Two inmates aren’t ill, the bop claims – even though one ate his own finger
Two Inmates Aren’t Ill, the BOP Claims – Even
Though One Ate His Own Finger
First a note about Colorado
I was on the west coast Friday
doing research for a new
nonfiction book when I
received a seven a.m.
telephone call from CNN
asking if I wanted to comment
about a shooting in Aurora.
Was this incident similar to the
Virginia Tech massacre or the
rampage in Tuscon? I felt a
sickening sense of dread as
soon as I heard that question.
But I really couldn’t comment. I
was still in bed and hadn’t yet turned on the hotel television or my computer. I really didn’t
know anything about the mass murders. As I write this, we still haven’t been told enough
about the mental state of the gunman to speculate. All I can say is that my heart goes out to
all of the victims in this horrific tragedy.
I wrote last week about a recent lawsuit that al eges the federal Bureau of Prisons is mistreatinginmates with mental disorders being held in its so-cal ey in Florence,Colorado. I believe this suit is so shocking that it merits another blog post. The lead attorney inwith serious mental il nesses being held in the high security ADX. He made this statement the dayafter
the lawsuit was filed.
Aro’s reacted with one stunned word: “Incredible!”
That’s putting it mildly if the accusations in the lawsuit are factual.
The BOP’s attorneys have yet to respond. But the director’s testimony certainly doesn’t jive withwhat is described in the lawsuit. Let’s review just two inmates whose backgrounds are recounted in
[From the lawsuit] Mr. Pinson is 26 years old and is at the Supermax after beingconvicted of making threats against the President of the United States, a federaljudge, a Secret Service Agent, and a juror. His projected release date is October 3,2025. Mr. Pinson has a serious mental illness that has at various points beendiagnosed as Bipolar Disorder, Schizophrenia, and Severe and Chronic PTSD. Healso has Epilepsy and experiences frequent seizures.
Several members of Mr. Pinson’s close family have long suffered from mental illness.
Both of his maternal grandparents were diagnosed with Schizophrenia, and hismaternal grandmother committed suicide after a long struggle with Depression. Hismother has been diagnosed with and medicated for Depression throughout most ofher adult life.
Mr. Pinson’s childhood was marked by psychotic episodes. He began hearing voices and having visual hallucinations around theage of 7. He began receiving psychological treatmentby age 8 and received his first inpatient psychiatrictreatment by age 10. When he was 13, he sentthreatening letters to both his mother and to thePresident of the United States, he stabbed aclassmate with a pen, and threatened to blow up hisschool. He received inpatient treatment for suicideattempts and psychotic symptoms at the ages of 12,15 and 16.
In 2005, prior to his trial on charges of threatening thePresident of the United States, Mr. Pinson underwenta court-ordered psychological evaluation to assesshis competency. While being held for the evaluation,Mr. Pinson tried several times to kill himself. According to the forensic report, “Mr.
Pinson had not experienced any significant period of effective psychologicalfunctioning since early childhood [and] only with long-term psychiatricand psychotherapeutic intervention [would he] have any hope of developing into amature and psychologically healthy individual.” Nevertheless, the report found himcompetent to stand trial; he was convicted.
On April 2, 2007, Mr. Pinson was sentenced to 240 months imprisonment. The Court
recommended that he serve his sentence at FMC Butner, which includes the BOP’slargest psychological treatment complex. The BOP rejected that recommendation,and instead sent Mr. Pinson to USP Victorville and then to FDC Houston. While atFDC Houston, Mr. Pinson wrote another letter, this time threatening to kill a SecretService Agent who testified at his sentencing. This letter resulted in anotherconviction. At his sentencing for this conviction, the sentencing judge “stronglyrecommended” that the BOP conduct a “full-blown” evaluation of Mr. Pinson’s “mentaland physical needs and the drugs required to deal with both” at a capable facility,identifying the MCFP Springfield and the FMC Butner as appropriate facilities. Againrejecting the Court’s recommendation, the BOP placed Mr. Pinson at USP ColemanII, where his mental health problems continued.
Since then, Mr. Pinson has attempted suicide multiple times, including an attempteddrug overdose and two incidents where he tried to hang himself. He continues tosuffer from severe depression and suicidal ideation, and has sought treatment forboth. The BOP has conducted more than 12 suicide risk assessments on Mr. Pinsonand placed him on suicide
watch at least 9 times. The BOP is well aware that Mr. Pinson is mentally ill and inneed of intense counseling and therapy. A January 2011 BOP Progress Reportnotes that Mr. Pinson has a history of mental health diagnoses prior to incarceration,that he has been hospitalized for mental disorders and attempted suicide, that hesuffers from Schizophrenia and other Psychotic
Disorders, and that he needs further mental health treatment. While in the BOP’scustody, Mr. Pinson has been prescribed a litany of psychotropic medications,including the antipsychotics Olanzapine, Quietapine, Risperidone, Fluphenazine,Haldol and Perphenazine, antidepressants Amitriptyline, Bupropion, Mirtazapine andSertraline, antimanic Depakote, and
the anti-anxiety medication Buspirone.
Nonetheless, in February 2011, the BOP transferred Mr. Pinson to ADX, where hewas placed in the SHU. Mr. Pinson challenged this transfer on a variety of grounds,including that his PTSD, Bipolar Disorder, and Epilepsy made him an inappropriatecandidate for placement at ADX. Mr. Pinson complained that at ADX he could notreceive proper mental
health treatment, including the ability to participate in mental health programs.
In a July 2011 response, the BOP informed Mr. Pinson that ADX was “providing[mental health] programs consistent with [his] security needs.” In or around June
2011, Mr. Pinson was transferred to an ADX General Population unit. In December2011, Mr. Pinson asked Dr. Severn, an ADX staff psychiatrist, for a referral to theBOP’s Habilitation Treatment Program. Mr. Pinson has received no such referral.
Mr. Shelby is 47 years old. He was born in Benton, Kentucky, and raised in Indiana.
Immediately before his incarceration he lived in Utah. Mr. Shelby suffers from aserious mental illness, Bipolar Disorder. Mr. Shelby has been housed at ADX sinceOctober 2000. He currently is serving a 24-year sentence for a 1996 conviction formaking threats against the President, in addition to other felonies, and a consecutive80-month sentence resulting from his 1997 attempted “suicide by officer.”
Mr. Shelby was raised in a family wracked by extreme poverty and mental illness. Hewas raised by his mother, who suffered from serious mental illness. When Mr. Shelbywas 16 years old, he attempted suicide through an overdose of sleeping pills andwhiskey. In 1989, Mr. Shelby was sentenced to imprisonment at the WestvilleCorrectional Center in Indiana. During his incarceration, Mr. Shelby attempted to burnanother prisoner with a torch constructed from a mop stick. Mr. Shelby claimed thatGod had directed him to make the torch and burn the other prisoner. As a result ofthe incident, a mental status examination was performed in September 1989, duringwhich Mr. Shelby stated that “he did not exactly hear voices; but more like — heardfeelings.” The mental health examiner concluded that Mr. Shelby may have sufferedan acute psychotic episode — Schizophreniform Disorder in remission.
Mr. Shelby was released on parole in 1992. In December 1994, Mr. Shelby mailedthreatening letters to the President of the United States as part of a plan by Mr.
Shelby to secure the release of Charles Manson from prison. A few weeks later, in January 1995, he was arrested inOgden, Utah, while attempting to mailseveral packages. One of thepackages was addressed to thePresident of the United States andcontained a modified light bulb thathad been filled with smokelessgunpowder, a pocket knife, and a notereading, “I think you are doing a goodjob and I am sending you the pocketknife as a gift and a light bulb so thatyou won’t strain your eyes.” A secondpackage, addressed to Charles
Manson, contained a revolver with afork affixed to its end to be used as abayonet, a straight razor, and twoexplosive devices.
Mr. Shelby was charged with makingthreats against the President of theUnited States, illegal possession offirearms/destructive devices, andpossession of a firearm. In a mental health evaluation conducted while at the SaltLake County Jail, Mr. Shelby described how “voices” had instructed him to “HelpCharlie [Manson]” and that “if Charlie was President, he could set me free.” Inconnection with his prosecution and court-ordered mental health evaluation, Mr.
Shelby was sent to MCFP Springfield, where he underwent a psychiatric evaluationfor a period of approximately three months. While at MCFP Springfield, Mr. Shelbyattempted to commit suicide by ingesting a mouthful of Lysol and later by ingesting amouthful of Bon Ami cleanser. He stated that he attempted suicide because he“began to be concerned he might actually be mentally ill” and also reportedly statedthat he “did not want to die, but if God wants me to do it, it’s like a commandment.”According to the subsequent forensic report, Mr. Shelby was treated with anantipsychotic medication and was diagnosed with alcohol abuse and SchizotypalPersonality Disorder that is “not regarded as a mental disease or defect by mostauthorities.”
After Mr. Shelby returned to Salt Lake County Jail in August 1995, he voluntarilysurrendered a knife constructed of wire and wrapped with a leather shoelace andreported to jail personnel that he had impulses to murder another prisoner. Hereportedly told a mental health worker that “they tell me I’m not crazy . . . then thevoice of God I hear, telling me to kill all the baby rapers, must be real. God told me tokill Ryan because he is the lowest of them all.”
In January 1996, Mr. Shelby was ordered to undergo a second mental healthevaluation. The second evaluation concurred with the prior diagnosis of SchizotypalPersonality Disorder, noting that much of Mr. Shelby’s psychotic illness “appears tobe controlled with the medication.”
Mr. Shelby pled guilty to charges relating to his January 1995 arrest, andwas sentenced to 288 months in the custody of the BOP. At his sentencing hearing,Mr. Shelby reportedly stated, “For quite some time in my life, I have been listening tovoices in my head that I thought came from God . . . . The terrible crimes I havecommitted were because I believed they were commandments of God.”
Mr. Shelby spent approximately one year of his sentence as an prisoner atUSP Florence, Colorado. In June 1996, Mr. Shelby requested discontinuation of hismedication,which at the time included the antipsychotic Navane and Cogentin, whichhelps reduce certain side effects of Navane. After his medication was discontinued,Mr. Shelby was given no other psychiatric or mental health treatment. In early 1997,Mr. Shelby was transferred to USP Atlanta. A few months after his arrival, Mr. Shelbytook a staff member hostage in the institution’s kitchen with a homemade knife, in aneffort to provoke the prison staff to kill him — a scenario known as “suicide by officer.”Mr. Shelby was not killed in the incident, but rather was subdued and chargedwith assault of a U.S. penitentiary employee with a dangerous weapon. In astatement about the incident, Mr. Shelby reported:
“On July 23, 1997, while I was a prisoner at the United States Penitentiary in Atlanta,I held Ms. Ross, a prison staff person,
hostage with a knife. It was never my intention to harm anyone. This was a suicideattempt. I did this in hopes that the staff would shoot me. I have problems withdepression and I was not receiving the proper medication at the time of this incident.”
In May 1998, during his prosecution for assault of a U.S. penitentiary employee,theCourt ordered a psychiatric evaluation of Mr. Shelby at USP Talladega in Alabama.
Upon information and belief, at the time of his evaluation, Mr. Shelby continued tosuffer from severe, chronic and untreated Bipolar Disorder. In the BOP evaluation, Mr.
Shelby was diagnosed with the major Depressive Disorder, currently in remission;Alcohol Dependence in sustained, full remission in controlled environment; history ofhallucinogen abuse; Personality Disorder NOS (schizotypal and antisocial traits);and history of head injury. Mr. Shelby was found competent to stand trial. Mr. Shelbyalso later again was evaluated at MCFP Springfield. At MCFP
Springfield, Mr. Shelby was diagnosed with Major Depression, in full remission;Alcohol Dependence; Personality Disorder NOS (schizotypal and antisocial traits);and post mild closed head injury. Thereafter, Mr. Shelby pleaded guilty to chargesstemming from his attempted “suicide by officer” and was sentenced to 80 months ofconfinement in BOP custody, to run consecutive to his original federal sentence. Aspart of the sentence, the court recommended that Mr. Shelby participate in a mentalhealth treatment program during his incarceration.
Mr. Shelby was transferred to ADX in 2000 and placed in the ADXgeneral population. Since his arrival at ADX, Mr. Shelby has suffered from continuingsymptoms of bipolar illness, as a result of which he is engaged in a pattern of bizarre,erratic, and harmful behavior. In or about 2009, Mr. Shelby attempted suicide. Upon
information and belief, at the time of this suicide attempt, Mr. Shelby was in the throesof psychosis caused by his as-yet untreated Bipolar Disorder. Mr. Shelby heard theBob Dylan song “Knocking On Heaven’s Door” playing on the radio and understoodthe song to be a message “calling him home.” He responded by sitting down in ashower and severely cutting both arms, both legs, and his belly using glass from abroken television. Sometime later, ADX staff discovered him bleeding and in a semi-coherent state. His wounds were bandaged at the ADX medical facility and hewas returned to a standard ADX cell. After his suicide attempt, a BOP psychologistdiagnosed Mr. Shelby as suffering from Bipolar Disorder. He was thereafterprescribed the anti-manic medication Depakote and the antidepressant Zoloft.
Although the medications have helped Mr. Shelby cope with his serious mentalillness, they have not resolved his periodic psychotic episodes andhis hallucinations.
For example, later in 2009, Mr. Shelby heard a voice, which he took to beGod’s voice, commanding him to eat his finger. In response, Mr. Shelby amputatedhis left pinky finger approximately 1/2 inch from where the pinky joined his hand, andcut the finger into small pieces, which he added to a bowl of ramen soup and ate.
ADX staff discovered him bleeding in his cell, and one ADX staff member asked himhow his finger tasted.
In early 2010, Mr. Shelby was transferred to the ADX step-down program.
He maintained clear conduct during stays in the Joker Unit and Kilo Unit, and wastransferred to the final stage of the step-down program, which is located at the USPFlorence. In September 2011, while looking at a friend largely confined to awheelchair, Mr. Shelby inexplicably saw what hebelieved to be “devil horns” on his friend’s forehead. Mr. Shelby began choking hisfriend, and was subdued, restrained, and returned to ADX. After spending severalmonths in disciplinary segregation in the SHU, Mr. Shelby returned to the GeneralPopulation Unit, where he resides today.
I am not naive about how dangerous either of these inmates might be. Nor do I believe that aprisoner is entitled to a “get out of jail card free ” simply because he has a mental disorder. I alsorealize that some inmates fake mental disorders.
But the goal of this lawsuit is not to free any of the plaintiffs. Nor is it to get them financialcompensation. Rather, the goal of the lawsuit is to force the BOP to adhere to its own guidelines— regulations that prohibit persons with severe mental disorders from being housed at theSupermax prison because of the isolation and harsh conditions that are imposed on inmates thereas punishment. It is about getting prisoners who are mental y il meaningful help for their mental
problems — before releasing them back into the public!
If Director Samuels wants Congress to believe that the BOP is not housing severely mental y ilconvicts at the ADX, he might start by explaining why if he thinks a sane person would amputatehis left pinkie, cut the finger in smal pieces, add it to a bowl of soup and eat it.
Benefits-at-a-Glance WmHIP The information in this document is based on BCBSM’s current interpretation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). Interpretations of PPACA vary and the federal government continues to issue guidance on how PPACA should be interpreted and applied. Efforts will be made to update this document as more information about PPACA becomes available. Th
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