A Call For Compassion
by Letters to the Editor, February 25, 2010
To the editor and all of those at the good old AVA:
I hope all is well there. I was not going to write this story because the last one had me ending up in the office and needless to say I came out on the short end of the stick. But I can't just sit here and do nothing; that would be so wrong. I must do what I must do.
Let me fill in those of you who have no clue: this sad story comes from inside Mule Creek State Prison’s mental holding tank, in Ione, California. This is a prison setting. We have five buildings packed with men here, three of them with 240 men and the other two with 200 men. These buildings were built for 100 men each. There’s also the gym which is triple bunked with 160 more men in it. I call it “the homeless shelter.”
Truthfully, there is little room to even defecate. With a total of 1250 men on a yard built for 500 it is cramped to say the least. It certainly is not a place to treat anyone with mental health issues. The two buildings with 200 each are known as EOP, Extended Outpatient Program units. These are the worst off in the way of mental health issues. They are in very bad shape. Most of them need to be led to the showers and told when and what they can and cannot do. They need to be pampered like eight-year-old children since nobody knows when they might just go off. One of the worst things is when they do go off there is a “code.” The correctional officers wear little boxes on their sides and when one hits the button a loud alarm goes off and we all must sit down as the guards come running from all directions to get in on the action. Unfortunately, if you are one the one on the other end of the baton and can of gas, you lose. Remember, these are men who are mentally ill. There is not much anyone in here can do but show them a little compassion. But there is little to be found.
I have read quite a bit about the lack of mental health treatment in Mendoland or worse yet at the Low Gap Hilton. Please don't turn your back on these men who are in real need. We lost a couple of good men not so long ago due to no one hearing their cries. Suicide was their only option.
I understand the values of the California Department of Corrections, but to physically and/or mentally abuse anyone is wrong and I have seen abuse that should get a person put in prison. The point is these are mentally ill people who might be your grandfather, father, son, grandson, uncle, or just a guy you once knew. But you probably don't even know any of these men so does that mean you as a human being can just turn your back on this neglect and abuse?
Most of these men are on heavy medications like Thorazine and other psychotic medications. Some are court ordered to take shots to keep them stable and the medication comes very easily. All one must do is ask and anyone can get most anything he wants. The problem is they will give you about all you want. But knowing when enough is enough is the problem.
We have men here who have no clue whatsoever just why they are here or even where I Ione, California is. All it takes is a person to have a little compassion to see just how wrong it is to keep some of these lost men here. Some of you may be able to just turn your backs on the situation. But for me to just to reach just one person who may be helped is all I seek. But also to expose the lack of care for those who are mentally ill and locked up.
Please don't get me wrong. There are some psychiatrists and psychologists here who go way beyond the call of duty to help these troubled men.
I have befriended a couple of these men in EOP for good karma in my life. It can be very trying as they can be “way out there.” I have a friend I will call Richard. He is a father and an all around good person. Just why he is here is beyond me and I could not care less. Over the last five years I've spent a lot of time with him talking about everything. Some of it was legal stuff because he has been to law school and was a bright man. I say “was” because he has been in the EOP program for couple of years now and things have deteriorated very badly for him. They said he had dementia. I never noticed that at all, not until they put them on a number of medications. Now he cannot even tell me the date or the year. This is so hard to see right before my eyes as he is a kind, big hearted man who has no clue about anything. How sad it is to know his family has no knowledge that their daddy is being so neglected. There are many, many more men right here at this fine nuthouse who are suffering and alone.
I am sure that some of you from good old Mendoland still remember the Talmage State Hospital. I don't know the number of men and women they had there, but now a hell of a lot of them are in Department of Corrections custody. These corrections officers, no matter how they may look at them, are not trained to deal with those who are mentally ill. The system is a complete failure, not only to the ones who need help but to the taxpayers.
Now you know a little more of what goes on behind these walls and even as wrong as you and I know it is, it just keeps going on. It is wrong in every way. It is wrong for just one more judge to sentence another man or woman to the California Department of Corrections who has a mental issue. You must do what you must to live your life with karma, good or bad. This is just a warehouse for those who are truly sick at a cost to you of about $50 grand a year each, and that is just to babysit us. That does not include treatment of mental or medical issues for most of us.
I hope I have shined a little light on what is going on in this world here. This letter is a plea for a little compassion for those of you out there to try and understand just what it is like to be put in prison with a mental health condition. I plead and pray that you do not turn a blind eye to those who have been shut up inside for so long. Step out of your comfort zone and do something to help just one person who is struggling with the biggest challenge in their lives. You may have a family member who is locked up in a mental hospital or you may know someone who is. Please take it upon yourself and drop them a card or letter so they know there is someone who still cares about them out there. I hope just one of you makes some sort of contact with a person who is so lost in the system. This may be their last chance.
Peace be with you all.
Mark Sprinkle K-24619
PO Box 409040-B-gym-110-L
Ione, CA 95640