Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Neurology Court

Court Officer: All rise. The Honorable Judge Flash. Neurology Court is in session.

87 people diagnosed with a variety of neurological diseases and conditions struggle to stand up and then flop back down.

Judge Flash: Being passed to you is an article on "How to Pass for NeuroTypical." Although it was written for autistics, I think the tips apply to all of you. Be sure to read it and practice it at home. I will ask you about it during the next Neurology Court two weeks from today.

87 people have a variety of reactions to the article. Some wad it up and stick it in a pocket. One person begins to eat the paper. Five others sniff it. Three people fold it into paper airplanes. Two people begin creating spitballs from it. A few try to read from the article.

Judge Flash: Line up in alphabetical order. You, Defendant Zee, I told you to learn what 'alphabetical order' means during the last session. I'm sentencing you to jail for the weekend.

Defendant Zee: But I just got a job. At the supermarket--

Judge Flash: That's your problem. Have your staff contact your job coach so she can call your employer. Go with the sheriff now.

Defendant Zee: I didn't do nothing wrong. Fuck off, Your Honor. 

Judge Flash ignores Defendant Zee. He is handcuffed and escorted into the waiting jail van outside.

Judge Flash: Defendant Bee. I have a report here from your neurologist. You are refusing to take your dementia meds again. Why is that? Speak up please. I can't hear you.

Defendant Bee: They are making me throw up.

Judge Flash: Please communicate that to your neurologist and your case manager. If you continue to refuse the meds, I will be forced to remand you to jail.

Defendant Bee gives Judge Flash the finger as he stumbles back to his seat, nearly tripping on his walker.

Judge Flash: Defendant Cee. You are attending the sheltered workshop now. You made it in on time every day last week. Very good. I'm proud of you.

Defendant Cee: Thank-you Sir.

Judge Flash: You can go now. Back to your seat.

Defendant Cee: Thank-you Sir.

Defendant Cee makes several curtsies at the judge but makes no movement to leave the area.

Judge Flash to Court Officer: Please have Defendant Cee's staff paged.

Court Officer: Very well, your honor.

Two staff people rush in smelling like tobacco smoke. They view Defendant Cee with alarm. They grab her and perform a two-person escort, forcing her to walk with them back to her seat.

The two people who were making spitballs now proceed to spit them at each other. The judge does not see this. But several other people do. They smile at the spit-ballers, using the articles to hide their smiles from the judge.

Judge Flash: Defendant Dee. You are also a participant at the sheltered workshop. How is that going for you?

Defendant Dee: They don't pay me enough. It's slave labor.

Judge Flash: If you co-operate, they may put you on a work team. You might want to be on the cleaning team or the mowing lawn team. 

Defendant Dee: I don't want that. I like to take pictures with my camera.

Judge Flash: Your best bet is to do the best you can at the sheltered workshop. It's better than sitting at home.

Defendant Dee stares at the flag to the right of the judge. 

Judge Flash: Is there anything else you want to say? No? Hang in there.

Defendant Dee runs back to her seat. Once there, she retrieves the article from her coat pocket along with a pen. She begins to draw a caricature of the judge on the back of the article.

Judge Flash: Defendant Gee. Your residential staff tell me that you are refusing to use the stand box.

Defendant Gee: It hurts.

Judge Flash: You don't want to be stuck in that wheelchair. Be good and use the stand box.

Defendant Gee: It hurts. The surgeon didn't get all of the glia out of my brain, Judge. I'm gonna die.

Judge Flash: I'll let your case manager know that you need a referral to counseling.

Defendant Gee: Can I have some medical marijuana for the pain?

Judge Flash: You know we don't allow you to use illicit drugs for as long as you are a participant of Neurology Court. 

Defendant Gee: I'm gonna die. The pain meds from the doctors don't work.

Judge Flash: Try the stand box. That will help you. Next.

Defendant Jay staggers to the judge's desk and runs into it. 

Defendant Jay: Ouch!

Judge Flash: Defendant Jay. How is the physical therapy going?

Defendant Jay: Not helping. I hurt my elbow.

Judge Flash: You aren't wearing your braces.

Defendant Jay: Too heavy.

Judge Flash: Defendant Jay, when you appear in this courtroom, you are to wear your braces. Understood? I want you to write me an essay for next time. The title is "why I think I don't have to follow the rules."

Defendant Jay: Can't write. 

Judge Flash: Get your staff to help you with it. You have to help yourself Defendant Jay. Show me that you want to help yourself.

Defendant Jay collapses to the floor. The court officer helps him up and returns him to his seat.

Judge Flash: Defendant Kay. Defendant Kay? Where is she? Court Officer, issue a bench warrant for Defendant Kay. Defendant Pee? You're next, Defendant Pee.

Defendant Pee doesn't move from his place in line. The court officer extends a hand. Defendant Pee shakes it. He shuffles over to the judge.

Defendant Pee: Your Honor.

Judge Flash: Yes Defendant Pee.

Defendant Pee: I swore at the bus driver yesterday. She was yelling because my feet got stuck and I couldn't go any faster. I'm sorry, Your Honor.

Judge Flash: Thank you for telling me this, Defendant Pee. Because you were honest, I won't sentence you to jail this time. 

Defendant Pee: Thank you Your Honor.

Defendant Dee: Suck up!

Judge Flash: The sheriff's office will now escort Defendant Dee to the jail van. One week, Defendant Dee. A week to think about your attitude. We don't allow bad words in Neurology Court.

Defendant Dee glares at the judge who ignores her. She allows herself to be handcuffed and then marches out of the courtroom.

Defendant Pee: Bad words are bad Your Honor. I'll be good.

Judge Flash: I appreciate that, Defendant Pee. Last up is Defendant Que.

Defendant Que wheels himself through the gate.

Judge Flash: Defendant Que, how are you?

Defendant Que: I got a new wheelchair.

Judge Flash: Yes you did. Are you taking your medicine?

Defendant Que: I got a new wheelchair.

Judge Flash: I have a note here that you are adjusting well to your new living situation--

Defendant Que: Nursing Home.

Judge Flash: We say "Long Term Care" here.

Defendant Que: Nursing Home. I got a new wheelchair. I take my pills. The food is good. I have a new friend.

Judge Flash: Very good, Defendant Que.

Defendant Que: How much longer do I have to come to Neurology Court? I paid my fine.

Judge Flash: What was it that you did?

Defendant Que: I emptied my urinary catheter in the park. It was too full. I paid my fine.

Judge Flash: You understand that was a crime?

Defendant Que: The bag was going to bust.

Judge Flash: You still have to come here until you gain insight into your crime.

Defendant Que: The bag was full. I can't go to the park now. I am getting worse.

Judge Flash: See you in two weeks.

Defendant Que wheels himself back to his seat.

Judge Flash: Okay everyone. Remember your homework. Do good. Be respectful. Be polite. Blend in. I'll see you all in two weeks.

Court Officer: All rise.

The judge exits.

sapphoq on the hunt for coffee says: We now have drug courts, mental health courts, vet courts, homelessness courts, family courts and more. Flash incarceration-- the practice of sentencing "court participants" [or more accurately, defendants] to short stints in jail for a variety of infractions [some of which are not illegal in and of themselves such as being late for treatment, failure to show for treatment even if physically ill, taking medicine prescribed by a physician without clearing it with court staff first]-- is one of the ways that defendants can be punished. Yet the punishment is supposed to be thought of as therapeutic. 

Those in drug court are viewed as being addicts and/or alcoholics. They are told that they have a "disease" which cannot be cured. In addiction to being convicted felons, they are expected to endorse the idea that they are "sick." Those who do not care for some aspect of their treatment or treatment plan may be accused of "writing their own treatment plan."

In drug court as in all of the other courts mentioned above, the emphasis is heavily on conformity. Do what we tell you. Do what everyone else tells you to do also. Participate in your groups. Follow all of the rules. Make sure that the judge, the court staff, your probation officer, the treatment staff, residential staff [if you are ordered to supervised living], and the entire community that you live in are happy. [People from the community can and do call into the court staff to complain about the behavior of any of the defendants.] If you conformed, the judge offers praise. If you did not, jail time is one possible sanction. Living in a fishbowl is stressful.

I picked Neurology Court as an evolving possibility. Folks with neurological diseases or conditions are faced with real problems which may include progression and or fatality, somewhat like the drug court defendants are told that their "disease" of addiction is "progressive" and "fatal."

Yes, people can and do become dependent upon alcohol and other drugs. Some percentage of folks can learn to moderate their intake. Others cannot. The disease concept came about so insurance companies would pay for people to go to rehabs and detoxes and other forms of treatment. There is no hard evidence that alcoholism or any other addiction "is a disease." I view addiction as a condition or a behavioral disorder.  

While judicial supervision may help some people get their lives together, the concept is flawed in that there is a heavy emphasis on coerced treatment rather than voluntary. The heavy use of authoritarianism is also a concern. The judge becomes a parent on the judicial stage. Some adults respond to this favorably in spite of loss of self-determination. Others do not. These new social ills/problem solving courts put more people under judicial supervision in the guise of keeping them out of prison. The defendant faced with prison time versus supervisory court may pick the latter. Still, this cannot be said to be an expression of true volition.

Although I myself cannot use safely, I believe that marijuana ought to be legalized. Part of the problem is our antiquated drug laws. The rest of it is cookie cutter treatment. Cookie cutter treatment when court-ordered is still cookie cutter treatment. We need more research and more options that truly are individualized. 

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Gossiping Our Way Through Recovery

     I celebrate everyone who finds recovery through the drug court system. In the rooms of recovery, it ought not to matter who we are or how we got here. All of us were mandated. I was mandated by a dog who did not like me staying away from home for twenty two hours at a time. Other people were mandated by drug courts, family courts, husbands, wives, lovers, children, and others.

     None of us came into recovery smiling and full of grace. All of us were worn and ragged about the edges. We too could not sit still, fidgeted, talked during the meetings to those sitting next to us, got up to go to the bathroom or roam around. There are a few folks still alive who remember when I first ventured into a meeting. And I remember when most of the rest of us in our area first came in. None of us were looking too good. Nor were we good actors.

African Grey Parrot on a ladder with head down, caption reads "bad bird."

      In our area, there has been a division. There are folks who will no longer attend the meetings being held at a local outpatient treatment program strictly because "so many drug court people are there." That is their choice. 

"Emily has cooties" chalked on old tarmac.

     Of those with time who do attend the meetings where there has been an influx of people who are legally mandated, there are some of us who run our mouths off. And we have no business doing that. Even worse, there are a few who report back to legal officials who was at a particular meeting and what they talked about. This is wrong.

Halloween zombie half buried in the snow with a long tongue sticking out. Caption reads "GOSSIP is UGLY."

     When people have paper over their heads, a few misplaced words could land them into jail or prison. If you have a beef with someone who is in the legal system, you have no right to call someone up and say things like "This one has a bad attitude" or "That one does not sit still at meetings."

     It is the fault of counselors, probation and parole officers, and drug court officials who listen to your crap. But it is also your fault. Clean your own house.

Up close of dustballs with caption "Do your housework. Dustballs evolve."

     ~ where's that coffee? ~  

p.s. Pictures are captioned with description for low vision readers. If you want any of them, right-click to save to your computer. You can also use them in social media, although I don't know why you would want to. 
      For the Big Hollywood idiots: I took and altered these photos myself with my legally obtained cheap digital camera and software. So go away.