Archive for the ‘prison realignment’ Tag

Oil Company Mentally Ill People Spill   2 comments

Yesterday I went to my neighborhood gas station-mini-mart and “home of the revolving hot dog” to be raped for $4.35+ per gallon.  Before I even shut my engine off, a short older woman with grey bobbed hair slicked back like a man, sunken in wrinkled face and baggy pants held up by a big black belt hustled over and blocked my car door from opening.  She started screaming something at me but the window was up so I could not make it out.

I put down my window and she leaned in.  In a raspy voice she yelled “Money!  I want money! Give me money!” She was right in my face.  Instantly I suspected mental illness.  Pan handlers usually make up a convoluted story why they need money.  Being bipolar, I wanted to be kind.  However I also needed to make sure she didn’t dry gulch me while I sat in my car.  So I firmly said, “Miss, please step away from my car.”  When she didn’t move I said in a louder voice, “Now!”  She moved.

As I tried to stick my credit card into the machine which allows Chevron to take advantage of you, the woman walked up to me again raging about money.  “Money!  Give me some money!”  Finally I told her I have none and she needs to leave me alone.  I towered over her in stature and when an old beat up Honda pulled up to the pump behind me, her attention turned to the elderly black woman behind the wheel.

Since even I was caught off guard, I felt this senior citizen might be really scared when verbally accosted.  I was going to help convince the mentally ill woman to move away from the Honda, but then I realized the woman inside was arguing her.  She was trying to tell her the error of her ways to no regard.  I actually heard her say she expected this poor behavior from negroes, but not from a white woman.

I smacked myself across the face with the gas pump to make sure I wasn’t hallucinating.  How could she talk like that about her own people?  Could she not see this woman was suffering from mental illness and was not a degenerate looking for a handout?  I stood there in a quandary about what to do when the “I want money woman” walked away to pump other customers at the pump for money.

As for me, I went inside the min-mart and told the manager he needs to call the police so we can get this woman the proper attention she needs.  In San Francisco the police will take the mentally ill to San Francisco General Hospital.  I can’t vouch for the quality of care, but it is better than leaving them on the street to starve, freeze or get beaten up.

However, the manager said “no.”  He told me every time he calls the police they take the woman several blocks away and dump her right off again.  And in a few minutes she’s back working the pumps.  So the manager has no way to get her to leave except through force.  And nobody wants to resort to that.  The people working at the mini-mart all seemed to understand she suffers from mental illness and were somewhat tolerant of her.

As I got in my car and drove away I saw the woman plying her trade on yet another customer in a pick-up truck.  He was not very understanding and looked like he might push her if she didn’t give him his personal space back.  The whole thing left me with an empty and helpless feeling.  Here was a sick person and we just let her operate in a potentially dangerous environment.  If she had a stroke which altered her behavior, she’d be in a hospital with the best of care.  But since you can’t physically see the cause of mental illness, we leave her begging at a gas station with the inability to communicate properly, severely handicapping her likelihood for survival.

Then we have the San Francisco Police, who obviously take this as a joke by dropping her off down the street whenever anyone complains.  Have they ever taken her to the hospital?  Has the hospital refused to accept her?  Is there not someplace they can transport her other than a street corner?  Is mental illness not a big enough priority?  Is it this or jail?  I’m perplexed as to this laxidasical attitude toward human suffering.

To me this almost seems like a Mad Mx movie where everyone fends for themselves.  Where there is no central government providing basic needs for its citizens, like a police force or community hospital.  Where it’s commonplace to see people dressed in rags wandering about muttering to themselves and scavenging for food.   Is this what the conservatives mean by less government?  Should I attach a battering ram and a machine gun turret to my car for self-defense from land pirates?

Currently in California we are going through something called Prison Realignment to save money for our ailing budget.  It means paroling people out of jail on lesser offenses, not jailing people pre-trial, making it easier for inmates i to make parole, opting for house arrest as an alternative to jail and not putting the mentally ill in jail or prison out of lack for a better solution.   Regardless of how you feel about realignment, how they are handling the mentally ill is a double edged sword.  It’s great that we are not just warehousing them in jails and prisons where they don’t belong, as most of them have not committed any significant crimes.  However, simply dumping them on the street with no place to sleep, eat and get psychiatric help might be just as bad.

In San Francisco the solution is to build more facilities and halfway houses filled with mental health professionals to give the mentally ill the treatment they deserve as human beings and get them off the streets.  The current public assistance programs are currently utilized to the breaking point.  Everyone agrees this is the solution.  Unfortunately, the city and state don’t have the money to even make this a day-dream.  So our mentally ill continue to suffer.  I am sure there are similar situations in cities across America.

My suggestion is that if the big oil companies are going to rake us over the coals with gas prices, offer us nothing but overpriced junk food, cigarettes and lotto in their mini-marts and spilling oil all over our beaches, the least they can do is peel off a few cents per gallon and donate it to assisting the mentally ill.  If you live in a major city you know gas station-mini-marts are where people go with money, so the homeless and mentally ill have made their parking lots home and the customers living breathing ATM machines.  It’s the oil company’s duty to clean up their own backyard.

Chevron dumps billions of dollars into cleaning up their oil spills.  But when the mentally ill are spilling into their parking lots harassing customers, they spend not one thin dime dealing with that human catastrophe.