Whose Fault Is It?


I worked as a Public Defender for nearly 30 years. I had clients who were extremely intelligent. I had clients who were severely mentally challenged. Some were healthy, some were not. Some had family. Most did not. They were all facing the consequences for their actions or the actions of others.  Some were innocent, some were not guilty and some, many, were guilty of the charges brought against them.

The most challenging, the most heartbreak were the hundreds that were mentally ill or, worse yet, brain damaged. The mentally ill had a modicum of legal protections. The brain damaged had none. The mentally ill had some services to assist them during and after their legal confrontations.

The brain damaged had none.

Usually the brain damage came from traffic accidents. Sometimes it came from a fall. Sometimes it was a result of a biological reaction to food or medication. Sometimes the damage resulted from a stroke or a blood clot.  Sometimes it was the ravages of dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease.

Brain damage can, and often does, result in behavioral changes. My clients who were brain damaged did not understand why they did the things they did. They often did not understand WHY their actions were considered wrong. They had lost the ability to make that determination. They ‘knew’ that others would think it wrong but they could not make that perspective apply to their actions.

It left them confused, shameful, withdrawn, angry, hostile or violent. They thought they were crazy. They were often suicidal.

Not until the last years of my practice were there ANY mechanisms that allowed the legal system to  treat these cases in any way other than that which was applied to everyone. Even today, there is no institutional care or support of these people. Dementia patients who become violent and have no family support are left to sit in jails. The homeless are in a revolving door with no community support (disruption and violent behavior is not tolerated at homeless shelters for obvious reasons) going from jail to encampment to jail.

It is so very hard to sit next to a person in court who is suffering from the effects of brain damage and know that there is NOTHING you can do.

This rant comes to you today because of the following article. Please take the time to read it and consider alternatives for those whose lives have gone in directions that they did not want.

https://longreads.com/2019/10/22/the-final-five-percent/?fbclid=IwAR1hudfqR7ueTwgkD3wTJQuUPUUBV-GavBbS5MC_7dE6kNqGn3iMsSpvs5w

Categories: Criminal defense, UncategorizedTags: , ,

9 comments

  1. A compassionate post with which to return, Gael.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I haven’t sat down to read this long piece yet, but I will, because we struggle with the same issues here in the UK. This though is to let you know that my email provider didn’t want me to open the link to your blog, saying the source looked ‘suspicious’. I don’t know if you’ve had any issue with scammers etc. recently, but I thought you’d want to know.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. The tartan is keeping me in the other room. But this was so close to my heart, I had to put it out there. I will be writing more often, I promise!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. No, I DO have issues with Google right now. I set up a new blog for the weaving that I am doing and added G-Suite. Google is having a heart attack over it. My former son-in-law is coming to fix it today. Thanks for the heads up!

    Like

  5. 🙂 There is more than one way to be creative. Weave away.

    Like

  6. Thank you so much for sharing. My mother looked after two women who were Alzheimer patients and it was incredibly hard to watch these bright intelligent women become so lost and confused. I visited them often and it was so sad. One of the women could become violent and I so admired my mother’s empathy, compassion, and understanding when dealing with these episodes. I haven’t yet read the article but thank you for sharing. I know it will hold a lot of food for thought and I appreciate that.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Carol, thank you for sharing your story. The article is long and often hard to read because of the difficult content. It is worth it. We need to understand that we CAN help.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. My mother suffered dementia in her final years, and it was so sad to see the bright, witty, caring person that she had been was disappearing. I never dared ask her if she knew what was happening to her but I suspect that she knew, and would have been embarrassed to admit it. Thank you for raising awareness of this issue.

    Like

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