Some Might Call It Torture

Some might call it torture.

By Rev. Paul N. Papas II

Thu Jun 04, 2009, 03:05 PM EDT

It is my understanding that many people don’t like the idea that this country uses torture. Many would tell you that this country does not use torture.

I looked up torture in the dictionary and found:1) the act of inflicting excruciating pain, as “punishment or revenge, as a means of getting a confession or information, or for sheer cruelty. 2) a method of inflicting such pain. 3) Often, tortures. the pain or suffering caused or undergone. 4) extreme anguish of body or mind; agony. 5) a cause of severe pain or anguish.”.(Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Dictionary, Random House, Inc. 2009.)

Sensory deprivation is one the techniques of torture and is a deliberate reduction or removal of stimuli from one or more of the senses. Sensory deprivation has been used in various alternative medicines and in psychological experiments and is accomplished in isolation cells in jails and by some abusers.

Though short periods of sensory deprivation can be relaxing, extended deprivation can result in extreme anxiety, hallucinations, bizarre thoughts, depression, and antisocial behavior.

Let’s try this scenario. A person exhibiting unacceptable behavior scares people around him and the police are called. A trained police officer arrives on the scene and has to assess the situation. The officer determines that an offence has been committed by the person. A number of outcomes are available to him. If the police officer determines that the person may have a mental health issue he can have that person examined by a professional.

Depending upon the offense it is possible the court could decide to offer the person treatment instead of jail. The court would have to be convinced that the person committed the offence as a result a mental illness. Should this person accept the treatment and continues with that treatment for a set period of time the offence is dismissed. This dismissal means that the mental illness is not criminalized and the person does not have a criminal record. I have given you a very brief overview of the Jail Diversion program.

A criminal record because of a mental illness doubles the stigma and makes it more difficult for someone to find a job or do other things.

Had this person ended up in a jail or prison, then it is very likely that person would spend a significant time in isolation. Jails and prisons are not properly equipped to handle a mental illness episode. Isolation produces sensory deprivation, which is torture, and can result in extreme anxiety, hallucinations, bizarre thoughts, depression, and antisocial behavior, the very thing that brought that person with a mental illness to that isolation cell.

Jail or prison isolation can be much more harmful to a person with a mental illness as isolation makes that person worse instead of better. They are torture to a person with a mental illness. The person with a mental illness is a victim of a chemical imbalance, yet he is blamed and punished.

Another scenario: A girl is abused by her brother and father. The girl is assaulted by her brother and files criminal charges against the brother and moves out of the house. Her father disinherits his daughter because she disgraced the family by bringing the charges and because she abandoned the family when she moved out. The father dies and leaves the daughter nothing. The daughter sues the estate for her share and looses because the judge ruled that she abandoned the family. The daughter is isolated from her family and her rightful inheritance. The daughter is tortured by her brother and father then blamed and victimized by the judge.

Which torture would you condone?

Next month you will see a change in my information below as I am retiring as President of NAMI Greater Framingham this month. I will continue to stand up for those who suffer from a mental illness and those affected by abuse. They are both tortured by things or events not of their own making. I will continue to help the abused, the abuser, and those affected by abuse to heal.

I have enjoyed serving NAMI Greater Framingham as vice president then several terms as president. I thank the membership for helping my service to them be enjoyable and successful. I also thank the Board members and Officers with whom I served. Two notable successes are hosting the NAMI State Convention in Framingham in 2007 and the approval of the soon to be open Alliance House at 20 Vernon St, Framingham. The Alliance House in cooperation with The Advocates, Inc is permanent supportive housing for people suffering from a mental illness.

Not only would I like to see the cycle of abuse stop, but I would also like to see the Jail Diversion Program instituted nationwide. It costs less to treat than ware house those with a mental illness in a jail or prison and decriminalizes mental illness.

The Rev. Paul N. Papas II is a Pastoral Counselor with Narrow Path Ministries (located in MA and AZ), founder of the Family Renewal Center and current President of NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) Greater Framingham. NAMI Greater Framingham has support groups for family and friends in Framingham and Uxbridge, support groups for consumers in Marlboro and Framingham , and various Education Meetings on the first Thursday evenings of the months from September through May www.narrowpathministries.org, www.familyrenewalcenteraz.org, and www.namigreaterframingham.org

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