What I said – deinstitutionalized madmen

Okay, now you've REALLY made me mad!

Okay, now you’ve REALLY made me mad!

Ann Althouse posts on the subject I raised this morning – although not surprisingly, more cogently.

“Studies in New York and Connecticut from the 1920s through the 1940s showed a much lower arrest rate for the mentally ill. In an era when involuntary commitment was relatively easy, those who were considered a danger to themselves or others would be hospitalized at the first signs of serious mental illness. The connection between insanity and crime was apparent, and the society took a precautionary approach. Mentally ill persons who were not hospitalized were those not considered a danger to others. This changed as deinstitutionalization took effect.”

Which is not to deny that there were some horrific stories of people wrongfully  held in what were essentially prisons for decades – there was a reason for the deinstitutionalizing movement back then, after all – but by making it almost impossible to commit anyone, we’ve set the stage for repeated tragedies. Most of these horrific massacres are, after all, brought about by people who are totally bonkers.


Filed under Uncategorized

62 responses to “What I said – deinstitutionalized madmen

  1. Inagua

    The crazies who used to be in institutions are the homeless street people of today. They are generally not dangerous; they are mostly just delusional and incapable of taking care of themselves.

    No amount of mental health screening could have spotted this guy, or the New Mexico guy, or the movie theater guy, or the Virginia Tech guy, or the Columbine kids, or the Texas Tower guy, or Richard Speck. Not all problems have solutions, and until we can spot mass murderers in advance, we just have to accept this as another risk, however awful.

    • The Batman shooter ha so disturbed at least one of his professors and a school psychologist that they tried to alert authorities but were thwarted by federal school privacy act laws. At least that’s my memory of news reports at the time.

      • Inagua

        Most mass murderers are total bat-shit crazy. Culling them out before they go postal is simply not yet practical because there are so many obviously crazy people (at least 1% of the population) who do not become mass murderers, and you do not want to lock them all up do you?

      • KTCT

        All psychologist are, “mandated reporters”. If someone is a danger to self or others, it MUST be reported. School privacy acts do not trump this.

      • the virginia tech guy actually had a restraining order from a psychiatrist

  2. not so anonymouse

    My appreciation of Regan came quite late because when I moved to the late great state of Californis, Regan was the Gov. and he “ deinstitutionalized” masses of the mentally ill….I though it was horrible and even though I agree there have been terrible abuses of wrongfully incarcerated people, it was not the best solution. pendulum madness, like the unions., once essential, now not so much.

  3. Anonymous

    There were and are people who unfortunately have these loonies in their lives. They know that there are issues, problems and instability. As a society and culture we need to have proper places, including the police for loved ones or professors etc to access help. Horrible tragedies can sometimes be prevented if we just opened our eyes instead of walking away. We just need a place to walk or call.

    Another very important point that should be considered is the training and psych evaluation that police offices experience. It should be extended for those purchasing certain fire arms. Yes, 2nd amendment rights and if you need that type of weaponry – good for you – But, at least there are some links in the chain that can connect people to their purchases or their behavior. Ask Google, they do it.

    Last, we live in a society that emotes emotion, therapy and feelings, Why do we have all these shootings? Compared to 50 yrs ago, the mad men era everything was perfect on the outside and feelings where jammed down. Why didn’t people then explode or act out then??

    • Babylon Sister

      Psych tests are far from a perfect, reliable science, and the ones that you say “police offciers experience” are not necessarily designed or implemented to qualify someone’s level of “insanity”. I’ve been hearing this speculative suggestion thrown around a lot lately.

      So say you administer a mental health exam to everybody who wants to purchase a firearm. How do you define who the “loonies” are? Anorexia and bulemia are considered mental disorders. Should they not be afforded a means of self defense? What about mild depression? PMS? Homosexuality, for years, was defined as a mental disorder.

      Everyone’s looking for a magic wand to wave and make this problem go away. It doesn’t exist.

      • Peg

        Who is talking about a mental health examination for those who want to purchase a gun!?!?! I am talking about ALLOWING our government to at least evaluate those who family and friends believe are dangerous psychotics! We can’t DO that now. And – it seems like common sense to me that we ought to be able to do it.

  4. Peg

    Inagua could not possibly be more wrong. As I have mentioned at For What It’s Worth, I have a friend who became psychotic from a prescribed medication. ALL his good friends knew something was horribly wrong with him. He truly was behaving like a madman. Nevertheless, despite contacting the police and hospitals, we were told we could not get him committed or even evaluated, without his personal permission.

    Ultimately he ended up firing off a number of shots at his country club at 1AM. The good news is no one was harmed. The bad news is that this sixty-something, Harvard educated man with a successful career is now a felon. And likely it all could have been PREVENTED had laws been in place that allowed him to be held and evaluated BEFORE this occurred.

    Can we get and stop everyone? No. Will mistakes be made? Yes. Would changing our laws prevent some murders? Absolutely.


    • Inagua

      Peg –

      !) The crux of the article you linked was that the murder rate increased after de-institutionization. The article used a chart showing the murder rate from 1950 to 2005. Here is a murder rate chart covering a longer period and including data through 2010. What inference do you draw from this data?

      2) You say about putative re-institutionalization, “Can we get and stop everyone? No. Will mistakes be made? Yes. Would changing our laws prevent some murders? Absolutely.” Correct. Regarding the mistakes of wrongful commitment, Western judicial ethics since Genesis 18:23-32 to Maimonides to Blackstone to Ben Franklin have all advocated that it is better to let multiple wrongdoers go unpunished than than one innocent should suffer. You may well disagree with this ethical trade-off, but it is deeply rooted in our legal framework and unlikely to be changed any time soon.

  5. Walt

    Dude –
    Here is a blog post written by the mother of a 13 year old mentally ill son, who she is terrified of:
    Pretty interesting read.
    Your Pal,

    • Anon

      Where did you find that blog Walt? Excellent. Thanks.

    • D

      Thanks for that Walt. Just read it aloud to my wife, mother and father. Well written and exactly the point.

    • Peg

      Thanks, Walt. I was just about to post this myself.

      Having someone held for examination for 48 to 72 hours is not like locking them up in prison – for months or years. Clearly there are people who are severely mentally ill, have no ability to judge rationally and are violent. My guess is that if we returned to a system where such people could be examined – and held if deemed necessary – we would not see very many people held improperly.

      Anyone want the kid in Walt’s column getting mad at THEIR classmates? Anyone think that perhaps THIS child needs to be in a protective situation? How about this poor woman and her other children? Don’t they have any rights at all?

    • Babylon Sister

      Notice the author of this blog makes no mention of a father.

      I’m searching for a quote I heard in an interview with the troubled rapper Tupac Shakur – who lamented never having a father figure in his life. He made a point to emphasize that no one can teach a boy self-control and proper socialization the way a father can.

      The feminist movement has done a terrific job of marginalizing the importance of fathers in developing sons into men… but if you search for commonalities among the pathetic losers who perpetrate evil, this seems to be a glaring denominator.

      In the U.S., the number of children living apart from their fathers has more than doubled in the last fifty years, from 11 percent in 1960 to 27 percent in 2010.

  6. Anon58

    Maybe we free up some incarceration space by no longer throwing adults in jail who use “illiegal” drugs. Of course, that will probably never happen, thanks to the prison-building lobby.

  7. Anonymous

    It seems there are a lot of good points regarding mental care. In this case, this family had the means and intellect. This is a huge component in getting care. Where were the family members to help this mother!? the father was 1/2 hr away and didn’t see his son since June? Other family close enough in NH were not involved in their lives? The isolation went well beyond the troubled kid, Adam. At least he had mental problems. What was everyone else’s excuse?

    • Inagua

      “What was everyone else’s excuse?”

      Simple. No one can identify which crazy people are going to murder.

  8. not very compassionate care

    once inside, the caregivers treated them as less than human. willowbrook was not a bad example. state employees abused patients with no one to defend the patient. much of the science then was pure experimentation without consent of patient or family. a dumping ground not worthy of being called kennels. thanks state workers then.

  9. Anonymous

    we got a war on drugs. which are supposedly bad for us, much worse than alcohol. we got a war on terror. we got to get the bad guys plotting harm.

    but any old person can acquire weapons and use them as he/she chooses?

    why not a war on gun violence ?

  10. Central Gwich

    We need to institutionalize the psychopaths at Westboro Baptist. Those assholes are now saying they will come to protest the funerals of the dead children because it is God’s will that the nation should suffer because of cultural “wickedness.”

    If something were to happen to those pieces of filth, I can’t imagine any jury would convict a grieving parent. I don’t think a “counter protest” will cut it. If these people show up to rejoice over dead 6 year olds, they aren’t going to be walking out of there.


  11. Anonymous

    CF’s remedy for what ails. just go back to what is was like in the 1920s and 1930s.

  12. Dollar Bill

    Please, this is all off point. The fundamental reason why our kids are dying in massacres like this one is not that we have lunatics and criminals –all countries have them -but that we suffer from a political failure to regulate guns. We need to shame the NRA, and its Republican enablers (90% of NRA money in the last election cycle went to the GOP) into passing common sense regulations. This is a public health crisis of the first order, and we need the Tea Party nuts to stand aside since they nothing constructive to add to our dialogue, except more blather about Obama taking away their guns, which like all their folderol has no basis in reality.

    • Inagua

      “…we suffer from a political failure to regulate guns”

      Perhaps so. Do you know of a large country that has effective gun regulation that you approve of?

      • JRH

        I’ve avoided posting here recently because my feelings about Newtown are so raw. Inagua, gun regulation does indeed infringe on freedom, but you can’t deny that it has been effective where it has been implemented (in ways that could never happen here save for a constitutional amendment). Britain, Canada, Australia, etc., are all Anglo countries that have the same legal origins of the right to bear arms as we do, yet they’ve decided that mass shootings are not a cost worth bearing for this particular freedom. And they have exponentially fewer gun deaths than we do. Unconstitutional here, yes. But you can’t deny that it is effective.

        • Inagua

          JHR – It is very difficult to know how well gun control laws work in other countries because there are so many variables besides gun ownership (population age, racial composition, poverty rate, etc.) that make cross country comparisons very problematic. The other difficulty is that many murderers, even mass murderers, use weapons other than guns. Richard Speck used knives. Timothy McVeigh used fertilizer. Mohammed Atta used box cutters and an airplane. And the worst mass murderer in a school setting was a school board treasurer who dynamited a school in Michigan and killed 45 people. The bomber was upset about property tax to fund a new school building.

          My point is that it is at the present virtually impossible to recognize extreme evil doers, particularly mass murderers, in advance. If gun control were shown to substantially reduce crime, even if it meant confiscating all privately held weapons (including hunting rifles, shotguns, antiques, bow and arrows, cross bows, knives, etc.) I would be in favor of the constitutional amendment necessary to do it. But I know of no reliable evidence which proves that substantially reducing the number of weapons significantly reduces crime, all other things being equal. Do you have such evidence?

        • Anonymous

          it’s not exponential. it’s not even geometric.

      • Peg

        Connecticut has strong gun control. How’d that work there?

        BTW – Switzerland mandates that all adults of a certain age have a gun and know how to use it. They have few gun crimes. Quite a few large differences between the U.S. and Switzerland. Yet – it is not just the gun.

        Of course, there is also the “small detail” that we have literally hundreds of millions of guns already in existence in this country. No one ever seems to discuss how we’re going to vaporize ’em all. Nor that we do have a 2nd Amendment and you cannot wish it away. (Please note; I don’t like guns. Nevertheless, I am at heart a realist.)

        • Inagua

          “…Switzerland…few gun crimes.”

          True, but Switzerland also has crazy people who suddenly crack and become mass murderers. This Swiss nut job took out 14 people.

          There is no defense against these people because there is no way to reliably identify them before they go postal.


          • Back in 1972 I was in Zurich for a few months and rode the trams in the company of well-dressed businessmen all presumably on their way to reserve duty and all armed with fully-automatic “assault” rifles. I never felt safer in my life.

        • Inagua

          Chris – I suspect that most of the people in the parliament building in Zug on September 28, 2001 felt as safe as you did on that train. But for 14 of those people it was there last day alive because a homicidal maniac gunned them down. It is very unlike you to make a silly observation based on feelings. That type of emoting rather than reasoning is usually reserved for Lefties.

          • Not at all, Inagua – it’s reason that made me feel safer in the presence of sober, sane middle-aged men carrying heavy rifles and trained to use them. Yes, a madman might have jumped not the train – nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition – but the odds that said madman would be dispatched at minimal harm are increased, if not guaranteed. Ask yourself this: it’s 2:30 AM in the NYC subway – one car has a trio of Swiss armed guards, the other is empty except for a dozing wino who can offer no assistance should you need it. Which is the safer car to embark on your journey? I say it’s not just “feelings” that steer you towards the Swiss.

        • Inagua

          “Yes, a madman might have jumped [onto] the train…”

          That is my point, Chris, that horrific mass murder is frequently random and almost totally unpredictable. It is just another uncontrollable risk, like lightening. But weak minds who are unwilling to accept this reality look to either gun control or mental health screening to deal with this problem. There is no evidence the former works, and the latter is beyond the current compass of medical science. But that doesn’t stop the ignorant from advocating either or both of these non-solutions.

    • CatoRenasci

      If several of teachers had been packing, there’s a good chance the murderer would have been taken out after the first couple of shots he fired.

      The problem is not the firearms, the problem is killers who know they can go to places like schools and be certain no one else is armed.

      It is not “common sense regulation” to punish the hundreds of millions of law-abiding citizens who have a Constitutional right to own and bear arms because there some crazy people who are killers.

      The worst school murder ever is still the 1927 Michigan dynamiting by the crazy school treasurer.

      • JRH

        CatoRenasci, I wish proponents of the more guns = fewer Newtowns arguments would take a breath before being so sure about that. Nancy Lanza had a small arsenal in her house, and not only did it not protect her, it killed her. You may want us to live in a country where the only way to protect the safety of schoolchildren is to turn their teachers into a modern militia, equipped with military-grade weapons that could answer military-grade weapons, but I don’t, and I am not alone.

        • The Governor

          At last we have some sense on this blog. Thank you JRH.

          Remove guns – reduce the risk of more of these catestophic events. Who in there right mind can argue with this basic proposition. (Rhetorical question because the answer is spread all over this blog). It’s just saddening and concerning to see such delusion on your door steps in what is meant to be an educated town.

          • Is it delusional to think that (a) one can remove guns and (b) reduce the risk of catastrophic events? Yes it is – once again you’ve hit the nail on the head, Gov. You’re getting there.

    • Babylon Sister

      DB, what leftists like yourself fail to understand is the purpose behind the Second Amendment, which is to ensure the right of citizens to violently oppose a tyrannical federal government if need be.

      Tyrannical federal government? Here in the US? That could *never* happen.

      Prior to WWII, Germany had the most PhDs, per capita, of any nation in the world. That was their level of education and sophistication. The Jews there had considered themselves Germans first and Jews second, many of whom had fought nobly on behalf of Germany during WWI. Who could have predicted their fate?

      Adolf Hitler summarized the benefits of gun control beautifully:
      “The most foolish mistake we could possibly make would be to allow the subject races to possess arms. History shows that all conquerors who have allowed their subject races to carry arms have prepared their own downfall by so doing.”

      • The Governor

        Babylon Sister – thanks for another great comparison – the current US government is just as much of a tyranical threat as the Third Reich. Yes – you’re right – Obama is so like Hitler that the historical motivation behind the 2nd Amd is directly relevant to the threat to democracy that we face today because of increased taxes and healthcare premiums….

        • You see the danger of hanging around these pages, Gov? You come to your senses and see that you’ve been wrong all your life! Welcome to the club – where shall we send your mouse ears?

      • Anon77

        Something tells me that if the “tyrannical” federal government, led by Seal Team 6, decided to do me in, I’d lose that battle, no matter what I was packing. Just a hunch.

        • Hell predator drones will do the job just as well and the SEALS wouldn’t have to even get their feet wet.

        • Anonymous

          “My friends and I are all in agreement; our government is getting out of control and the first time we are given a mission to disarm the citizens of this country we are going to desert and join whatever guerrilla movement demonstrates it is fighting to restore the principles this country was founded on, republicanism and individual rights.”
          7 SFG
          – Resister Vol. 1, No.1

          It’s unlikely you’ll find us, but if you’re worth it, we’ll find you.

    • Anonymous

      Fast and Furious.

      Your boy Holder killed more with a federally planned, administered, funded program whose specific intent was to increase gun violence and to frame law abiding Americans.

  13. Chief Scrotum

    Lots of moving parts with deep emotions for everyone. Lets let folks grieve and get beyond their sorrow before new laws or policies are created.

    On another happy note, if you want to punish people who have really helped to ruin more lives and killed more people, lets demand the banks and bankers who handle drug money and terror money be punished instead of paying fines. How come we can’t argue so loudly about punishing bankers?

  14. Riverside Dog Walker

    Bablylon Sister and Cato, please. If you read the second amendment which all of you gun nuts like to quote, I think you will find that it states that the citizenry has right to bear arms in a regulated militia, not to bear them in dangerous places like Starbucks and Costco which some people think is their right. And you really think the citizenry has a chance against the government and their forces and weaponry? I’m retired military and believe me, they don’t and it wouldn’t even be close. And like it or not, the military follows orders from their civilian commanders.

    I am also reminded of the Archie Bunker episode where he advocated passing out pistols to all passengers on airplanes and collecting them when the plane landed, because that would make everyone secure. Makes as much sense as some of what I read here.

    I have never had a firearm in my adult home because I think more bad things than good things can come out of it.

    • Your narrow interpretation of the 2nd Amendment was specifically rejected by the Supreme Court.

    • Anonymous

      RDW, In the language of the times, “well regulated,” meant everyone shot the same caliber ordnance, it emphatically did not mean that the militia was subject to the regulations of some nanny state bureaucracy. “Militia” mean any able-bodied citizen between the ages of 18 – 45. In being “well-regulated,” these men were intended to have the same armaments as the military.

  15. Peg

    Well said, Babylon Sister. Too bad some idiots cannot appreciate that what circumstances are today does not mean they will be similar in years to come. As someone who grew up in a town with the highest percentage of Holocaust survivers in the US at the time (Skokie, IL) – I could not help but ask my mother why more Jews didn’t leave Germany. She always responded that Germany treated Jews better than many other nations in Europe! Until……… they didn’t.

    Perhaps if Jews had been packing, they’d have had a sliver of a chance more to fight back against the Nazis. Yeah – just like the Governor, they never thought there was a chance that what DID happen WOULD happen – until it was too late.

    I am no “gun nut” whatsoever. Yet, I understand the reasoning behind the 2nd amendment – and the realization that “getting rid of guns” is impossible in our nation.

  16. dogwalker

    Has anyone heard any reports about whether the shooter was on any psychotropics?

    • I just watched ABC Evening News with David Muir and they put up side by side photos of the last major mass murderers. There was something eerily similar in their look – the eyes. The empty and beady eyes, staring off into nowhere, unconnected. I am no psychologist but I have always felt you can tell alot about someone’s mental health by looking into their eyes.
      Psychotropics can do that. I wouldn’t be surprised to find out Adam was indeed on some.

      As an aside, I was upset to see every newspaper had a black banner with the names and ages of all the victims. I am sure the last thing any grieving parents is thinking about is the privacy of their child’s name, and who knows what I would do, or even if I could think, but I for one would NOT want my child’s name used without my permission. Is such data, once released by the Medical Examiner, up for grabs? Do parents have no rights to opt out? I’m not sure why I wouldn’t like it, it just strikes me as wrong, or invasive.

      • Anon77

        True about the pictures they show of these lunatics, but I bet my bottom dollar that’s a concerted effort by the media. If they showed more “normal” looking pictures of the murderers, that would scare the crap more out of many people. In my view, that would have more of an impact and drive home the point that the smiling boy-next-door is capable of such madness.

        • Anon

          anon77, one channel had a photo of Adam as an 8 year old. You are so right. It was a scarier seeing him as an innocent child.

          Did I hear that the town of Newtown was home to quite a large mental institution, the Fairfield hospital? Closed, natch, due to deinstitutionalization.

      • Anonymous

        Why it’s almost as though they were selected according to the common criteria of some centralized bureaucracy.

      • dogwalker

        I had the same thought about the names, EOS. First names and ages would have done fine, IMHO.

  17. Peg

    I will give this one defense of the MSM. People grieve in different ways. For some, having their child’s name, photo and information about them in the news may actually be of some comfort to them. If so – then that is what should be done. I feel so strongly that the wishes of the family members should be honored …. at least, as best they can.

    • Of course Peg. People grieve differently. But my point is that it seems unlikely, even impossible, that the media called each family to ask permission to release the full name and age of the child lost. So it goes back to my original question: does the Medical Examiner release information that then becomes public? Or would it have been the police who released the names? For those who want photos and names out as part of their process, fine. For those who don’t, I don’t see they were given any choice. That’s my beef.

  18. Slapped Ass.

    The problem with writing new laws against legally owned assualt rifles, and semi automatic pistols is that those laws don’t address the 300 millions guns already owned in the US. The Genie is out of the bottle, its not going back in. My feeling is that with 300 millions guns around me, I NEED ONE OR TWO protect myself and my family if one of the deinstitutionalized people in my community decides to start shooting at me. Should I just cower down and hope for the best? Maybe I should rely on my local highly trained, wealthy union belonging police force to save me? Didn’t seem to help in Newtown. They arrived AFTER it was over.
    If I am in a situation where everyone around me has a gun, I want one. I don’t want legislation to make me even more vulnerable by stripping away my ability to protect myself and my family. The perpetrator in Newtown, my hometown , did not care about laws. The very nature of his actions prove that. Why would anyone believe that additional laws would have prevented this? The guns were bought legally, they were registered, background checks peformed, waiting periods honored. A mentally disturbed person got his hands on legally purchased weapons, and acted out his desires. Laws don’t prevent mental illness. Thirty years ago this person would probably be institionalized. But now, we may stereotype him, violate his rights, and treat him differently, if we call him mentally ill. To prevent this he goes to school with my children and gets no medical help for twenty years of his life until he snaps and slaughters 28 innocent, helpless human beings.