Letter to Executive Director of NAMI-Criminalization of Asperger Syndrome

Mr. Fitzpatrick:
I am President of NAMI Barrington Area and a member of the Criminal Justice Advocacy for People with Mental Illness. While I applaud the advocacy that you do as Executive Director, many members of NAMI in the Illinois area feel that not enough is being done by NAMI national to advocate for cases such as my son Daniel with Asperger Syndrome and Mandy Romero’s husband Ramon.  They are both caught up in the criminal justice system.   Please see the below listed column by me. I have written numerous times to Ron Honberg and he did write a letter on my sons behalf once.  A story about my son was on the front page of the Daily Herald per my advocacy.   However we need to personalize and publicize these stories at a national level.  I realize we cannot advocate for everybody out there who is incarcerated, but these cases are the most egregious.  My son is non-violent and faces a 45 year sentence.  I provided a deposition for the court.  Mr. Romero has been beaten a number of times. After two and a half years, they have not determined if he is fit for trial.   His wife is a tireless advocate and has appeared in the media and plays major roles in NAMI, CURE and the Criminal Justice Advocacy for People with Mental Illness.  I look forward to a dialogue with you that can hopefully help us alleviate the Criminalization of Asperger Syndrome and the Criminalization of mental illness. 
Sincerely:

 

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Joseph M. Jason, President NAMI BA (847)537-3009

 

Member of Criminal Justice Advocacy for People with Mental Illness
Member of Autism Society of America

 

“If societies are judged by how they treat their most disabled members. Our society will be judged harshly indeed,” said E. Fuller Torrey M.D., a research psychiatrist and Treatment Advocacy Founder.

 

 

 

From the President’s Desk – March 2013
By Joseph M Jason
The Criminalization of the Mentally Ill in Iowa City and Cook County Jail
“You may be 38 years old, as I happen to be. And one day, some great opportunity stands before you and calls you to stand up for some great principle, some great issue, some great cause. And you refuse to do it because you are afraid…. You refuse to do it because you want to live longer…. You’re afraid that you will lose your job, or you are
afraid that you will be criticized or that you will lose your popularity, or you’re afraid that somebody will stab you, or shoot at you or bomb your house; so you refuse to take the stand… Well, you may go on and live until you are 90, but you’re just as dead at 38 as you would be at 90. And the cessation of breathing in your life is but the belated announcement of an earlier death of the spirit.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
“If I am not for myself, who will be for me? And when I am for myself, what am ‘I’? And if not now, when?” – Hillel the Elder
“That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow.” – The Golden Rule
_________________________
We all need to make a difference and stand up against injustice just as the abolitionists did not so long in our history against the practice of slavery. We must raise our voices and say enough of the incarceration of the mentally ill. No more. No more. No more. We need state and federal funding to take care of our loved ones. Every family has a
mentally ill person they know.
This month I’d like to share an email and a video from Mandy Romero. I should warn you that the video is quite upsetting, but it does talk about a new program that could benefit the mentally ill.
Sheriff’s office releases shocking video of mentally ill inmates
“I thought you all would like to see this if you did not catch it on the news last night.
And this is where some of our loved ones have been for years! On March 11th 2013 my husband will be marking his two and a half year anniversary at Cook County Jail. And still has not even had his fitness hearing (which is to determine if he is mentally fit for trial).”
It goes on and on. Since Mandy sent this email, the Tribune wrote this story about  abuse of mentally-ill inmates at Cook County:
My son’s situation in Iowa
I have reached out to National NAMI in regards to my son’s case, since I believe they should become more involved in individual cases. From a recent email:
Mr. Honberg:
Recent actions of the prosecution in Iowa City are indicative of the criminalization of Asperger Syndrome. My wife and I met with the prosecutor in December of last year and explained Asperger Syndrome and mental illness. We explained that our son’s behavior is childlike rather than criminal. We told them he needs treatment and not incarceration.
We gave them a forensic psychiatrist’s report that demonstrates he is not violent. He is a nuisance. We told them that his behavior according to Dr. Mills is typical of one with Asperger Syndrome. We told them he has an organic brain disorder. One of the prosecutors told me everyone is jail is mentally ill, and the head of the office seemed sympathetic to the chronic sorrow.
I had a deposition recently and they tried to twist Dr. Mills’ report. They not only want to lock him away for 45 years, but they extended the time period of the stalking to include the time he has been in jail. That is punishment fit for a major drug dealer and/or murderer. This case, as it always has, cries out for treatment and not incarceration.
Daniel was living with us for the entire time and did not go to Iowa. This has not stopped the charges of stalking and extortion. This is not what our founding fathers envisioned that America should be. Daniel has already been in jail and prisons for most of the time since 2007.
Dr. Mills has stated that Daniels’s so called criminal conduct is caused by his Asperger Syndrome. “Mr. Jason cannot legitimately be considered morally responsible for his misconduct.” Dr. Mills also states that “The lack of significant history of violence is important.”
As stated in the article, Forensic aspects of Asperger’s Syndrome by Justin B. Barry-Walsh and Paul E. Mullen in the Journal of Forensic Psychiatry & Psychology, “It behooves us to draw to the court’s attention the obvious: that patients with Asperger’s Syndrome suffer from mental disorder and that their offending and subsequent disposition must be placed in this context. The core features of Asperger’s Syndrome and how they determine what the individual knows and understand of the world should form a basis for sophisticated assessment of the issues of disability.”
A recent tragic development is that my son fired his Attorney on February 19th and he believed this was a winnable case. NAMI National does not get involved in individual cases. I think they should on a limited basis. Even Drew Peterson received less of a sentence than my son is facing.
Let’s end with one more quote:
“Did we make a difference? We must make a difference.” (William Shatner as Captain Kirk in one of the Star Trek movies)
Stay strong members of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Continue to advocate. I am proud to be your chapter president and applaud every member of NAMI.

 

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