When I hear this anthem, “I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” It sickens me because it is an out right lie!

      The last six word appear to be pretty concrete, Liberty and Justice for all, is what America has been asking children to pledge for years. It doesn’t read Liberty and Justice for the wealthy, Liberty and Justice for anyone under the age of fifty. It doesn’t read Liberty and Justice for anyone with red hair, or Liberty and Justice for celebrities with more than ten years in the industry. For years I stood in school with my right hand place on my heart and the words that resonated in my mind as a child and still today are “Liberty and Justice for all.”

      Herbert Spencer theory was, only the strongest and fit would survive, and the weaker, less fortunate, smaller, uneducated, and economically challenged would die off. Spencer’s theory is undeniably true. In the early 1800s the mentally ill were locked away in asylums, caged like rats, and treated very badly because they were unable to fend for themselves. There were very few, if any, resources back then for people with mental illness. Spenser’s theory is continuously proven every time a mentally ill patient is jailed and house with common criminal. When they are not capable of being a part of their recovery process and when options are not mapped out for them in a collaborative way. They are denied liberty and justice that has been so freely promise centuries ago.

      There is a definite moral dilemma anytime there is a human life that is disregarded like yesterday’s trash. Often time’s human service workers who are paid to monitor mental health clients through a case management service are over worked and under paid. Still no excuse for breaking codes of ethics and also mental health patients are over medicated and unable to collaborate with case worker. This does not sound like liberty and justice for all, not for the mentally ill anyway. Even with manageable clients because of heavy case load clients are not getting the services that they need. In some cases clients become so completely lost and start committing crimes leaving the law no other choice but to lock them up. Thus, leaving the mentally ill client to fend for themselves, behind bars, with no guardianship they become victims.

      Therefore they become prey to some pretty hard core criminals. There are really not many options to assist these clients. There are so many resources being depleted for services, these programs genuinely want to help. In January 2006 the Harrisburg Hospital that housed over 2,000 patients abruptly closed down. Those patients were sent out in the community and other institutions that I am sure where not a good fit for them. There were a lot of severely mentally ill patients on those grounds and I often wonder what happen to them.

      My uncle was one of those patients and thank God he has a family who cares about him and his well being. My grandmother, who is his mother, found him somewhere safe and stable to live; she knew the changes were coming to the hospital. He had a friend I remember seeing often after the hospital closed. He just kind of hung around the Harrisburg area, I remember him and my uncle chain smoked and drank Pepsi all day. Obsession is one of the symptoms of mental illness so chain smoking and caffeine was what they did all day. They were really good friends, they were safe and happy. I remember the visits to see him, they were so free on the state hospital ground, and they were home.

      I run a self help meeting at Dauphin County Prison and have been for the last 12 years, I go every other week through an organization we will keep anonymous. My uncle’s friend came into the meeting; it had been several years since the hospital had closed down. He told me he had been transported to the mens mission for the homeless after the hospital shut down. He says he couldn’t get his medication stable with out help from the usual nursing staff they had been provided at the hospital. He seemed healthy and on his medication from my eyes view but the black eye and busted lip he sported told another story. He obsessively asked where my uncle was, never giving me a chance to answer before he would ask again.

      He recognized me immediately, he told me he had stayed out one night just roaming Harrisburg and they put him out of the mission. Traumatized I’m sure from the culture shock. He was arrested several times for loitering and after being released with no family and no where to go he says he continued to loiter. He accumulated fines that he was unable to pay and has been in dauphin County Prison for over a year he said. Liberty and justice for all is not uprooting people who have been in the same building there entire lives and telling them they have to get out of there home, the only one they knew. With no real destination, almost like a last call in a bar; “you aint got to go home but you gosta get the hell up out of here”

      There is a sure dilemma, do we leave them in jail to rot with common criminals to become victims or do we set them aside somewhere in an overcrowded group home with unskilled workers? Do we over medicate them to the point they are unable to make there own choices? Choices are made by people who don’t care either way, just as long as they get paid and keep a job where they do absolutely nothing. Purposely over medicated clients to keep them immobilized is wrong that is not liberty or justice. Neither is throwing them in jail with common criminals, that isn’t liberty or justice either.

      It is a real hard choice to make when dealing with programing cuts and mental illness neither option is one I am comfortable with. No one wins, if my uncle didn’t have family I would rather see him in a group home over medicated than in jail being beaten and possibly raped. These are hard choices, as long as cuts to mental health programing continue to be cut this moral dilemma will always exist. It is high time we start caring for the weaker less fortunate, I suppose Herbert Spencer was right, only the strong survive.


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