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Still in the Struggle

May 11, 2007

BY CARLOS (RICO EL SANTO SABATER)

Still in the struggle, now that I have finally been released from solitary confinement back into society, I am still faced with so many obstacles. Yet and still I refuse to lose focus and continuing in my pursuit and achievement of my independent living plan. In order to obtain a place of residence of my own and to get out of the shelter system. Which on it’s own has established policies that seems to have become tribulation on my road to becoming a productive and contributing member of society. Since my release I have touched basis with the active members of RIPPD (Rights for Imprisoned People with Psychiatric Disabilities) which is an affective grassroots organization consistently opposing the constant placement of prisoners with mental illnesses into solitary confinement (SHU) in both New York City jails and New York State prisons. Due to the fact that long term solitary confinement deteriorates the mental capacity of a sane individual, imagine what it does to someone who is already diagnosed with or has a history of mental illnesses, it would definitely incapacitate them and consume them whole so that there adjustment back into the prison population is nilch, and there constant placement into solitary confinement becomes routine.

How is a mentally ill prisoner going to be rehabilitated by the Department of Correctional Services when they continue with these practices and doing things in this manner? How is it we must ask ourselves, arc these prisoners are to become productive members of society upon their release from prison?
Thus, I have taken the time to meet the wonderful people who compose (RIPPD) “Rights for Imprisoned People with Psychiatric Disabilities” within the Urban Justice Center, who also work to have mental illnesses understood as a condition that is in fact treatable and manageable , who like the members of RIPPD fight for peace and justice for all peoples and social change for the betterment of the community and society as a whole.

I must say, I have been very fortunate to be invited to several meetings of which I believe sincerely affects all of us if not one form, then surely in another and it is my belief that every one should contact RIPPD (Rights for Imprisoned People with Psychiatric Disabilities) at the Urban Justice Center in order to be further advised as to how they too can get involved in making a meaning and lasting difference.

Understand of coarse, that even if you or someone you know does not have a mental illness, you may still be affected with the proposed construction of a new jail / detention center and that of a new power plant that’s strongly being discussed for the Oak Point section of Hunts Point area of the South Bronx.
It is my concern after so many years in prison and affected with mental illnesses that too many of you will probably take this too lightly, this worries me alot because if these constructions are allowed to be constructed you too may very well find a loved one affected some how even if not in the immediate future. In one meeting I was invited to, several grassroots organizations, centers and groups have come together under the umbrella name Community in Unity to strongly opposed to those politicians with the power to void such projects and to demand to utilize the power invested in them now, that they have been elected into office by the peoples so that they firmly voice the concerns of the peoples and also demand of their collegues to oppose such constructions on contaminated grounds. Which is only one of several reasons why these two projects need to be strongly opposed, understand I would not even wish an enemy to be in prison. That is how bad conditions and treatment are in there. I have personally lived through it and it has definitely changed me, so that I am no longer the same trusting child 1 once was before coming in contact with the criminal (abusive) justice system.

Today with what I consider a very serious and persistent illness, I found myself trying not to think others are out conspiring to be spiteful towards me and or to cause me harm. It is’nt easy, especially since the moment of being processed from prison many things would awry that has led me to believe I am being set up to fail, which I am refusing to do. This is one of the reasons why I have become active and am highly interested in peace and justice, proudly standing in my own ways for social change. Now out of prison„ I am at times overwhelmed with emotions and wrecked with tremors and the flow of tears when I think of what I went through in prison, what I now am going through and what I may still have to go through. Due to the fear and the sense of hopelessness that engulfs me and attempts to incapacitate me, yet I have choosen to get involved in making a difference, instead of idly awaiting to be completely consumed in this manner. In another meeting I was invited to was with the Assistant Director of Forensic Services, along with other individuals involved in the Office of Mental Hygiene, our discussions and ideas were shared and fomulatted in order to be presented to focus groups who are to answer questions that will provoke answers best suited to be implemented for the improvement of such alternative to incarceration programs like CASES. If not , the establishment of a more effective one which clients in need of these services (individuals with psychiatric disabilities in contact with the criminal justice system) can find interestingly enough to seek out a willing participate without idealation of being stigmatized as a helpless individual who takes medication for mental illness and or as a person thats not normal due to having a mental illness. We could use suggestions and more individuals involvement if nothing else.

Get involved anyway you can, send your e-mails to lortega@urbanjustice.org or call Lisa at (646)-602¬5664 or fax (212)-533-4598. Or write to:

Lisa Ortega
Criminal Justice Organizer
Urban Justice Center
666 Broadway
Mental Health Project/RIPPD
NY, NY 10012

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