Weekend Reads: The Best of the Web

Here is what’s happening in the world of mental health and criminal justice from around the web:Copcar

How to spot a liar: Secrets from the FBI

One of Casey Anthony’s attorney’s has written a book, says she’s basically imprisoned

LAPD Cop: There is a mental health state of emergency on Skid Row:

“I have had to arrest many mentally ill men and women who I knew and cared about after their illness drove them to harm someone. Though it was legal and in good faith, it was wrong. I put people in prison and jail who had needed help long before they committed their crimes. I could not stop them ahead of time because they did not say the magic words of “I want to kill myself” or “I want to hurt others.”

Woman accused of poisoning son with Visine drops

Oscar Pistorius was not mentally ill when he killed his girlfriend

Justin Ross Harris (and his wife) looks more and more guilty with every new detail: Today we learn he bought life insurance on his son

Conviction in the “Cannibal Cop” case is overturned. For those not familiar with the details, here is the long, detailed background about the case. It’s a great read

The Washington Post chronicles what it is like to live with someone who is actively psychotic and very sick but not “sick enough” to be committed: Behind the Yellow Door

There will now (finally) be a anti-suicide net on the Golden Gate Bridge

Very well researched piece about the surprising truth about women and violence

How our failed mental health system kills

The New York Times analyzes the mental health of zoo animals

Murder, Mental Health, The Death Penalty & New Video Might Have Blown Amanda Knox’s Alibi

William Bruce was a young man with schizophrenia. He was committed to a psychiatric hospital until mental health advocates helped get him released despite him being actively symptomatic and dangerous. He then killed his mother. Years later, he is in a hospital, medicated and has gained insight into his illness. He told the Wall Street Journal:

“None of this would have happened if I had been medicated.”

The gunman who killed three people and wounded four others in Arkansas had been released from a mental hospital a few days before the shooting. It’s not clear why but most likely either because he was a danger to himself or others.

Las Vegas cops held a “purity seminar” about “promiscuous” girls.

Remember the man (Byron Smith) who set a trap and executed two teen intruders? These recordings capture their horrific deaths. They are graphic. The shooter was given life in prison without parole.

Has Amanda Knox’s alibi for the night of Meredith Kercher’s murder just been blown? It might just be true, according to newly released footage.

Stephen Bright, president of the Southern Center for Human Rights, recently gave a speech at the United Nations about the death penalty and discrimination. It is worth reading in its entirety but I focused on the part about death for people with mental illnesses:

“…Of course they committed horrendous crimes, took innocent lives that left others suffering and scarred for life, and they must be isolated to protect society. But through no fault of their own, they are tormented souls suffering from devastating afflictions that leave them unable to think and reason like people who are not so afflicted. That is greater punishment that any court can impose…

Weekend Reads: Stalking Mom & Guilty Verdict For Man With Schizophrenia

Google Studying Employees

Did you know that Google is running a century-long study about how people work? Their employees are serving as study participants.

So far they have found there are two major approaches to work-life balance: segmentors and integrators. Segmentors are psychologically able to “turn it off” at home. They represent 31% of Google employees.

Intergrators are the kind of people who are constantly checking their emails. This group represented 69% of their employees.

Stalking Mother

This 44-year old mother was jailed for stalking a little league coach and his loved ones for her son not making the team. This letter was addressed to a 10-year old child:

“Think about it Dom. If something terrible happens to your dad, or mom or you sister, you can blame you dad for not taking my threats seriously. He will meet harm and the outcome will not be good for you. You might never see your dad again.”

Pastor Rick Warren

Pastor Rick Warren’s son Matthew committed suicide about a year ago. Pastor Warren has since launched a ministry that focuses on mental health. It will be:

“…a long-term campaign to launch discussions of mental health in pulpits and pews across the U.S. Friday’s workshops include “Christianity and Depression,” “How to Launch a Support Group and Counseling Ministry in your Church,” “Suicide Prevention: Saving Lives One Community at a Time” and “Food and The Body: Three Steps to Healing Eating Disorders through Community.”

“There is no shame in diabetes, there is no shame in high blood pressure, but why is it that if our brains stop working, there is supposed to be shame in that?”

Mother Kills 4-Year Old

This mother allegedly killed her four-year old son because she thought he was gay.  In a Facebook message, she wrote that she believed her son Zachary was going to be gay:

“He walks and talks like it. Ugh.”

Patton Oswalt as Matthew McConaughey in True Detective

FBI’s Most Wanted

One of the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted Fugitives turns himself in. The MS-13 gang member is accused of killing a young mother and a toddler in a very brutal way.

Man With Schizophrenia Convicted of Murder

David Tarloff, diagnosed with schizophrenia, was found guilty of stabbing a psychologist to death in a botched robbery six years ago.

Mr. Tarloff was attempting to steal $40,000 so that he could free his mother from a nursing home.

This was his third trial. The first trial never made it past jury selection because Tarloff became unstable. The second trial ended in a mistrial because the jury deadlocked.

The defendant reportedly brought a small black bag and a rolling suitcase with him to the scene of the crime. The bags contained knives, a meat cleaver, a hammer, ropes, duct tape, women’s clothing and adult diapers. He waited outside of the victim’s office while she was in a session with a patient. After the session was over, he stabbed her with a knife 15 times in the face, head and chest. When a nearby doctor heard the screams, he tried to save her and was ultimately stabbed by Tarloff.  He survived the attack.

Mr. Tarloff was soon apprehended.

Mr. Tarloff has a long history of severe mental illness. He was admitted to psychiatric hospitals 20 times. His psychiatric record is 10,000 pages long. He underwent ECT (shock therapy) 37 times during a 2012 stay in a psychiatric hospital.

He was obsessed with his delusional interactions with God. He said that God had instructed him to carry out the robbery.

The insanity defense is the most difficult to defend. This quote from a Tarloff juror highlights what the majority of the general public erroneously believes about this defense:

“Right is right, wrong is wrong. If he gets away with it, how many other people out there with schizophrenia could get away with it?”

Juries are not allowed to consider sentencing when deciding a verdict. In cases with insanity pleas, jurors often think that if adjudicated insane, that person will be free. They don’t go free.

Had he been found not guilty by reason of insanity, he would have been held in a psychiatric institution indefinitely and would receive treatment. The guilty verdict means that he could face life in prison without the possibility of parole. He will receive little if any treatment in prison.

A Vice Tweet

Wolf of Wall Street

The real Wolf of Wall Street: Was the movie accurate?

“That stuff was really really accurate, believe it or not. In some aspects it was even worse than that, although I would say I did more quaaludes that cocaine,” says Belfot. “I think that it is fun to have them watch someone snort something.”

Wednesday Mental Health & Criminal Justice Headlines

The FBI’s new most wanted fugitive is Juan Elias Garcia who killed a 19-year-old New York woman and her two-year-old son, execution style. Garcia is allegedly a member of the Mara Salvatrucha gang (MS-13).

At the time that he allegedly committed the murders, he was only 17 years old.

Remember the newlywed who pled guilty to pushing her husband off a cliff last summer?  Jordan Graham, 22, was supposed to be sentenced Thursday for the murder of her 25-year-old husband.  That sentencing has been placed on hold because she recently filed a motion to withdraw her plea on the basis that it was “illusory” and a “hollow formality.”

Read an investigation into Pennsylvania’s bleak prisons.

Don’t miss Michael Hall’s excellent story in Texas Monthly on the Lake Waco murders and the possibility that the men convicted of the crime may actually be innocent.

The evolution of the death penalty in one map.

The U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling Wednesday, March 26, 2014 that makes it legal to prohibit someone with a misdemeanor conviction of domestic violence from owning a gun.

Think Progress believes that the ruling “could have significant implications in interpreting which state domestic violence laws bar gun possession.”

The Marijuana industry has its first full-time lobbyist.

Eight days have passed and there is no sign of missing eight-year old Relisha Rudd.

The police believe that a 51-year-old janitor of a homeless shelter, where the child had lived, killed his wife and now has the young girl in his possession.

The Washington Post traces Relisha’s difficult life.

15 Criminal Justice Career Options for Social Workers

Many people inquire about what role social workers have in the criminal justice system. They are particularly interested in whether or not they could work in the criminal justice system once they graduated with their social work degree. The answer is yes.

At the undergraduate level, people with degrees in social work, psychology, sociology, and related degrees, are often competing for the same jobs. Some refer to these jobs as “entry level.”

Individuals who work in the criminal justice field and who a have degree in social work may consider themselves forensic social workers. There are degree programs across the country that focus on forensic social workbut they’re relatively sparse, compared to other traditional social work programs. You can read more about those programs at the National Organization For Forensic Social Work (NOFSW) website.

One of the many benefits of having a social work degree is its versatility. Below is a list of possible jobs that one could hold in the criminal justice system with a social work degree. Many require a master’s degree in social work but not all of them.

15 Criminal Justice Career Options for Social Workers

1. Mental Health or Drug Court  Coordinator/Program Manager

2. Guardian Ad Litem (court-appointed individual who represents the best interests of the child in a divorce or parental responsibility case)

3. Parole or Probation Officer

4. Assisting a team of lawyers investigating a case of possible innocence (i.e. Innocence Project)

5. Victim Advocate

6. Sex Offender Therapist

7. Policy Analyst

8. Providing expert testimony in a legal trial

9. Assistant to a public defender

10. Forensic investigator at the local Medical Examiners’ office

11. Custody Evaluator

12. Mental Health Evaluator

13. Mitigation Specialist

14. Case Manager for offenders leaving prison and transiting back into society

15. Conflict Mediator

Crime Documentaries Worth Watching

I made a list of my favorite documentaries focused on mental health and now I have a new list of favorite documentaries related to criminal justice. Many of these films can be viewed online for free. The links are provided below. Did I miss one? If so, let me know.

1. *The Real CSI: (PBS FRONTLINE): Investigates the reliability, or lack thereof, of the best-known forensic science tools.

2. *Top Secret America: (PBS FRONTLINE): Examines the top-secret world of government that has developed since 9/11. The documentary features Dana Priest of the Washington Post.

3. *The Interrupters: (PBS FRONTLINE): This documentary demonstrates a new approach to solving gang violence. The film offers a different way of understanding violence and poverty.

4. *Death By Fire: (PBS FRONTLINE): It is believed that the state of Texas executed an innocent person named Cameron Todd Willingham. This documentary investigates that case in great detail.

5. *Solitary Confinement: (National Geographic): This documentary explores the psychological effects of solitary confinement. You can view this on Netflix or by clicking on the link.

6. *The World’s Most Dangerous Drug: Meth: (National Geographic): This documentary explores the tragedy of methamphetamine and how it destroy lives. It is probably the best methamphetamine documentary I’ve seen.You can view this on Netflix or by clicking on the link.

7. [amazon_link id=”B001CDEGWM” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Paradise Lost[/amazon_link]: (HBO Documentaries): This is the in-depth story of the West Memphis three, Damion Echols, Jessie Misskelley Jr. & Jason Baldwin who were convicted of murdering three boys in West Memphis Arkansas but who were later found to be innocent. There are a number of subsequent documentaries that update the details of the story.

8. *The Released: (PBS FRONTLINE): This documentary provides an inside look at mentally ill offenders and their struggle for stability.

9. *Cocaine Cowboys: The very interesting story of the history of drug trafficking in Miami.

10. Most Evil: (Investigation Discovery Channel). This is a long-running series of one hour individual television shows on the Investigation Discovery channel. I would consider these “mini” documentaries about the science of evil. The show features Dr. Stone and his scale of evil.

12. *Post Mortem: Death Investigation In America: (PBS FRONTLINE): This documentary examines the status of autopsies and the doctors who provide them. The overarching conclusion is that it is a dysfunctional system with few standards and little oversight.

13. *The Iceman: (HBO Documentaries): This is a chilling look at Richard Kuklinski who is known to have killed many people as part of his “job.” Many consider Richard Kuklinski to be a “textbook case” of antisocial personality disorder.

*Indicates that it can be viewed online for FREE.

18 Best Criminal Justice Websites & Blogs

Many websites and blogs have a great deal to teach their readers about elements of the criminal justice system. There are many great criminal justice blogs but not all of them are updated on a regular basis.  In no particular order, below is a list of my favorite criminal justice websites and blogs that are updated regularly and that will help you learn about the criminal justice system. If I missed any of your favorites, let me know.

1. Matt Mangino: “A former prosecutors musings on crime and punishment in America.”

2. Solitary Watch: “News from a Nation in Lockdown”

3. The Crime Report: “If You Read It Here, It’s A Crime. America’s most comprehensive source of news on crime, and resources on criminal justice”

4. Karen Franklin, PhD: “Forensic psychological evaluations and psychological treatment, San Francisco Bay Area. Expert on motivations for violence and hate crimes.”

5. HuffPost Crime: “Get the latest on crime and justice. Follow missing person cases, the hunt for serial killers, breaking crime news and reports on newsworthy trials.”

6. Think Progress Justice: “Breaking news, original research, and hard-hitting analysis on legal issues.”

7. Doc Bonn: “Criminologist and media analyst.”

8. Crime Scene Training “A blog to teach the fundamentals of Crime Scene Investigation, and to encourage input, feedback and involvement from site visitors.”

9. Jonathan Turley ” …A nationally recognized legal scholar who has written extensively in areas ranging from constitutional law to legal theory to tort law.” His blog has won many awards.

10. The Wrongful Convictions Blog: “Addressing wrongful conviction and actual innocence issues from an international for them.”

11. The Charles Smith Blog:  Former reporter of the Toronto Star, Harold Levy writes about cases regarding flawed forensic pathology, junk science, the US death penalty and other forensic developments.

12. Bonnie’s Blog of Crime: “My Life of Crime, Murder, Missing People and such! Above all else, never forget the victim, that the victim lived, had a life and was loved. The victim and their loved ones deserve justice, as does society.”

13. The Crime Analyst Blog:  “A blog of crime, law enforcement and related topics.”

14. Cops Alive: “Information, strategies and tools to help cops plan happy, healthy and successful careers, relationships and lives.”

15. The Sentencing Project: “Research and advocacy for reform.”

16. Vera Institute of Justice: “Making justice systems fairer and more effective through research and innovation.”

17. Prison Culture: “Prison Culture is an attempt to document how the current prison industrial complex operates and to underscore the ways that it structures American society.”

18. Death Penalty Information Center: “A national non-profit organization serving the media and the public with analysis and information on issues concerning capital punishment.”