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Just Say "No?"

by Philip McLaughlin  

We are reprinting the following article because we think our readers will be interested in knowing about the forced drugging of prisoners. The legal background for this is that in 1989 the Washington state supreme court decided Washington v. Harper which held that before prisoners could be drugged they had to be found incompetent by a court and the drugging had to be necessary for medical reasons. The state appealed and in 1990 the U.S. Supreme Court held that it does not violate due process to forcibly drug prisoners, even those who have never been found incompetent and are not mentally ill, as long as prison doctors claim it is necessary. They did this while acknowledging the severe and permanent damage that powerful psychotropic drugs inflict. Since then, PLN has reported numerous cases which have upheld prison officials, ability to forcibly and indefinitely drug prisoners.]

Here we live in the time of the mighty War on Drugs, with D.A.R.E. programs and "Just Say No" slogans everywhere we look. Drug use has probably never been frowned upon more by the mass media and the Establishment and, consequently the public. But how many people are aware of the practice of administering mind-altering drugs against a person's will by our prisons and mental institutions today?  We are talking about psychotropic drugs prescribed by state employed psychiatrists. These drugs are supposedly for the use of "helping" prisoners and patients with a variety of mental ailments from minor depression to schizophrenia.

I first became aware of the practice of forcing drugs on prisoners when I came to the Special Offenders Center in Monroe, Washington. I was transferred from an Intensive Management Unit at Washington Corrections Center in Shelton where I had been housed for several months. They suspected I was suffering from a severe depression, so they sent me to S.O.C. for an evaluation period of 3-4 months. As of this writing, I have been at S.O.C. over three months, and will soon be leaving since my depression "miraculously" disappeared once I was taken out of the "hole" at Shelton where conditions were, and remain, inhumane and -- not surprisingly, depressing!

While at S.O.C. I have witnessed a nightmarish process in which various prisoners have been forced to take drugs. Many of these psychotropic drugs cause mild to severe side effects. Common side effects include, but are not limited to, muscle spasms, restricted or delayed movement, blurred vision, nausea, extreme thirst and "cotton mouth," memory loss, extreme fatigue, loss of concentration, and slowed thought processes. In rare instances death has occurred as a result of taking new and dangerous drugs because either the testing on these experimental drugs was not thorough enough to discover possible serious side effects, or the side-effect medication supposed to accompany the drug was either not administered, administered too late, or administered in too low of a dosage.

The process of placing an prisoner on involuntary medication status involves the recommendation of the prisoner's assigned counselor and then an involuntary medication hearing. The hearing is a mere formality, a kangaroo court composed of a panel of biased state-employed staff and doctors, including two psychologists, one psychiatrist, one hearing officer and the prisoner's assigned counselor. The counselor states his/ her case to the doctors. The prisoner is allowed to make a statement. The hearing officer operates the tape recorder, and is responsible for ensuring that the hearing is conducted properly. Two of the doctors must vote in favor of the involuntary medication status, and one of the doctors must be the psychiatrist. Once enacted, the in-voluntary medication status is reviewed once every six months by the same panel. The determining factors the doctors are supposed to go by are whether or not the prisoner presents a "serious threat to the safety of himself, others or property" when not on medication.

And what actions by an prisoner are commonly defined as being serous safety threats? Unpredictable violent episodes? Breaking windows,  assaults?  Perhaps in some cases these reasons are used, but the instances I have witnessed here were much less serious.

One prisoner by the name of Mike threatened to punch a guard during a heated argument. He never did so and has no history of assaultive behavior, but was placed on involuntary medication status nonetheless. Now, as a result of the drugs, he looks and acts like a zombie; his thought process is much slower and he has stiff muscles that curl his wrists back so that when he walks he has the swinging arm motions of an ape.

Another man by the name of Bill was recently placed on involuntary medication status because he informed the superintendent that his "psychic employers" would have him taken care of if he was not released from S.O.C. immediately. Bill believes he is a psychic general employed by a secret psychic forces agency in D.C. under supervision of the President himself. He repeatedly informs the counselor and officers that the President has ordered his immediate release, and that he is currently being kept at S.O.C. illegally. Okay, so he's not quite right in the head, but the supposed "threat" was no more than the delusional rumblings of a harmless old man.

Another prisoner, Pat, was placed on involuntary medication status because he ripped up some of his generic state-issued clothing. For this act he was considered to be "a serious threat to property." And the list goes on.

Obviously, the above-mentioned examples are not reason enough to force a man or woman to ingest mind altering drugs against their will. But in my opinion, even if these prisoners were actually assaultive or whatever worst-case-scenarios one can come up with, it still would not justify playing God with another human being and forcing that person to take mind-altering drugs into their body. This is a basic human right that should never be violated for any reason. If some one is assaultive, then isolate them from others, if absolutely necessary.  If one is suicidal, then watch that person closely. If someone is a threat to property, then limit that person's access to damageable property. But never should any man have a right to force another man or woman to ingest mind-altering drugs against their will. Never!

And what happens to those prisoners who exercise their choice to "Just Say No?" If a person on involuntary medication status refuses to take his prescribed drugs, he will be forced to do so by the "goon squad." A group of five or six guards gear themselves up in black jump suits, combat boots, helmets, shields, and gas masks. They then proceed to the prisoner's cell. If the prisoner refuses to cuff-up so a shot can be administered to him, then the goon squad sprays him with a powerful gas that, on contact with skin, literally gives the sensation of being on fire. It also burns the lungs and blinds. They spray again and again until the prisoner complies or passes out.  They then hold the prisoner down while a nurse administers a shot with a hypodermic needle in the prisoner's behind.  All this is done in the name of "mental health," part of a supposed "benevolent" effort to help people with mental illnesses, when what it really is, is a legal way to exert total control over people through the use of drugs. And who's to stop them? If prisoners have very little support or sympathy from the public, or defenders of any kind, then mentally ill prisoners and patients, most of whom have no concerned family or friends to help from the outside -- have even less.

Imagine if you will, a syringe in my hand. I am coming toward you. I have six men in riot gear, armed with gas canister and handcuffs to back me up. You will take my mind-altering drugs or you will suffer!  I do not care if you don't understand what it is you're taking. I don't care if they muddle your brain, tranquilize or zombify you. I don't care about your fears or the painful side effects. I have no moral problems with invading your body with mind-altering drugs. You will take these drugs now or we will attack!

You have a question? Hmm. No, I'm sorry -- you cannot "Just Say No."

Reprinted from North Coast Xpress.

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