"This Martin Luther King Day, people speak as if solving discrimination for women, gays and people of color would end it all. Then they continue to act like a flock of ducks, excluding and pecking at the injured one with a limp because it’s different. Thirty years after hundreds of legal and medical research papers found that only a small minority of people with mental illness, primarily those with violent histories, are significantly more violent than the general population, people who otherwise pride themselves on their commitment to civil rights still tolerate subjecting those with mental illness to discriminatory laws, secret and invisible courts, violations of due process and civil liberties, and violations of 30-year-old Supreme Court standards of evidence. If they think of it at all, they pat themselves on the back for “helping” people into the State-sponsored Guantanamos in their own back yards. Places where the people who run the facilities provide the only evidence, evaluation and judgment needed, transmuting what would be gossip and hearsay in a criminal case into Revealed Truth.
From the late 1980s to late 1990s, a scandal erupted in mental health care. Private mental institutions in states from Nevada to Texas to Florida used tactics such as dragooning people off the streets or enrolling them in false dieting programs. Some of them paid bounties to outside contractors to drag people in, much like medical schools of past centuries paid grave robbers for cadavers to dissect. Just so the mental hospitals could milk medical insurance. Military families and veterans were favorite targets because of generous benefits. The impact, especially on children, was horrific.
It is unknown if mental facilities sponsored by the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services milk insurance. But there is no doubt that they prey on the misery of others. One may wonder if they keep their jobs by inflating evaluations of illness and “dangerousness” just to keep enough beds filled. Then, as one outside mental health case manager noted, when someone has a real crisis, the beds are too often full.
Where is our legal system in all this? The local mental health court is part of the city/county District Court. Each Justice of the Oklahoma Supreme Court supervises the District Courts in a designated section of the State. One might think that this would mean actively assuring that equal standards of justice, evidence and due process apply to all who come before those courts. Apparently not. One can complain to the Supervising Justice about gross violations in a local court, but one cannot expect to get any response.
As it happens, the Justice in charge of this section shares Dr. King’s much abused color. He arguably holds the highest position of his race in this State. His lack of response, along with some rulings and opinions of Justice Clarence Thomas, demonstrates that even a man of color in the highest position does not flinch from applying Jim Crow law to a minority that is not his. "