How a Bad Law and a Big Mistake Drove My Mentally Ill Son Away – by Norman Ornstein – NYT

“Ever since the school shooting in Parkland, Fla., law enforcement and other officials have been calling for changes in the Baker Act, a Florida law that allows involuntary commitment for 72 hours of people who are an imminent danger to themselves or others. If the Baker Act had been easier to deploy, they think, Nikolas Cruz, the accused shooter, would have been taken and treated before his horrible act.

However this law may be reformed, it will never be able to get people with serious mental illness the treatment they need.

I know something about the Baker Act. About halfway through my son Matthew’s decade-long struggle with serious mental illness, my wife and I invoked the Baker Act against him.”

Here is the top comment, I recommended:

A Mom

Albany, NY, area 15 hours ago

Dear Prof. Ornstein, I am so sorry for your loss. I am writing this as I sit in the hospital next to the bed of my 25-year-old daughter, who suffers from mental illness. They are kicking her out (sending her home) after an emergency psych evaluation. You are correct the system is broken. In just a few months she will no longer have my health insurance. The job she has doesn’t provide anything like what she needs. And I am terrified for her. You are correct, 90 days isn’t enough time. She’s only had a week of intensive inpatient care. Once. She managed to flit from one provider to another, none of whom has had her long enough to find out who she is let alone what her problems are. None of them ever asked her family about her history. This time it’s just an evaluation and home we go. Take your meds. Make a safety plan. We need comprehensive care, not nickels and dimes. And it sure won’t happen under this administration. Best wishes for your own healing.


The Problem With Parole – The New York Times

“Gov. Andrew Cuomo has called on the State Legislature to make changes that would help those in custody for parole violations, such as abolishing money bail for people accused of misdemeanors, eliminating state supervision fees for people on parole and reviewing how child support is calculated for people incarcerated for more than six months.

But the Columbia study calls on the Legislature to do a lot more. It recommends that the state adopt several common-sense reforms, most of which have already shown promise in other states. These include: adopting a system of graduated sanctions and rewards, instead of automatically dumping people into jail for minor infractions; capping jail terms for minor parole violations; requiring a judicial hearing before parole officers can jail people accused of technical violations; shortening parole terms for people who stay out of trouble for specified periods of time; and using the savings reaped from cutting the prison population to expand education, substance abuse and housing opportunities for parolees, who need considerably more help than they’re getting to forge stable lives in their communities.”

David Lindsay Jr. Hamden, CT Pending Approval
Young men going back to jail for small infractions of probation is also a serious problem in Connecticut. I allowed a 30 year old ex con, black man to become my handyman. He had spent 6 years in jail for breaking and entering when he was about 20. Two years ago, a friend of his convinced him he could skip his parol meeting, which was onerous, and he was dumb enough to take the bad advice. He was back to jail for 17 months, for not showing up for his parole meeting. I was shocked. This appears to be a form of jim crow. It also interrupted the young man’s attempt to succeed in society with a variety of part time jobs. Most of his time in back in jail he watched TV and worked out a little. He got no job training or education.
David Lindsay Jr. is the author of “The Tay Son Rebellion,” and blogs at and

Prosecutors Had the Wrong Man. They Prosecuted Him Anyway. – The New York Times

“In the robbery, kidnapping and rape that began in the French Quarter of New Orleans on April 6, 1992, much of the evidence pointed to a man named Lester Jones.He fit the description of the attacker down to his round-rimmed glasses. His car looked like the perpetrator’s. The rape took place near the housing project where he lived. And after the police arrested him on suspicion of other crimes in the French Quarter that same month, they found jewelry from the robbery in his possession.

Yet the Orleans Parish district attorney’s office chose to arrest a different man, 19-year-old Robert Jones — no relation — for the crime. Mr. Jones not only was convicted, but spent more than 23 years in jail before being cleared of those crimes and a murder he did not commit.On Tuesday, Mr. Jones sued, charging that prosecutors had deliberately and repeatedly covered up evidence that would have undermined the case against him. More than that, he charged that he was neither the first nor the last victim of such treatment — that prosecutors had an unwritten policy of hobbling the legal defenses of accused citizens without their knowledge.

The New Orleans district attorney’s office has chalked up legal black marks for years, including a string of Supreme Court cases involving prosecutorial misconduct. But the lawsuit filed on Tuesday, in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, is perhaps the most damning compilation of misconduct accusations to date.”

Here is the top comment, which I recommend, and my reply to the following comment.


San Antonio 1 hour ago

Rather amazing that this article fails to even mention the name of the Orleans Parish District Attorney, Harry Connick Sr., who held that position from 1973 to 2003. As a longtime resident of New Orleans, I am not alone in being aware of the vast corruption that infused that office for decades, including at the very top. Your story is about cover-ups, yet by not even mentioning Connick’s name, this article itself is covering up the truth.

David Lindsay Jr. Hamden, CT Pending Approval
Heartbreaking and disgusting. In ancient China, acccording to Robert van Gulik, if a Magistrate sent a person to jail, concentration camp or death, and it was detemined later to be a mistake, the magistrate had to undergo the same penalty he had administered incorrectly. We should return to those good old days. There is a great comment below, about making prosecutors reveal all evidence as they receive it. Severe penalties for sending innocent people to prison would do wonders to reduce this problem.
David Lindsay Jr. is the author of “The Tay Son Rebellion, Historical Fiction of Eighteenth-century Vietnam,” and blogs at The and

Justice Shouldn’t Come With a $250 Fine – The New York Times

“Too often, this is the case. The fine for a misdemeanor is typically about $1,000, which can be unmanageable for a low-income person. This comes on top of many other costs. The application fee a defendant must pay to hire a public defender (appointed because a person charged with a crime cannot afford to pay for an attorney) can be as high as $400. Jail booking fees range from $10 to $100. In some states, defendants can be made to pay fees upward of $200 for the juries who hear their cases. After conviction, victim’s panel classes, where some defendants are mandated to hear about victims’ experiences and loss, can cost up to $75. Drug courts can and often do make people pay for their own assessment, treatment and frequent drug testing.”

DL: Yes. Jim Crow is alive and well, and for poor whites as well.
Here is the top comment, I endorse:

Mark Thomason is a trusted commenter Clawson, MI 14 hours ago
A family member was wrongly accused of shoplifting. There was video. It clearly showed no shoplifting. She won.

Then she got the bill from the court for the assigned public defender — four times more than the fine would have been, over a thousand dollars.

The fine print in Michigan says that the public defender “provided” as required by the US Supreme Court “if you can’t afford one” will bill you after the case, even if you win, and that becomes a court judgment against you.

You can be jailed for non-payment of the defense attorney bill for a case you won, or so the judge threatened her.

Flag Reply 117 Recommended

Courts Sidestep the Law and South Carolina’s Poor Go to Jail – The New York Times

“SUMTER, S.C. — Larry Marsh has a history of mental illness and drug addiction. Homeless, he has no place to go. The police in this city have arrested or cited him more than 270 times for trespassing. In December, they got him four times in one day.

For this misdemeanor offense, Mr. Marsh, 58, has repeatedly served time in jail, and was even sent to prison. Not once has he had a lawyer.Being represented by a lawyer is a fundamental right, enshrined in the Sixth Amendment and affirmed by the Supreme Court, which has ruled that anyone facing imprisonment, even for a minor offense, is entitled to legal counsel. But the promise has been a fragile one, with repeated complaints that people without means are stuck with lawyers who are incompetent, underfunded or grossly overworked.

In municipal courts that handle low-level crimes, poor defendants can face a worse problem: no lawyer at all. Recent reports detail a failure to provide lawyers in Nashville and Miami-Dade courtrooms, and in 2015, Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, the Republican chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, held hearings on the issue, saying the right to a lawyer was frequently ignored in misdemeanor cases.”

Kamala Harris and Rand Paul: To Shrink Jails- Let’s Reform Bail – The New York Times

“Kalief Browder, a 16-year-old New Yorker, was arrested on charges of stealing a backpack in 2010. To ensure he would show up for trial, and because of a previous offense, the judge set bail at $3,000. But his family could not afford to pay. So Mr. Browder was sent to jail on Rikers Island to await his day in court. He spent the next three years there before the charges were dismissed. Haunted by his experience, Mr. Browder hanged himself in 2015.

Our justice system was designed with a promise: to treat all people equally. Yet that doesn’t happen for many of the 450,000 Americans who sit in jail today awaiting trial because they cannot afford to pay bail.

Whether someone stays in jail or not is far too often determined by wealth or social connections, even though just a few days behind bars can cost people their job, home, custody of their children — or their life.”

Yes, and here is an excellent comment I support:

Geri Padilla Huntington Beach, CA 1 hour ago

It is heartening to read about a bipartisan bill that addresses the inequities of the current bail system. Thank you to Kamala Harris and Rand Paul for their efforts on behalf of the poor who can’t afford bail, not to mention the exorbitant cost of maintaining so many awaiting trial.

Reply 30 Recommended

Mothers in Prison – by Nicholas Kristof – The New York Times

“TULSA, Okla. — The women’s wing of the jail here exhales sadness. The inmates, wearing identical orange uniforms, ache as they undergo withdrawal from drugs, as they eye one another suspiciously, and as they while away the days stripped of freedom, dignity, privacy and, most painful of all, their children.

“She’s disappointed in me,” Janay Manning, 29, a drug offender shackled to a wall for an interview, said of her eldest daughter, a 13-year-old. And then she started crying, and we paused our interview.

Of all America’s various policy missteps in my lifetime, perhaps the most catastrophic was mass incarceration. It has had devastating consequences for families, and it costs the average American household $600 a year.

The United States has recently come to its senses and begun dialing back on the number of male prisoners. But we have continued to increase the number of women behind bars; two-thirds of women in state prisons are there for nonviolent offenses. America now incarcerates eight times as many women as in 1980, and only Thailand seems to imprison women at a higher rate.”

Source: Mothers in Prison – The New York Times

This is a magnificent piece by Nick Kristof. Read it and cry, and get involved in solutions.
One of my favorite comments:
Anires California 2 days ago

“There were so many strong points in this article, but perhaps my favorite was this:
“It’s time to change how we view addiction. Not as a moral failing but as a chronic illness.”

It’s easy to dismiss the women here and coldly say they got what they deserved. But a little compassion and understanding would really go a long way. It could have easily been me in prison had I not been blessed with a loving and economically stable family. As a society we should help them overcome the darkest moments of their life instead of making it impossible for them to become contributing members of society.

Thank you, for shedding light on this.”

122 Recommended

Want to shrink prisons? Stop subsidizing them. – The Washington Post

“Hilary O. Shelton is director of the NAACP Washington bureau and senior vice president for policy and advocacy. Inimai Chettiar is director of the Justice Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law.

When our next president enters the Oval Office, she or he will be faced with two questions: First, how to make a mark as president? Second, how to break through gridlock in Congress?Prioritizing reducing our prison population is one way to achieve both goals. Most Republicans and Democrats agree: Mass incarceration devastates communities of color and wastes money. Even Hillary Clinton and Paul Ryan see eye-to-eye. Committing to such reform in the first 100 days would make a lasting and imperative change.”

Source: Want to shrink prisons? Stop subsidizing them. – The Washington Post

A Formula to Make Bail More Fair – The New York Times

“The group Equal Justice Under Law sued the city last year, arguing that the old approach to bail violated equal protection under the Constitution by keeping poor defendants in jail while letting wealthier ones accused of the same crime pay their way out.

The new scoring system, developed by the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, uses nine factors to estimate risk, including a defendant’s age, whether the charge is a violent offense, prior convictions and previous failures to appear in court. It does not take into account race or gender, and judges still have the final say in setting bail.”

Source: A Formula to Make Bail More Fair – The New York Times

Unlocking the Truth About the Clinton Crime Bill – The New York Times

“Politically, crime had become one of the most divisive issues in the country. Republicans called for an ever more punitive “war on drugs,” while many Democrats offered little beyond nebulous calls to eliminate the “root causes” of crime.

President Clinton took a different approach, working with like-minded Democrats, including Mr. Schumer and Joseph Biden, who was the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. The bill they devised actually reduced sentences for federal drug crimes by exempting first-time, nonviolent drug offenders from the onerous “mandatory minimum” penalties created under earlier administrations. It funded specialized drug courts, drug treatment programs, “boot camps” and other efforts to rehabilitate offenders without incarceration. It allocated more than $3 billion to keep at-risk young people away from gangs and the drug trade.”

Source: Unlocking the Truth About the Clinton Crime Bill – The New York Times