions".
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