Forthcoming Fall 2023
About the Book
In America today, the fastest growing population in prison is not Blacks, Hispanics, or toothless methamphetamine addicts…it is the mentally ill. We are criminalizing our brothers and our sisters, our neighbors and our friends at an alarming and increasing pace…and are we not challenged to be their keepers? At a truly visceral level, this problem perplexes me to my very being. I am hurt and disappointed, no, perhaps that is too small an assertion for where I find myself standing as a sheriff. Disappointed is a father when a child forgets to pick up the Legos and you ‘find’ them at 11:00pm on your way to the bathroom, stuck to the bottom pad of your left foot. I am not disappointed, I am disrespected. That is perhaps closer to the feelings of frustration, rage, anger, insult, and the hundreds of other feelings that boil just beneath the surface of my calm façade as a law enforcement administrator. You see, I’ve watched legislators pass gun bills that no one really wanted in just one session, yet for twenty years in my state we’ve tried to reform mental health delivery systems that nearly every state citizen recognizes is necessary, to no avail.
I’ve watched legislative session after legislative session take aim at sexual offenders and modify, tighten restrictions, provide harsher sentences, and make front page interviews on how the legislators are getting tougher on crime. The truth is, from a legislative standpoint, sex offender legislation is low hanging fruit, because no one lobbies on behalf of the sex offender… not even the ACLU. So, any legislation presented that infringes on them is likely to pass because it is tough on crime (that particular type of crime) and there is no one to speak against it. It is a political win, and it is easy. It is also bullshit. Telling a sex offender where they can and cannot sleep, but not restricting where they can spend ninety-eight percent of the rest of their day, in no way makes your children any safer from sex offenders. If they can watch your child changing at the public swimming pool changing room, but cannot sleep one thousand yards from the public park where the pool is located, how does that make your child safer? But these are the types of political ‘wins’ that legislators relish. These are the ‘wins’ that legislators pine for.
I pine for a legislator with a backbone; someone who will speak truth to power and stand up to say “nonsense bills don’t move our society forward.” Let’s put the effort where we can actually have true impact. This book will sing to the choir for those who have been on the front lines; those family members with loved ones who want the same as I do: strong, mindful legislators. When a parent begs a sheriff to arrest their mentally ill son or daughter because there is no other option for them, we have truly hit the bottom of what society has to offer these poor families. I’m not telling new information to the thousands who fight this fight every single day as they medicate, negotiate, and mediate with their mentally ill family members or loved ones. I can only hope to add my voice as we advocate for the necessary changes to improve this nationally broken system. And, perhaps along the way, I provide a unique perspective that may encourage change or entice more champions to come forward.
So, if this book helps to add fuel to someone’s efforts, if my words provide credence to a person’s argument of need for support, or bolsters strength in the observations regarding the importance of mental health reform, great! If something in my stories and narrations cause someone to pay attention and listen to the choir that is likely reading this, giving their real life experiences more credibility, then all my efforts are well worth it. My goal is to simply champion the message that change must happen. And we can all be those champions of change. In our own way, we can help implement and effect change. At the local, regional, state, and national level, our collective voices can cause change to occur. Those who have been fighting this good fight for so long are tiring and it is time to recruit a new battalion of messengers and warriors to take up the fight.