criminal justice

Mother asks Maricopa County prosecutors to release her daughter, a 19-year-old with mental illness, from Lower Buckeye Jail

Image: a screenshot of the Arizona Republic article about Gloria by reporter Uriel Garcia.
Image: a screenshot of the Arizona Republic article on Gloria by reporter Uriel J. Garcia. 

Valentina Gloria, a 19-year-old woman who has been diagnosed with several mental illnesses, has been detained at Maricopa County’s Lower Buckeye Jail for nearly six months, since February of this year. Now Vangelina Gloria, Valentina’s mother, is pleading for her teen daughter’s release.

Some say Valentina’s case exemplifies how our legal system criminalizes mental illness. Her predicament also highlights the ways in which our criminal justice system fails at providing quality mental healthcare to those who need it.

With support from Puente Arizona, a Phoenix-based migrant justice organization, Vangelina wrote a letter to Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery earlier this week, requesting that he drop the charges against Valentina and release her from police custody. According to azcentral.com and court documents, Valentina has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, paranoia, depression, schizoaffective disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder. Vangelina believes that being in jail is exacerbating her daughter’s mental health condition.

How did Valentina end up in jail?

In December 2018, [Valentina] Gloria was being treated in a behavioral health unit at St. Luke’s Hospital, where she was accused and arrested for spitting and punching two different nurses; she was then charged with two counts of aggravated assault. Then in May, a county judge ruled Valentina was incompetent to face the charges in court and ordered her to stay in jail to receive treatment through the County’s Restoration to Competency Program. A previous Arizona Republic analysis of Maricopa County’s Restoration to Competency Program expressed concerns about the program’s inefficiency and questioned the quality of the jailhouse mental healthcare provided by the county.

Click here to read an azcentral.com article recounting Vangelina’s efforts to secure Valentina’s release.

Labeling mass shooters as “sickos” perpetuates mental health stigmas

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) released a statement condemning the imprecise language recently used by public figures to discuss the connection between mental health and mass shootings. President Trump and Dana Loesch, a spokesperson for the National Rifle Association, used words including “sicko,” “nuts” and “crazy person” to describe the diagnoses of mass shooter Nikolas Cruz. The NAMI statement criticizes such comments as reinforcing “inaccurate and negative stereotypes” that “create barriers to having real conversations about how to improve the mental health services that lead to recovery and participation in American society by people experiencing mental health conditions.” CNN.com interviewed several mental health experts who also suggested that mental illness is not a reliable condition for predicting violent behavior. Click here to read NAMI’s statement and click here to read CNN’s article.

NPR investigates ‘epidemic of sexual assault’ against people with intellectual disabilities

Starting January 8th National Public Radio (NPR) began broadcasting a multi-part investigative series about an “epidemic of sexual assault” experienced by people with intellectual disabilities. Titled “Abused and Betrayed” (#AbusedandBetrayed), the investigation examines over 150 cases of assault and relies on previously unpublished data collected by the Justice Department. NPR’s team of reporters, led by Joe Shapiro, discovered the rate of assault is seven times higher than for people without disabilities. Each chapter in the 5-part series features a print story, photographs and a radio broadcast. Below is an excerpt from the first story in the excellent report.

“NPR reviewed hundreds of cases of sexual assault against people with intellectual disabilities. We looked at state and federal data, including those new numbers we obtained from the Justice Department. We read court records. We followed media accounts and put together a database of 150 assaults so serious that they garnered rare local and national media attention. We talked to victims, their guardians, family, staff and friends.

We found that there is an epidemic of sexual abuse against people with intellectual disabilities. These crimes go mostly unrecognized, unprosecuted and unpunished. A frequent result was that the abuser was free to abuse again. The survivor is often re-victimized multiple times.”

ACLU lawsuit alleges Chicago PD disproportionate brutality against people with disabilities

The ACLU has filed a lawsuit against the Chicago PD alleging its officers have not received proper training for interacting with people with disabilities. This Chicago Tribune article by Jason Meisner and Jeremy Gorner reports “The suit alleged the brutality was “magnified for people with disabilities.” Nationally, an estimated 33 to 50 percent of those killed by police have a disability, with approximately 25 percent of people killed having a mental illness, the suit alleged. The problem also extends to police use of nonlethal force, including with Tasers, the ACLU contended.”

 

Judge condemns lack of beds for mentally ill criminal defendants

Five state health officials in Maryland are being held in contempt of court for disobeying a court order to provide psychiatric hospital beds to mentally ill criminal defendants. In her 58-page opinion Circuit Court Judge Gale E. Rasin wrote “The actions and omissions of the Department and the respondent officers and agents have been knowing, intentional and voluntary.” Click here to read more on the Washington Post‘s report.

SCOTUS Tightens Rules on Intellectual Disability, Death Penalty

The Supreme Court rules that the state of Texas cannot rely on a dated definition of intellectual disability in deciding who receives the death penalty. In the opinion, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote, “Adjudications of intellectual disability should be ‘informed by the views of medical experts.” Read more