THE U.S. IS A ONE MISTAKE COUNTRY FOR THE MENTALLY ILL;
The Federal judge looked down sternly upon the young man who was standing before him awaiting his sentence for downloading images with pornographic pictures of children from the internet.
Billy had accepted a guilty plea to evade the 15-20 year sentence threatened by the FBI agents who were looking for an “easy kill” that would enhance their department’s conviction statistics. The judge had asked the young man’s lawyer, and the young man to explain his history of mental illness, its effect upon his life, and medications prescribed by the series of psychiatrists who had tried to help him cope with his bipolar illness. The young man told of his early years, being abused and abandoned by his mother at six months of age, and his subsequent adoption by a stable family that had given him the love and security that he constantly sought. He told of being embarrassed every day in school because of his learning difficulties and lack of social skills that left him often without “real” friends and a social life. He told of the dark periods of deep depression when he was totally incapacitated, caring about absolutely nothing, including his own life. These would not be followed by a period of normal feelings, but by periods of extreme mania when he was driven by racing thoughts that he possessed knowledge unknown by anyone else; when he did not have time to sleep because of all of the important things he knew and needed to do that no one else could do and a constant euphoria that drove him to self-medicate with alcohol and frenzied activity until he collapsed exhausted. Hospitalization usually followed as a team of mental health professionals worked patiently to put him back on the track of normalcy. He told of the loneliness of early adulthood where he spent endless hours on the computer because there, on the social websites, you could be whomever you wanted to be, and people were so accepting and friendly. But, he also told of how the loneliness and rejection by other young adults coupled with the sexual desires that are normal for a young man led him to seek the pornographic websites in search of sexual stimulation and gratification. With shame and embarrassment he related to the judge and others in the hushed courtroom how he first stumbled upon nude images of young children, some in sexual poses with adults. Billy ashamedly told how these images captured his attention and, finding some pictures that were free, he setup a high speed file transfer and stored a large number of images on his personal computer.
In tears, and expressing extreme regret, Billy acknowledged his guilt and asked for probation so that he could get treatment for his bipolar illness and make a fresh start.
The judge, shifting to his stern business face and posture said simply, “I know all about mental illness and I understand the terrible impact it has had on your life. I see where you have been under the treatment of mental health professionals for much of your life and have struggled to live a normal life. However, you broke the law, and the Federal sentencing guidelines for this offense are clear. I see no reason to depart from those guidelines, nor does the pre-sentencing officer or the prosecutor. Therefore, I sentence you to the full sentence of five years incarceration in a Federal correctional facility, with 5 years probation following. You will be required to register on the sex offender registry immediately upon your release from prison. Do you have anything else to say?” Billy’s apologies and requests for leniency fell on deaf ears because many people lie, saying they are mentally ill when standing before the judge in a last ditch effort to avoid a long prison sentence. A last minute attempt by his poorly prepared and somewhat disinterested defense attorney to tell of the support that Billy would receive while on probation was a waste of words. With the words,” I know about mental illness, however…” Billy’s fate for life was sealed. Not only were his freedoms taken away for the 5 years of his prison sentence, but for the rest of his life. The statutory requirements that he maintain an open record of his whereabouts on the publicly accessible Sex Offender’s Registry in reality equates to a living death penalty. Where are you going to live if no one will rent you an apartment, or even a room because your name is on “the register”? It makes no difference how hard you try to explain that you never have inappropriately touched, or even approached a child, nor that you try to explain that you want relationships with other people your own age, not children. Acute mental illness is dismissed as an excuse, not accepted as a disease that needs treatment, not punishment!
Who will hire you to work for them when they fear you are bad for business or that people will target your business for vandalism or a boycott because you have a “sex offender” working for you? Going to school and starting over is not an option for you after you’ve completed your sentence, but it is for the released murderer, kidnapper, and every other former prisoner who paid their debt to society, even though they are more than 4 times more likely to re-offend than you are! A person convicted of a “sex offense” is never free again, and their debt to society is never fully paid under the current spate of laws enacted by those who fueled the fear and ignorance of our lawmakers to pass laws denying those who are no threat to society their basic freedoms.