Another War Story- In Memorium

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Another War Story- In Memorium

Postby RA Miller » Sat Jan 03, 2004 10:03 pm

Mark was once the subject of a two-page special feature in the local paper about the failure of the mental health care system. Over three hundred pounds and aggressive, Mark was paranoid schizophrenic, bipolar and learning disabled. He was in and out of custody in our county and the neighboring counties, notorious for staff assaults, always ad-seg and moved with multiple deputies.

About four years ago we'd just started an "open booking" process. Instead of going from cell to cell to cell, constantly either restrained by handcuffs or contained in a cell we were experimenting with booking fresh arrestees in a setting that looked like an airport waiting area. There were a handful of cells for "special situations". We were a little nervous, of course. Open booking (or direct supervision) is the ultimate test of people skills and it usually works well, but the math is bad. Five deputies and one sergeant (all unarmed) responsible for controlling as many as fifty arrestees... still drunk, high, angry, delusional without any containment or separation.

That night Mark came in. Mark usually left jail into the care of a social worker...and came back to jail when he threatened or assaulted the social worker.

I talked him through the basic process: search, fingerprinting, digital picture, medical assessment and interviews with classification and recog. Within a few minutes of sitting in the common area he was glaring at a female inmate, mumbling.

I sat down next to him, in the inmate chairs. "She's looking at me, Sarge. I'm gonna lose it. Make her stop looking at me or I'm going tear her up."

"Mark, you're letting her get to you. Yes she's staring at you, but if you react, you'll be the one to get in trouble. Don't let her control you."

"She's laughing at me!"

"And if you go off, she wins, Mark. Don't let her win. Ignore her. Show her she can't get to you."

The other inmate _was_ laughing at Mark. Mark was huge, greasy, filthy. Like a lot of schizophrenics he couldn't take care of himself. I took the other inmate aside and told her that Mark was "retarded" and it wasn't his fault and it was cruel to laugh at him... she apologized.

I spent probably an hour with Mark, kept him calm. Then I went to lunch. Within five minutes, the call came over the radio, "Sarge, one to sep." Mark was going to a Separation Cell.

When I arrived he was screaming and kicking the steel door, frothing at the mouth and yelling death threats. I keyed the door open, stepped in and asked him to have a seat. I listened, mostly, but I stayed on message. "You need to calm down. I have civillians like the nurse out there and I will not let you out of this cell if you are acting out in any way."

It dawned on Mark that he outweighed me by over a hundred pounds and I was alone with him in a tiny concrete cell and showing no fear. You could see him try to puzzle it out, using all of his available cunning to guess what my secret security came from... He asked a lot of questions and finally asked if I'd been in the military. I said, "Yeah. Army." And he relaxed. This poor kid, who never got any closer to the service than a Rambo movie relaxed. I wasn't afraid because I was a soldier. Of course.

I remember him trying to remember everything he was taught in therapy and classes about socializing, about how normal people make friends and Mark reached out to ask a question, the kind of question he imagined friends asked friends, "S what did you like best about the Army? Living in the barracks with all the guys or the uniforms?"

"Honestly, Mark, the only thing I miss was crawling around in the mud and shooting people. I enjoyed that." On one level, that was a screwed up thing to say, truth or not. But it gave me one of the best moments in my career.

Mark said, "Man, that's not right. You should talk to someone about that." Mark, the paranoid/schizophrenic, bipolar, developementally disabled violent and assaultive criminal was giving me fatherly advice. He recommended a counselor.

We talked some more, and he promised to be quiet and keep control even when I wasn't there watching. He kept his word all the way up to housing.

I found out yesterday that Mark died about three weeks ago. I don't know when or where or the exact circumstances, it was just one of those passing comments in briefing "By the way, the y found Mark R*** dead a couple of weeks ago."

He probably died alone. Hypothermis or OD on an attempt to "self-medicate" or maybe his diabetes got out of control. I wonder who knows or cares, who, outside of a handful of social workers and jail guards remember him. I wonder if anyone else has a good memory of Mark.
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RA Miller
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Postby KZMiller » Sat Jan 03, 2004 10:27 pm

I will remember Mark through your words, and so will everyone else who reads this forum. I think you're right that most people wouldn't have given Mark even this much mention, and if so, only as a nuisance to society. To me, though, he'll always be a lot more. You and he connected and created a rare moment that shone more brightly than the wash of forgettable back and forths that make up the bulk of days. And you gave him a chance to be a person for awhile, calm and in control of himself. That was an incredible gift to both of you. I hope that was enough to carry him awhile, and enough to carry you now in the wake of his loss. -- Kami
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Postby Akil Todd Harvey » Thu Jan 08, 2004 9:53 pm


Not sure what to say here, but your post was very moving.........on many levels......One of the hardest parts of posting is finding the right forum to put it under (I could envision this post being at home in several of the other forums as well)-Not a criticism, just am observation......

You inspire, many thanks...........God Bless You......Akil
Seek knowledge from cradle to grave
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Postby Ted Dinwiddie » Thu Jan 22, 2004 3:10 am

Maybe that poor, tortured soul has found peace.

"There's only one basic human right, the right to do as you damn well please. And with it comes the only basic human duty, the duty to take the consequences." - P.J. O'Rourke
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