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Bipolar Community Will Not Be Silenced: We Fight For Social Justice So His Small Children No Longer Plead, "When Is Daddy Coming Home?"
Post by Kerry Martin, CEO and Founder of Hope Xchange Nonprofit. Note all names have been changed to protect the identity of the family and in particular, the falsely accused, an innocent person who remains after five years in a locked-down facility for the mentally insane.
Background on this Social Justice Case
In the third in Hope Xchange's series exploring social justice for the mentally ill, I presented factual details on a major miscarriage of justice in the criminal case of Keith, a 43-year-old dad, son and brother living with bipolar disorder who has been locked up since 2012 for something he has been falsely accused of by the State of Virginia. In particular, I addressed why I believe this case is the poster child of all that is so wrong with the criminal justice and mental health care system in this country. That post can be read here: The Criminal Justice System and the Mentally Ill -- What’s Wrong? Fighting Alongside the Unjustly Accused to Bring Daddy Home.
How Unjust Treatment of the Mentally Ill Affects the Family
Today, we share the heartbreaking perspectives of the often overlooked victims: the families of those who are unjustly treated by not only the criminal justice system but also the political, social services and mental health care system.
In a follow up to yesterday's post, Keith's mother, Maria, and his sister, Lynn, share with us how this case has affected them personally, their family, and Keith's two young children. Keith also asked me to share something with our readers.
From His Mother, Maria:
"As for the impact on the family . . . mostly begging everyone for help, breaking down over and over, running around in circles . . . feeling like no one cares.
The worst thing is pouring your heart out to every person who could possibly help get him out of jail or out of the mental hospital, and then getting the same response: "So sorry about all you are going through, but we cannot do anything. However, you can call or write to ______, because they help people like your son. Then you contact that agency or organization, only to get the same response.
Only those who have lived through this horrific ordeal can relate to the frustration of knowing your loved one is being mistreated and punished, and could possibly imagine the heartache.
Reading and learning about the number of families who have lost their loved ones and are still fighting to save them breaks your heart over and over . . . so it becomes a never ending nightmare. All the countless hours of writing, talking on the phone, researching, reading laws and horror stories takes a toll on the family.
Then there is the financial burden of trying to make sure the children have all they need. Also, not having money to pay a lawyer to help their dad get out, and not being able to make extra money because of feeling physically and mentally drained by the hardship of having a son locked up.
I know the answers are yet to come, and there will be a solution. Life will be good. We have to hold on to our hopes and continue to have faith that the truth will be told, and my son and his children will be reunited. This is all we have to hold on to, so I pray everyday, and hope that day will come soon. In addition, every holiday, every birthday, and every time the family is all together, there is always someone missing. My son cannot be with us. Those in power could not care less about our family, or anyone else.
Thank you Kerry for all you are doing. I appreciate you more than I can say."
From his Sister, Lynn:
"Personally, I am angered, frustrated and heartbroken. I feel angry that my brother has been taken away from his life, his family and his friends for so long, mainly due to false accusations . . .
I am frustrated by all the rules that the facility he is in seem to change daily and you never know exactly what you are supposed to do. I used to be able to take Keith snacks or other items he would request and leave them at the front desk because visiting hours conflict with my schedule . . . I guess they got tired of my deliveries so they put a stop to that.
I am frustrated that his treatment team always seems to make my brother feel like he isn't complying when all he does is what he is supposed to. I am frustrated that they make him feel like he can't speak up for himself and that if he does, he will look non-compliant (including trying to appeal his case to prove that he was wrongfully accused).
I am heartbroken because his children have missed very important bonding years with their father, years that you develop that special relationship with your children. I feel like when he finally does get to be the parent that they will be strangers because an hour a month does nothing to build trust, to feel safe, to feel loved by your parent. His children suffer because they will never have that bond with their father.
I am heartbroken because my mom and dad have to be parents and can't have a normal grandparent/grandchild relationship . . . because they have to be the ones who discipline, makes rules and then enforce them. The grandparents are supposed to spoil the grandkids. And my mom and dad shouldn't have to raise their grandchildren.
His kids are missing out on so much and my brother has to miss out on their milestones. He can't comfort them when they are sick or sad, or share in their happy times. His life is over while he is in that facility. He doesn't deserve to be stuck in limbo for wrongfully entering a dwelling. His children don't deserve to be without a father.
I wish that you could place people that are trying, and doing well, on something like house arrest instead of confined in a facility far from his children that need him. I don't know why they make him wait so long. He is kind, smart, and trying so hard to get where he needs to be. He is regulated on his medicine and should be free.
If I were in his situation I don't know if I could be as patient . . . I just hate this and wish it could all be over."
From Keith, the Falsely Accused:
"In the future, it would help if mentally-ill disabled people would have an advocate on their side to distinguish whether trumped up false charges were involved in the court system. This is the courts way of abusing mentally ill people, because they do not believe mental illness exist, so the court uses its power to punish us. I have been told that they think we are trying to get away with a crime. So, they trump up charges to make things harder on us to keep us in the mental health system. It is not honest, it is not justice, and it is not right."
Hope Xchange Will Keep Fighting for Social Justice for Keith, His Mother, His Sister and His Two Young Children
Our long, exhausting battle for social justice wages on with no end in sight. With that said, we have absolutely no intention of giving up. While Keith has been repeatedly told he cannot advocate for himself if he has any hope of getting out, we will not be silenced. We will not back down until his name is clear and all false charges are dropped. We will not give up until he is safely in the arms of his children where he belongs and where they need him to be.
Albert Einstein is indeed right and this is particularly true for those who are mentally ill and who are not in a position to advocate for themselves through no fault of their own.