Posted by Rage in the new Political Prisoner Blog: http://politicalprisoner.wordpress.com/
One of my names is Robert James Bartlett, and my Maine Department of Corrections number is 32270. I’m currently incarcerated at the Windham Maine Correctional Center, doing 17 months for violating probation on a conviction of OUI which occurred in 2004. I suffer from a mental illness, addiction and residuals from a traumatic brain injury. Here’s my groove on Corrections in the State of Maine:
While Incarcerated at Kennebec County Correctional Facility in January of 2009, I pulled one of my best friends from a shower where he hadcommitted suicide by hanging. Arthur Brian Traweek was a co-founder of the Holistic Recovery Project, and suffered from a mental illness. We were both successful graduates of the Kennebec county Co-Occurring Disorders Court Program.
Brian was only serving a 6 month sentence, but he’d been threatening suicide since his incarceration in November. While hanging from a sheet in the shower, an officer, Herreva went through our block for a check and actuallyopened the door to the shower room & seemed to look inside. (Apparently not.) After we pulled Brian out of the shower and alerted the guards, it was perhaps 8 minutes before they began performing mouth to mouth resuscitation on Brian. Why? No one could find a “separator:” a 25 cent plastic piece which rests between a victims lips and a rescuers (to prevent infection?) When they arrived, they said that he’d had a pulse. 8 minutes. Now he’s dead.
Brian had tried to commit suicide before, but with his particular illness most successful suicides are actual accidental. Brian counted on the jail to protect him. (To read the full deposition on Brian’s wrongful death, written only hours after the tragedy – click here).
What happened? There was an official police investigation. Nothing came of it. Maine State Civil Liberties Union promised to look into it, but never did.
Carol Caruthers of NAMI did stage a vigil, a candlelight vigil for Brian, right outside our window at the jail. It was attended by people who’d never visited Brian while he was alive. Neither would any of the crowd be visiting any of us who survived. We were treated to a crowd of candle-holding strangers, drinking coffee (which we couldn’t) and smoking cigarettes (which we couldn’t.)
As a fellow inmate said: “Who are these people? Brian never got any visitors when he was alive! Coffee and cigarettes? Why don’t they strippers out there too & call it good?!”
This was while we all faced showering in the same shower my friend had just hung himself in.
I have to throw in a special shout out to Carol Caruthers, who organized the worthless vigil – oh, made the paper, though, didn’t it, Carol? Carol, the executive Director of NAMI, Maine – National Association of Mentally Ill? NAMI did nothing. NAMI didn’t give a fuck. We even asked Carol over & over again to help re-open the investigation! “Please, Carol, Please!! Help us!! Read NAMI’s own reports on those of us with mental illness & addiction, killing ourselves in jail! Help us Carol!”
Carol & NAMI do not care. But they did have that nifty candlelight vigil!
Fuck you, Carol. Fuck you, NAMI.
How many more of us will die, Carol?
Just keep cashing your checks, love.
In the System’s defense – did they ask to become, as Sheriff Randal Liberty so aptly put it recently, “the number one provider of mental health services in Maine?” No, they did not. Jails are for what? Punishment. As Bo Lozoff says, jail is “intended to punish them, pure & simple – to punish, hurt, confuse, emasculate, and eventually break their contrary spirits.” Or, as a friend of mine from Texas said to me before my most recent arrest, “Y’all got only a little over a million people in your whole one-syllable state – how can your prisons be over-crowded?”
Jails were never designed to treat those of us with serious mental illness or addiction, any more than they were meant to treat cancer or leprosy.
What can we do to change things?
What can you do? Please – get involved. Nothing happens from within, and I guarantee you – all of the powers that be know the truth about Brian’s death, but no one will do anything to change the status quo unless we the people demand it. Call your legislator, your governor – call Carol – at NAMI, Maine. Ask her what time it is. Join the Holistic Recovery Project at http://holistix.atspace.com/wholeness.htm – we have a mailing list there too.
They incarcerate the mentally ill & the addicted, then they release them – untreated – back into your neighborhood.
If the powers that be lived in your neighborhood, perhaps more of us would be sent to rehabs & psychiatric hospitals. Perhaps there’d be money for those programs.
Only you can make it happen.
Please do. Because I guarantee – right now – some twenty-something is sitting in a cell & he’s coming off of opiates & his mental illness is causing him to believe that there’s only one way out.
(Rage has a blog: https://holistixrage.wordpress.com/)
17 Mallison Falls Rd
Windham, ME 04062