America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 37

It made a general and very important point, but Ken Kesey wrote it
after taking LSD while working in a
mental hospital. It should have been
used as a check on the system-for
reform, not for an annihilation of
the system.
The net effect of that aforementioned short-lived coalition, with
Kesey's book as a catalyst, was the
emptying of state mental hospitals
from the 1960s into the 1980s. States
responded by closing empty mental hospitals. Today, there is often
nowhere to go for those who would
have been committed in 1960, or
even for those who voluntarily seek
help. Those perhaps well-meaning
doctors had achieved something
very dangerous.
The ACLU achieved its goal of
making it very difficult to commit
persons with serious mental-illness
problems. Our streets, park benches and libraries soon filled up with
often mentally ill homeless people.
Murder rates also rose. While most
mentally ill people are not dangerous, murderers and other felons are
disproportionately mentally ill. It
is no coincidence that many of our
recent mass murderers have exhibited evidence of mental illness either
before or after their crimes.
The result of these 1960s and
1970s legal battles was that most
states revised their commitment
statutes in ways that made it very
difficult to hospitalize people
who were really dangerous. As an
example (sadly, one of many), the
mass murderer in the Aurora, Colo.,
theater in 2012 was so obviously
dangerous that his psychiatrist alerted the police. While the details of
exactly who said what to whom and
when have not been released, what
is clear from investigative reporting is that the psychiatrist's efforts
show that she considered the killer
to be " high risk " on the Behavioral
Evaluation and Threat Assessment
(BETA) matrix.
Like many other states, Colorado law allowed for an emergency
commitment for a 72-hour observation period. As in many other
Photo: Dan Speicher / AP

states, a police officer or a variety
of mental-health professionals may
order such a person to be taken into
custody; however, the emergency-commitment procedure (C.R.S. ยง
27-65-105(a)(1)) only applies to persons who are " gravely disabled " or
who present an " imminent danger to
others or to himself or herself. "
Who is gravely disabled? Colorado law had two different definitions
of " gravely disabled. " One definition
included mentally ill persons at risk
because they are unable or unwilling " to provide himself or herself
with the essential human needs of
food, clothing, shelter and medical
care " or " lacks judgment... [so] his
or her health or safety is significantly endangered and lacks the
capacity to understand that this is
so. " This did not describe the killer,
whose actions in booby-trapping his
apartment and planning the crime
showed a person of considerable
intelligence. (He was working on his
Ph.D. in neuroscience when schizophrenia hit.)
The other definition of " gravely
disabled " would fit many mentally
ill persons, but not that killer. It
included persons diagnosed with
schizophrenia, but required that
such a person must have been hospitalized " at least twice during the
last thirty-six months. " This meant
that a mentally ill person who has
gone from well to severely mentally
ill in a few months, as is alleged to
be the case with the theater killer,
could not be considered gravely

These guns-located in the Westmoreland County Courthouse,
in Greensburg, Pa.-have been
confiscated via protection-fromabuse orders.
disabled until at least three years
later. Worse, a judge could not direct
police to bring the person to court
for a hearing. If you are convinced
the government is plotting against
you, why would you accept an invitation to a commitment hearing?
Our prisons and jails today are
disproportionately occupied by the
mentally ill. So are the tragic headlines after each mass murder. Building and operating mental hospitals
is not cheap, but the same is true for
jails and prisons.
Until the general public and
judges fully understand the nature
of what deinstitutionalization of the
mentally ill really did to America,
there will not be the public will to
correct this well-intentioned, but
disastrous error. It is time to admit
that the theories behind deinstitutionalization were a mistake. They
were often well-intentioned theories, but they do not have much
to do with the real world. Today's
red-flag laws are not the solution to
this problem; better mental-illness
commitment policy is.
Clayton E. Cramer teaches history
at a college in Idaho. His ninth book,
Lock, Stock, and Barrel: The Origins of American Gun Culture, was
published in 2018.

america's 1 st freedom I february 2021

37



America's First Freedom - February 2021

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of America's First Freedom - February 2021

Contents
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - CW1
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - CW2
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - Cover1
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - Cover2
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 1
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - Contents
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 3
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 4
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 5
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 6
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 7
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 8
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 9
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 10
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 11
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 12
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 13
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 14
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 15
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 16
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 17
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 18
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 19
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 20
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 21
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 22
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 23
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 24
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 25
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 26
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 27
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 28
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 29
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 30
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 31
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 32
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 33
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 34
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 35
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 36
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 37
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 38
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 39
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 40
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 41
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 42
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 43
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 44
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 45
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 46
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 47
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 48
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 49
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 50
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 51
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 52
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 53
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 54
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 55
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - 56
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - Cover3
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - Cover4
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - CW3
America's First Freedom - February 2021 - CW4
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