Ha Song Pham
Reaction Paper 1 on Crazy
When talking about prison, one usually thinks of two kinds of people, the guards and the prisoners. But nowadays, when 16% of inmates have serious and persistent mental illness, it is not surprising to find psychiatrists working in prisons. The Miami-Dade County Pretrial Detention Center mentioned in Crazy was not an exception. On the ninth for of Miami jail, we found mentally ill prisoners, guards, Dr. Poitier who was the chief psychiatrist of the jail, and the nurses. The medical staff and the prison officers hold opposite viewpoints about how the inmates should be treated. The great conflicts and complications between the justice system and the mental health system had made the job of the psychiatrists in prisons across the United States an extremely difficult task.
Dr. Poitier and nurses on the ninth floor of Miami jail worked daily in a very unhygienic condition: “The air in C wings stinks. It is a putrefied scent, a blending of urine expectorant, persperition, excrement, blood, flatulence, and dried and discarded jailhouse food.When the jail’s antiquated air conditioning breaks down during the summer, which it often does, some officers claim C wing’s pink wall actually sweats. It’s decades of filth and grime bubbling up, rising through coat of paint”. I wonder how one could be expected to live, let alone work in a condition as such. Under such horrible conditions, I wonder how effective the doctors were doing their job. And even if they were trying to do the best they could, I don’t think the inmates’ conditions could get any better when they did not even get to live in basic living condition which has a standard level of hygiene. If the states were paying for the psychiatrists to treat the inmates, the first thing they should have thought about was the working conditions of the doctors and the living conditions of the inmates because those played a key role in the efficiency of one’s job and the recovery of one’s disorder.
In addition to the poor working conditions, the medical staff were not treated well by both the officers and the inmates. The nurses got screamed at, threatened, and humiliated. In Crazy, Earley told the incident of one nurse having a prisoner toss a cup of feces and urine at her. Nevertheless, the nurse did not quit the job for she understood that she could not take anything personally at her work. Most of the nurses were women. Inmates frequently masturbated in front of them. They did not get any protection from such hazard because the state attorney thought that it was not a crime that was worth pursuing. Doctors and nurses saw inmates as patients, while officers saw them as prisoners.The officers (or correctional staff as referred to in Crazy) treated the inmates very badly when the doctors were not around. Due to the opinions that were at two extremes with each other, the efforts to help the inmates by the medical staff turned out to be useless by the poor treatment that the inmates received from the officers.
On a larger scale, the psychiatrists received very little to no help from the state government. What’s more, they had to comply with the ridiculous, non-sense regulations that were originally constructed to protect the rights of the mentally ill. In Crazy, Dr. Poitier had no access to resources. The inmates were booked into jail without carrying their medical records. He had to prescribe medication based largely on what the inmates told him. Plus, he had to follow the Miami-Dade County Public Health Trust’s instruction to prescribe Risperdal first whenever possible rather than Zyprexa, which was much more expensive. He had no freedom to do his job even though he received sufficient psychiatric training, while those people at the health trust were only thinking about the “so-called” economic benefits.
Civil right laws such as Baker Act prevented the doctors from forcing inmates to take medication unless they...
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