AlterNet: Is New York Lying in Diagnoses So it Can Lock Mentally Ill Inmates in Solitary Confinement?
Is New York Lying in Diagnoses So It Can Lock Mentally Ill Inmates in Solitary Confinement?
When Amir Hall entered New York state prison for a parole violation in November 2009, he came with a long list of psychological problems. Hall arrived at the prison from a state psychiatric hospital, after he had tried to suffocate himself. Hospital staff diagnosed Hall with serious depression.
In Mid-State prison, Hall was in and out of solitary confinement for fighting with other inmates and other rule violations. After throwing Kool-Aid at an officer, he was sentenced to seven months in solitary at Great Meadow Correctional Facility, a maximum-security prison in upstate New York.
Hall did not want to be moved. When his mother and grandmother visited him that spring, Hall warned them: If he didn’t get out of prison soon, he would not be coming home.
“There was somebody who looked defeated, like the life was beat out of him,” said his sister Shaleah Hall. “I don’t know who that person was. The person in that video was not my brother.”
Multiple  studies  have shown that isolation can damage inmates’ minds, particularly those already struggling with mental illness. In recent years, New York state has led the way in implementing policies to protect troubled inmates from the trauma of solitary confinement .
A 2007 federal court order  required New York to provide inmates with “serious” mental illness more treatment while in solitary. And a follow-up law  enacted in 2011 all but bans such inmates from being put there altogether.
But something odd has happened: Since protections were first added, the number of inmates diagnosed with severe mental illness has dropped. The number of inmates diagnosed with “serious” mental illness is down 33 percent since 2007, compared to a 13 percent decrease in the state’s prison population.
A larger portion of inmates flagged for mental issues are now being given more modest diagnoses, such as adjustment disorders or minor mood disorders.
The New York Office of Mental Health says the decrease reflects improvements to the screening process. Efforts to base diagnoses on firmer evidence “has resulted in somewhat fewer, but better-substantiated diagnoses” of serious mental illness, said a spokesman for the office in an emailed statement.
In Hall’s case, prison mental health staff never labeled his problems as “serious.”
Instead, they repeatedly downgraded his diagnosis. After three months in solitary — during which Hall was put on suicide watch twice — they changed his status to a level for inmates who have experienced “at least six months of psychiatric stability.”
Two weeks after his diagnosis was downgraded, and two days after he was transferred to solitary at Great Meadow, guards found Hall in his cell hanging from a bed sheet.
As part of a report issued on every inmate death, the Corrections Department’s Medical Review Board found no documented reason behind the change in Hall’s diagnosis .
A 2011 Poughkeepsie Journal investigation detailed a spike in inmate suicides  in 2010, which disproportionately took place in solitary confinement. Death reports from the state’s oversight committee obtained by the Journal  suggest several inmates who have committed suicide in recent years may have been under-diagnosed.
Hall’s family is suing the Corrections Department and the Office of Mental Health, among other defendants, for failing to treat his mental illness and instead locking him in solitary.
New York State’s Office of Mental Health, which is in charge of inmates’ mental health care, declined to comment on Hall’s case, citing the litigation.
Amir Hall (or Mir, as his family calls him) was originally arrested in October 2007, for the unarmed robbery of a Verizon store. He made off with $86. Released on parole, he lived with his sister Shaleah Hall and her two sons while working at a local Holiday Inn and studying to become a nurse.
“Sometimes I sit there thinking that he’s going to walk through the door and make everybody laugh,” said Shaleah, who has “In Loving Memory of Amir” tattooed in a curling ribbon on her right bicep. “He was the life of the party. If you met him, you would just love him.”
But Hall’s mood could shift in an instant, Shaleah said. He was often paranoid, worried that people judged him for being gay. He would snap, then apologize repeatedly for it afterward.
“You had to walk on eggshells sometimes, because you never knew if he was going to be happy or sad that day,” Shaleah said. “It was like this ever since we were kids.”
One of those outbursts landed Hall back in prison for violating parole, after he got into a fight with Shaleah’s friend.
Knowing her brother’s history of mental illness, Shaleah said solitary confinement must have “drove him crazy.”
“I feel like they treated him like an animal,” she said. “They just locked him away and forgot about him.”
The lawsuit over Hall’s death claims mental health and prison staff ignored recommendations that he receive more treatment, and that staff members failed to properly assess his mental health when he arrived at Great Meadow.
In a response  to the state oversight committee’s assessment of Hall’s case, the Office of Mental Health said they were retraining staff on screening for suicide risk. The Corrections Department said they were working to improve communication when inmates are transferred to new facilities.
Sarah Kerr, a staff attorney with the Prisoners’ Rights Project of the Legal Aid Society, noted Hall’s case during a Senate hearing on solitary confinement . “The repeated punitive responses to [Hall] as he psychiatrically deteriorated in solitary confinement exemplify the importance of vigilance and monitoring, and the need for diversion from harmful solitary confinement,” she wrote.
Kerr points out that significant improvements have been made for inmates diagnosed above the “serious” mental illness line. The new mental health units provide at least four hours of out-of-cell treatment a day, and speed up an inmate’s return to the general population.
“I don’t think those improvements should be taken lightly,” said Kerr. “In terms of mental health policy, we’re way ahead of the country.”
But when it comes to solitary confinement, “New York is among the worst states,” said Taylor Pendergrass of the New York Civil Liberties Union, which is suing the state  over its use of isolation. “Even if you’re totally sane and you go into solitary, it’s incredibly hard to deal with the psychological toll of that,” he said.
Solitary confinement is used in jails and prisons across the country, though there’s no reliable data to compare its prevalence among states. Experts say New York stands out for sentencing inmates to solitary for infractions as minor as having too many postage stamps or a messy cell. A report from the NYCLU  found that five out of six solitary sentences in New York prisons were for “non-violent misbehavior.”
Under the state’s new law, all inmates housed in solitary — known in New York as Special Housing Units, or SHU — receive regular check-ins from mental health staff. The screenings are meant to catch inmates not originally diagnosed with a disorder who develop problems in isolation.
But Jennifer Parish, director of criminal justice advocacy at the Urban Justice Center, said she thinks many staff members still view inmates’ symptoms as attempts to avoid punishment. “If you don’t believe that being in solitary can have detrimental effects to a person’s mental health, you’re going to see someone who just says, ‘I want to get out of here,'” she said.
Beck has seen the same skepticism in conversations with some prison staff. “There’s a bias in the system that looks at the incarcerated population as anti-social, malingerers, manipulators,” Beck said. “I hear that all the time.”
When inmates ask to see mental health staff, “we have found far too often that it appears security staff really resent people asking for these interventions,” Beck said. “We have in a few facilities what I think are credible stories of individuals being beaten up when they want to go to the crisis center.”
As Sarah Kerr sees it, “if mental health staff are overly concerned that people are feigning illness, that they’re conning their way out of special housing … that will lead to tragedies.”
The Corrections Department says any unusual behavior by inmates or attempts to hurt themselves are reported to mental health staff. A spokesman for the Office of Mental Health said “inmates reporting psychiatric symptoms are taken seriously and assessed carefully.”
Donna Currao said prison staff ignored her and her husband, Tommy Currao, when he attempted suicide at least 10 times over the course of 10 months in solitary confinement. According to his wife, Currao had been sent to solitary after testing positive for heroin.
Currao’s first suicide attempt in solitary was in July 2012, when he tried to overdose on heroin. That October, guards found him attempting to hang himself in his cell. While on suicide watch after he tried again to overdose, Currao broke open his hearing aid and used the metal inside to cut his wrists. (He received a bill of $500 for “destruction of state property,” Donna said.)
Both the Corrections Department and the Office of Mental Health declined to comment on Currao’s case.
According to the Corrections Department, an inmate can be returned to solitary confinement after being on suicide watch if they’re cleared by the Office of Mental Health. In 2011, 14 percent of the 8,242 inmates released from New York’s mental health crisis units were sent to solitary confinement.
After just three weeks in isolation, Donna noticed a dramatic change in her husband. He “was withdrawn, all he would do is apologize,” Donna said. He was no longer laughing with her, playing cards or chatting with other inmates. She watched him drop from 240 pounds to 160.
Currao stopped writing the almost daily letters he’d sent for 13 years. When Donna persuaded him to start again, as a way to escape, he talked of an overwhelming sadness.
Donna says she repeatedly called the prison. She faxed them copies of Currao’s suicidal letters. But he remained in isolation.
“I don’t know if they don’t want to spend the money, or think it’s a joke,” she said. “They still thought he wanted out of solitary. He wanted out of the picture is what he wanted.”
A survey  by the state’s independent oversight committee found many family members who said prison officials didn’t listen to concerns about inmates’ psychological wellbeing. None of the mental health files reviewed by the oversight committee contained information from family members about a prisoner’s psychiatric history.
The Office of Mental Health says it’s working on creating new procedures to “insure that the call is responded to promptly and in a manner that addresses the family member’s concern as best as possible.”
Prisoner rights advocates are also working on a new legislative proposal to ensure that mentally ill inmates get the treatment they need. A coalition of groups  is drafting a new bill, which would expand protections from solitary for inmates with mental illness, and put a limit on solitary confinement sentences for any prisoner, whether or not they’re diagnosed with a disorder.
“Even though there’s a law that says you can’t do this for people with serious mental illness, it hasn’t stopped [Corrections] from using solitary,” said Parish. “I think they just replaced it with lower-level tickets instead of some of the most serious ones.”
In May, Donna’s persistence in trying to get her husband treatment finally saw results. Currao met with a psychologist, and was diagnosed with “serious” anti-social personality disorder and dysthymic disorder. He was moved out of solitary confinement and into one of the 170 Residential Mental Health Treatment beds created under the recent law.
Currao “seems to be 1,000 times better” since entering treatment, Donna said. He talks about wanting to become a counselor when he’s released.
But Donna wonders why it took so many suicide attempts and nearly a year of pressure to get her husband a proper diagnosis and the treatment he was legally owed. “They are not enforcing this law,” she said. “Why do we have to fight so hard to get them evaluated?”
Hall’s family is left with the same questions as they search for answers about his death. “How many more people have to die?” Shaleah asked. “They need help. Locking them away is hurting them more.”
Support “Hunger for Justice”
Apoyo “Hambre por la Justicia”
On July 22, Billy “Guero” Sell, a prisoner held in solitary confinement at Corcoran State Prison and a participant in the 3-week-long hunger strike that has shaken the California prison system, passed away. Sell’s death is being ruled a suicide by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR).
Fellow prisoners reported that Sell had been requesting medical attention for several days prior to his death. Attorneys received numerous reports of medical neglect of the health needs of the strikers, and these reports have generated an outcry from the medical community. Over 100 health care providers have signed onto a letter denouncing the CDCR’s failure to provide appropriate medical care to the strikers.
The prisoners are still committed to continuing the strike until California Governor Jerry Brown and the California Department of Corrections take decisive action to meet their demands.
Today is Day 23 of the hunger strike, and CDCR continues to retaliate against prisoners participating in this peaceful protest while refusing to negotiate. It is important that we continue to show our support & keep the pressure on Gov. Brown and the CDCR!
We have over 5,000 people that have signed the petition to Governor Brown. Now we need 30,000 CALLS for 30,000 Hunger Strikers!
JOIN US and USE YOUR POLITICAL POWER!
1) DAY 23: Call Governor Jerry Brown
Phone: (916) 445-2841
Fax: (916) 558-3160
Suggested script: I’m calling in support of the prisoners on hunger strike. The governor has the power to stop the torture of solitary confinement. I urge the governor to compel the CDCR to enter into negotiations to end the strike. RIGHT NOW is their chance to enter into clear, honest negotiations with the strikers to end the torture.
2) Make sure you send this email to your friends, families, and networks. Ask them to stand in solidarity with us – sign the petition today and help us reach 30,000 calls
3) Support the Day Long Hunger Strike this Wednesday! “Hunger for Justice” will have convenings throughout California. We fast in solidarity with the demands of the hunger strikers. And we fast to get justice for Trayvon and for people of every gender, race, and religion who have been killed by state and vigilante violence.
– Wednesday, July 31st All Day Community Education (Pick up Materials at SubRosa Community Space & Cafe: 703 Pacific Ave Santa Cruz, CA 95060 and Mobilize at 6:30pm at Santa Cruz Downtown Clocktower on Ocean st. & Pacific St.)
Thank you for your commitment. Ya Basta!
El 22 de julio, Billy “Guero” Vender, un preso recluido en régimen de aislamiento en la prisión estatal de Corcoran y participante en la huelga de hambre por 3 semanas de duración que ha sacudido el sistema penitenciario de California, falleció. La muerte de Venta se descarta un suicidio por el Departamento de Correcciones y Rehabilitación de California (CDCR).
Sus compañeros de prisión informaron que venden había estado pidiendo asistencia médica durante varios días antes de su muerte. Abogados recibieron numerosos informes de negligencia médica de las necesidades de salud de los huelguistas, y estos informes han generado la protesta de la comunidad médica. Más de 100 profesionales de la salud han firmado una carta denunciando el fracaso del CDCR para proporcionar atención médica adecuada a los huelguistas.
Los presos se han comprometido a continuar la huelga hasta que el gobernador de California Jerry Brown y el Departamento de Correcciones de California toman medidas decisivas para satisfacer sus demandas.
Hoy es el día 23 de la huelga de hambre, y el CDCR sigue tomando represalias contra los presos que participaron en esta protesta pacífica mientras niegan a negociar. Es importante que sigamos para mostrar nuestro apoyo y mantener la presión sobre el gobernador Brown y el CDCR!
Tenemos más de 5,000 personas que han firmado la petición al gobernador Brown. Ahora necesitamos 30,000 llamadas para los 30,000 huelguistas!
¡únase con nosotrxs y usen su poder político!
1) Día 17: Llamen al gobernador jerry brown
teléfono: (916) 445-2841
FAX: (916) 558-3160
Guión Sugerido: Estoy llamando porque apoyo a los presos que participan en la huelga de hambre. El gobernador tiene todo el poder para eliminar la tortura de aislamiento en solitario. Yo insto al gobernador a que exija al CDCR entrar en negociaciones claras y honestas con los huelguistas para poner así fin a la huelga. AHORITA MISMO es su oportunidad de negociar y terminar con la tortura injustificada.
2) Asegúrese de enviar este correo electrónico a sus amigos, familias y redes. Pídales que ser solidarios con nosotros – firmar la petición hoy y ayúdenos a alcanzar 30,000 llamadas
3) Apoya el día de huelga de hambre este miércoles! “Hambre de Justicia” tendrá eventos en California. Ayunamos sabiendo que la criminalización que mató a Trayvon Martin, y la criminalización que justifica la tortura de prisioneros en confinamiento solitario son unidos, y ayunamos en solidaridad con las demandas de los huelgistas de hambre. También ayunamos para lograr justicia por Trayvon y personas de cualquier genero, raza, y religion que ha sido asesinados por la violencia estatal o vigilante.
– Miércoles, 31 de julio a las 11am (Oscar Grant Plaza :14th and Broadway, Oakland, CA)
– Miércoles, 31 de julio a las 12pm (Downtown Los Angeles Federal Building, 300 N. Los Angeles St. LA 90012)
– Miércoles, 31 de julio Educación de la Comunidad durante todo el día (Puedes recoger los materiales en SubRosa Community Space & Cafe: 703 Pacific Ave Santa Cruz, CA 95060 y Participar en el evento a las 6:30pm en Santa Cruz Downtown Clocktower on Ocean st. & Pacific St.)
Gracias por tu compromiso. Ya Basta
In solidarity/En solidaridad,
Annie Banks, Californians United for a Responsible Budget” <email@example.com>
- CA Prisoners’ Hunger Strike Day 23: Call Today and Strike Tomorrow in Solidarity! (indybay.org)
- “Man Down!” (inprisonedwomen.wordpress.com)
- Around 30.000 inmates held in prisons across California have taken the first steps towards …the largest hunger strike in state history (inprisonedwomen.wordpress.com)
- Suicide of California Hunger Strike Participant Draws National Attention to a Broken System (solitarywatch.com)
- Mass Hunger Strike by California Prisoners Continues Despite Retaliation by Authorities (dissidentvoice.org)
- California Hunger Strikers Enter Third Week, Face Retaliation by Victoria Law (zcommunications.org)
- California prison hunger strike is call for justice | Sadhbh Walshe (guardian.co.uk)
- Did California Inmate Die From Hunger Strike or Suicide? (blogs.sfweekly.com)
- Cdcr Punishes Hunger Strikers, Brown Goes on Vacation (aboriginalpress.wordpress.com)
World’s Most Evil and Lawless Institution? The Executive Branch of the U.S. Government
America has a secret. It is not discussed in polite company or at the dinner tables of the powerful, rich and famous.
Parents do not teach it to their children. Best-selling authors do not write about it. Politicians and government officials ignore it. Intellectuals avoid it. High school and college textbooks do not refer to it. TV pundits do not comment on it. Teachers do not teach it. Journalists from the nation’s most highly regarded TV news shows, newspapers and magazines, do not report it. Columnists do not opine about it. Editorial writers do not editorialize about it. Religious leaders do not sermonize about it. Think tanks and professors do not study it. Lawyers do not litigate it and judges do not rule on it.
The courageous few who do not keep this secret, who try to break through to their fellow citizens about it, are marginalized and ignored by society at large.
To begin to understand the magnitude of this secret, imagine that you get into your car in New York City, and set out for a drive south, staying overnight in Washington DC, a four-hour drive. As you leave, you look out your window to the left and see a row of bodies, laid end to end, running alongside you all the way to DC.
You spend the night there, and set out early the next morning for Charleston, South Carolina, an 11-hour drive. Again, looking out your window, you see the line of bodies continues, hour after hour. You are struck that most are middle-aged or older men and women, younger women, or children. You arrive in Charleston, check into your hotel, have a good meal, and get up early the next morning to drive to Miami, another 12-hour drive. And once again, hour after hour, the line of bodies continues, all the way to your destination.
If you can imagine such a drive you can begin to get a feeling for former Defense Secretary Robert McNamara‘s mid-range estimate of 1.2 million civilians killed by U.S. firepower in Vietnam. (The U.S. Senate Refugee Committee estimated 430,000 civilian dead at the end of the war. Later estimates as more information has become available, e.g. by Nick Turse, author of Kill Anything That Moves, put  the number as high as 2 million.)
And the secret that is never discussed is far larger. To the 430,000 to 2 million civilians killed in Vietnam must be added those killed in Laos, Cambodia, Afghanistan, Iraq and many other nations (see below), all those wounded and maimed for life, and the many millions more forced to leave villages in which their families had lived for centuries to become penniless refugees. All told, U.S. Executive Branch leaders – Democrat and Republicans, conservative and liberal—have killed wounded and made homeless well over 20 million human beings in the last 50 years, mostly civilians. ….
With 80.000 Prisoners in Solitary Confinement, the U.S. Holds More People inSegregation Than Other Countries Have In Their Entire Prison Systems
Check out this great video I am watching over at
HARRISBURG, Pa. — A federal civil rights investigation has concluded that a state prison in western Pennsylvania kept inmates with serious mental illness in solitary confinement for months or even years at a time.
The State Correctional Institution at Cresson violated the constitutional rights of inmates with mental illness and intellectual disabilities by keeping them in their cells 22 to 23 hours a day, the U.S. Justice Department said Friday. It said the prison used solitary confinement as a means of warehousing mentally ill inmates because of serious deficiencies in its mental health program.
The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections plans to close Cresson, but the Justice Department said the misuse of solitary confinement could extend to prisons statewide. The department is expanding its probe to include all state prisons.
The administration of first-term GOP Gov. Tom Corbett said it will review the findings and continue to cooperate with the Justice Department probe.
Corbett’s Corrections secretary, John Wetzel, identified mental health as an area needing improvement early in the governor’s tenure, and has been working on improvements, Department of Corrections spokeswoman Susan McNaughton said Friday night.
Cresson’s misuse of solitary caused mental strain, depression, psychosis, self-mutilation and suicide, the investigation found. Cresson also denied the prisoners basic necessities and used excessive force, the federal agency said.
“We found that Cresson often permitted its prisoners with serious mental illness or intellectual disabilities to simply languish, decompensate, and harm themselves in solitary confinement for months or years on end under harsh conditions in violation of the Constitution,” Roy L. Austin Jr., deputy assistant attorney general for civil rights, said in a statement.
The Justice Department said Wetzel and his staff are cooperating fully with the probe and have been receptive to the agency’s concerns.
McNaughton said the staff has been trained in crisis intervention for mentally ill offenders, and that a new policy will place seriously mentally ill inmates in treatment when they first enter the system, among other improvements.
“Systemic improvements do not and cannot occur overnight, but we have a better system today than we did a year ago, and we are confident we will have a better system next year than we do today,” McNaughton said via email.
- Inmates With Serious Mental Illness Kept In Solitary Confinement For Years (huffingtonpost.com)
- Prison Misused Solitary Confinement: Feds (abcnews.go.com)
- Pennsylvania prison misused solitary confinement for mentally ill inmates, feds say (pennlive.com)
- Feds say Pa. prison misused solitary confinement (khou.com)
- Feds say Pa. prison misused solitary confinement (cnsnews.com)
- Feds say Pa. prison misused solitary confinement (heraldonline.com)
- Feds say Pa. prison misused solitary confinement (kansascity.com)
- Feds say Pa. prison misused solitary confinement (miamiherald.com)
- Prison Misused Solitary Confinement: Feds (abcnews.go.com)
- Solitary Confinement Misused In Pennsylvania Prison: Feds (huffingtonpost.com)
Posted by talesfromthelou on June 1, 2013
Saturday Jun 01, 2013
A new report by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has revealed that the suicide rate among middle-aged Americans has increased during recent decade.
The suicide rate among adults 35-64 in both white people and American Indians jumped from nearly 14 per 100,000 people in 1999 to almost 18 in 2010, the CDC reported.
The researchers also indicated that middle-aged people accounted for some 57% of suicides in the United States.
Suicides by American Indians increased 65% from more than 11 per 100,000 to almost 19 in the decade while the rate among white people rose 40%, from 16 per 100,000 to 22.
Other studies had earlier shown that the risk of suicide was substantially larger for unmarried than for married people.
They also noted that the rates in younger and older people held steady.
Though the causes behind suicide trend among middle-aged have not been investigated, “one factor may be cultural differences in willingness to seek help during tough times”, one of the authors of the CDC report Thomas Simon explained.
◾Why Are Suicide Rates Rising For Middle-Aged Adults? (wnyc.org)
◾Suicides soar among US middle-aged (bbc.co.uk)
◾US suicide rate rose sharply among middle-aged (kansascity.com)
- Suicide Rate Rises as Economy Stresses Middle-Age America – Bloomberg (bloomberg.com)
- Middle Aged Suicide Rates; NJ Good Samaritan Overdose Law; NYC Water History; College Bubble (wnyc.org)
- UPDATE 1-Suicide rate rose sharply among middle-aged Americans, CDC finds – Reuters (in.reuters.com)
- Suicide rate soars among middle-aged in U.S. (readingeagle.com)
- U.S. suicide rate rising among middle-aged (rep-am.com)
- US suicide rate rose sharply among middle-aged (kansascity.com)
- Suicide Rates on the Rise in the United States; Kills More People Than Car Accidents (hngn.com)
- Suicides soar among US middle-aged (bbc.co.uk)
- Why Are Suicide Rates Rising For Middle-Aged Adults? (wnyc.org)
Death row survivors want meeting with governor; Legislation goal: Cut prison time prior to execution
In the wake of Elmer Carroll’s execution Wednesday, many who oppose the death penalty gathered at the state Capitol on Thursday.
Carroll was sentenced to death for the 1990 rape and murder of 10-year-old Christine McGowan.
In the crowd of 2-dozen opponents were 2 of 24 men whom Florida sentenced to death, then released after they were found to be innocent.
“I am No. 24, Seth Penalver, exonerated last year in the state of Florida,” Penalver said.
“There are more innocent people on death row. It’s not something new. It’s ongoing,” said Mark Elliot, of Floridians Against the Death Penalty.
“For every 3 executed, you have 1 innocent,” Penalver said. “We have a problem here. I have a letter here from over 40 people exonerated from death row from across the United States of America.”
Penalver and another man who was exonerated went to the Capitol to tell their story to Gov. Rick Scott in hopes of convincing him not to sign legislation to speed up executions, but Scott was out of town.
The goal of legislation being sent to the governor is to cut the time on death row from 13 years to 10 years, but 8 of the people who have been exonerated were there more than a decade.
While the 2 men waited for a meeting, they questioned the state’s track record. Wednesday’s execution was the 76th in recent years, and 2 more executions are set for June.
A 27-year-old Tampa death penalty opponent, Kurt Wadsworth Jr., is walking 2,000 miles across Florida in an effort to convince Scott not to sign legislation speeding up the death penalty. The death penalty opponent says people have been reaching out since he began his walk a week ago.
“Instead of waiting for the right political moment or waiting for the right politician or waiting for the right piece of legislation, I have two feet, and I get up and I start walking and start talking to people,” Wadsworth said. “As I’m walking down the street, there are people pulling over to thank me. They bring food, sometimes they bring ice cream. I’ve never seen such an outpouring of support.”
Wadsworth began his walk in Pensacola a week ago. He traveled by car to Tallahassee on Thursday to take part in a protest of the death penalty and is being driven back to the Panhandle so he can resume his 2,000-mile walk.
- Michael Putney: Death penalty politics in Florida (miamiherald.com)
- Stop death penalty bill, Gov. Scott – Editorials – MiamiHerald.com (inprisonedwomen.wordpress.com)
- “I spent 17 years, 8 months & 1 day on death row, innocent. (incaseofinnocence.wordpress.com)
- Fmr. Death Row Inmates Want Gov. Scott To Veto “Timely Justice Act” (miami.cbslocal.com)
- Big Chance Shining Up: Death Row Exonerees and FADP Asked To Speak To The Governor… (inprisonedwomen.wordpress.com)
- Former Death Row Inmates Oppose ‘Speeding Up’ System [SLIDE SHOW] (tallahasseeo.com)
- Death row survivors want meeting with governor (news4jax.com)
- Exonerated Death Row Survivors Wants Meeting with Governor (wjhg.com)
- Former Death Row Inmates Oppose ‘Speeding Up’ System [SLIDE SHOW] (wctv.tv)
„Es gibt viele Arten zu töten. Man kann einem ein Messer in den Bauch stechen, einem das Brot entziehen, einen von einer Krankheit nicht heilen, einen in eine schlechte Wohnung stecken, einen durch Arbeit zu Tode schinden, einen zum Suizid treiben, einen in den Krieg führen usw. Nur weniges davon ist in unserem Staat verboten.“
Hannah Arendt, Guilty Pleasure
Thrill to the Jewish Philosopher Queen as she does battle with boring Nazis, The New Yorker, and Mossad
By J. Hoberman|May 24, 2013 12:00 AM
You can keep Fast & Furious 6 and The Hangover Part III. My guilty pleasure this week is Hannah Arendt (premiering  at New York’s Film Forum May 29), the latest collaboration between actress Barbara Sukowa and director Margarethe von Trotta. Guilt, of course, being the operative word.
How to characterize the movie’s protagonist? Hannah Arendt (1906-1976) was that German-Jewish wild child who embarked on a teenaged love affair with a married professor twice her age, the philosopher king (and future Nazi) Martin Heidegger; who wrote her dissertation on the concept of love in the writings of St. Augustine; who, costumed as a harem girl, met her first husband attending a Marxist-sponsored masquerade ball at Berlin’s Museum of Ethnology. The young Hannah smoked cigars and exhibited an intellect so dazzling that her mainly Jewish cohort nicknamed her Pallas Athena. She messed with future colleague Leo Strauss’ mind, was arrested only weeks after the post-Reichstag Nazi seizure of power for engaging in illegal Zionist activities, then smuggled herself out of Germany and into Paris (where she directed the local branch of the Youth Aliyah) only to be “interned” by Vichy before escaping again.
Arendt arrived in America carrying a cache of manuscripts entrusted to her by Walter Benjamin—appropriate in that, more than any other individual, she brought the culture of Weimar Jewish intellectuals to New York. She wrote for the German-Jewish press, worked for Schocken (where she edited the second edition of Gershom Scholem’s Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism as well as Kafka’s Diaries), introduced American readers to novelist Hermann Broch, contributed to Partisan Review and Commentary, and addressed the central political issue of her life with The Origins of Totalitarianism, published in 1951—the same year that she, stateless since 1933, was allowed to become an American citizen.
A decade later, Arendt traveled to Jerusalem to report on the trial of Adolf Eichmann , the onetime Nazi “Administrator for Jewish Affairs,” captured by the Mossad in Argentina; in the late winter of 1963, nine months after Eichmann’s execution, she all but overshadowed the trial with five articles  in The New Yorker that were shortly thereafter collected as Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil. The most scandalous Jewish-American text to appear between Sholem Asch’s The Nazarene and Philip Roth’s Portnoy’s Complaint, Arendt’s report made “the banality of evil” a world-renowned phrase and its author the most reviled Jewish thinker since Baruch Spinoza.
Delivering a robustly physical performance, Barbara Sukowa embodies the tension between Arendt’s pure reason and her concrete emotion. Here I feel obliged to admit my own irrational affection for the actress—not just because of her turns as a Fassbinder femme fatal (in Lola) and a good-hearted Weimar whore (in Berlin Alexanderplatz), although those performances certainly got my attention, but also because she left Germany in the early ’90s and has been since living among us in Brooklyn, mainly as a singer (even with a rock band , The X-Patsys).
It’s not every week that you get to see a movie about an intellectual contretemps, let alone one that rocked the Jewish world. Indeed, in a way, Von Trotta and screenwriter Pamela Katz have attempted something far more difficult and potentially absurd than making a documentary, namely setting out to dramatize an upheaval in the life of the mind. The only filmmaker who has ever really turned the trick is Roberto Rossellini in his early-’70s telefilms Socrates, Descartes, and Blaise Pascal. (Would that he had also essayed Spinoza!)
Von Trotta and Katz could not possibly do justice to the outrage—and outrageous abuse—that Arendt inspired, or to the breadth of her continents-spanning life and thought. A sprinkling of flashbacks notwithstanding, it’s Arendt in Jerusalem and on Eichmann that Von Trotta considers in her film.
Greatly simplified, Arendt’s three great sins were 1) suggesting that the “desk murderer” Eichmann was a mediocre opportunist rather than the devil incarnate (and thus all the more frightening); 2) publicly discussing and denouncing the role of Nazi-appointed Jewish Councils in the Final Solution; and 3) examining the judicial basis for the trial itself. Arendt, however subtle in her analysis, was not given to understatement; still, to a large degree the tumult she inspired was a case of blaming the messenger. (For a pithy, reasoned historical contextualization of the reaction to Arendt’s report, see Peter Novick’s The Holocaust in American Life.)
As a film, Hannah Arendt is a sort of hybrid and not just because it is half in German. The movie is a didactic docu-drama, part old-school Soviet “publicist” film in its idealized, ideological representation of historical figures, and part Hollywood biopic in its entertainingly kitschy notion of how they might have interacted in real life.
Even more fun that the introductory repartee between chain-smoking Hannah and her BFF Mary McCarthy (Janet McTeer)—with McCarthy’s reference to “wild Berliners” and Arendt’s amused, heavily accented, snort: “Wild, because we don’t marry all of our lovers?”—is the consternation caused at The New Yorker by her offer to cover the Eichmann trial. While the magazine’s circumspect editor William Shawn (Nicholas Woodeson) is intrigued, his blasé assistant Francis (Megan Gay) is unimpressed: “Philosophers don’t make deadlines.” A teenage intern (revealed in the end credits as none other than Jonathan Schell) can’t restrain himself, excitedly piping that “Hannah Arendt wrote The Origins of Totalitarianism!” “Catchy title,” Francis drawls. Cut to: Hannah, political philosopher and happy hausfrau, slicing a cabbage to make sauerkraut for her beloved second husband, Heinrich Blücher (Axel Milberg, who, unlike Sukowa or McTeer, has a strong physical resemblance to his character).
Hannah is also, as we will discover, a courageous hausfrau who is unafraid to wash her dirty laundry in public. Arriving in sunbaked Israel where she is reunited with her old friend and erstwhile Zionist mentor Kurt Blumenfeld (Michael Degen), she first worries that the Israelis are essentially staging a show trial and then has her eagerness to see Nazi evil in the flesh dashed by Eichmann’s equivocating performance: “He’s a nobody!” she tells Blumenfeld, greatly compressing the detailed descriptions of Eichmann given throughout her report, all predicated on her recognition of the gap between “the unspeakable horror of the deed and the undeniable ludicrousness of the man.”
Continue reading: The most forbidding of intellectuals 
The trial gets a few scenes, with Von Trotta’s use of reaction shots amid archival footage cueing Hannah’s dismay when confronted with testimony regarding the Jewish Councils that were forced or obliged to cooperate with Eichmann, although this is information that she was far more likely to have absorbed from Raul Hilberg’s The Destruction of the European Jews. In any case, her Israeli friends are concerned. “Your quest for truth is admirable but this time you’ve gone too far,” one says, while Blumenfeld uneasily defends her by explaining that it is Hannah’s nature to make people angry. Flashback to Heidegger (Klaus Pohl) telling the young Hannah (Friederike Becht) that “thinking is a lonely business.” (Were Hannah Arendt true socialist realism, that mantra could serve as the movie’s subtitle.) Back in the USA, The New Yorker is shaken by Hannah’s report. Shawn questions her over-the-top characterization of the Jewish Councils; snooty Francis turns abruptly ethnic. Playing pool with Mary, Hannah wonders if her tone was too “ironic”—which is one way to characterize it.
For all its studied objectivity, Eichmann in Jerusalem reads as a highly personal, even traumatized, work. What some described as Arendt’s “arrogance” was a mind-blown absence of self-censorship. The author outs herself in the book’s very first paragraph by citing the “old [Israeli] prejudice against German Jews.” She seems to regard Eichmann’s incapacity for thought as his worst crime, and, in the book’s notorious 11-page section on the Jewish Councils, effectively popularized Hilberg’s then-shocking research. (Hilberg who, like Arendt, was a Central European Jew who escaped to America on the eve of the Holocaust, never forgave her for stealing his thunder even as she replaced him as a target for the ADL, the New York Times, and Dissent alike.)
True, Arendt’s judgment on the Jewish Councils was harsh. Accused, in the movie, by one old friend of insufficient love for the Jewish people, hard-hearted Hannah logically replies that as she had “never loved any ‘people’ ” in the abstract, she cannot love the Jews. “I only love my friends—that’s the only love of which I’m capable.” Meanwhile, friends are dropping like overripe fruit amid the piles of hate mail, some of it sent by her neighbors via the doorman in her Upper West Side apartment building. Colleagues excommunicate her. She is savaged in the journals for which she used to write. Lionel Abel contributes a hatchet job for Partisan Review. Norman Podhoretz publishes an attack called “The Perversity of Brilliance” in Commentary. Both men are represented—although not named—in the movie to be dressed down by loyal Mary McCarthy. (Arendt was hardly a feminist but it’s impossible to miss the sense of a gender-based gang-up of incensed, self-righteous mansplainers.)
Meanwhile, even more dramatically, a car filled with Mossad agents stops Hannah on a country road to lay a vicious guilt trip on the plucky writer: Her report has effectively killed Kurt Blumenfeld. While it is true that Blumenfeld died, refusing to speak with Arendt, and that Eichmann trial prosecutor Gideon Hausner flew to New York to denounce her, the role of the Mossad would seem to be poetic license. Hannah Arendt is, after all, a movie.
It’s also a vehicle. With regards to Arendt’s lecture style, Mary McCarthy called her “a magnificent stage diva” and so she is here, defying her department chairman and shunned by the faculty at the (unmentioned) University of Chicago, and delivering a stirring defense of her position to a rapt audience of students. This grand finale returns the movie to the realm of courtroom drama even as it leaves us with Hannah still pondering the contradiction in her thinking—how can the “radical evil” she analyzed in The Origins of Totalitarianism also be “banal”? (Hegelians have decided that they are identical. See the third appendix of Slavoj Žižek’s Plague of Fantasies.)
Hannah Arendt is ultimately a pleasure, because Sukowa plays the most forbidding of intellectuals as a fabulous, passionate doll. Sometimes clueless, sometimes kittenish, and always, always thinking, her Hannah is not only admirable but lovable. Sukowa’s vitality succeeds in bringing at least some of Arendt’s ideas to life—it should be interesting to see the degree to which, a half century after the controversy she inspired, its embers will be rekindled.
For more of J. Hoberman’s film criticism for Tablet magazine, click here .
J. Hoberman, the former longtime Village Voice film critic, is a monthly film columnist for Tablet Magazine. His new book, Film After Film: Or, What Became of 21st Century Cinema? was recently published by Verso.
Find this story online: http://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-arts-and-culture/132849/hannah-arendt-guilty-pleasure
Tablet Magazine is a project of Nextbook Inc. Copyright © 2013 Nextbook Inc. All rights reserved.
- The New Film About Hannah Arendt releases in May 2013! Thoughts that Changed the World…. (drbethany.wordpress.com)
- Hannah Arendt (arunwithaview.wordpress.com)
- Movie Blog @ MSPIFF, Day 11: ‘Hannah Arendt’ (minnesota.cbslocal.com)
- “Hannah Arendt” and the banality of evil (patheos.com)
- Video: “Hannah Arendt” – The Movie (& The Importance Of Reflection) (teacherlingo.com)
- Hannah Arendt, Guilty Pleasure (3quarksdaily.com)
- Hannah Arendt (louisproyect.wordpress.com)
- MIFF Review: Hannah Arendt (girlproducer.wordpress.com)
May 24, 2013
12-Year-Old Girl Hangs Herself After Being Cyberbullied By Classmates
See on Scoop.it – up2-21
Gabrielle Molina, 12, hanged herself in her Queens, New York home after being viciously cyber-bullied by her middle school classmates, reports the New York Post.
The pre-teen was found hanging by a belt from a ceiling fan, according to police.
See on newsone.com