Why a mental health advocate cares about crime, justice, prisons, prosecutors and laws

Some of you have known me for many years as friends, relatives, colleagues, or just through my writing and advocacy work on other sites, and I thank you so much for still supporting me and following my journey! Many are just starting to get to know me, The Bipolar Hot Mess, as a blogger, an advocate, and slowly as a person through what I reveal to you all in my posts and such. In the years prior to my blogging and even in the years during my advocacy work and blogging, there were many parts of my life that I kept hidden or silent about. There may have been times that I had made some subtle hints or had sort of beat around the bush on some issues because at the time, they were very hard to talk about, or even think about because they were either still happening, or had just finished and were so raw, I could not address them just yet.

Anyone confused yet? Well, if you are, I apologize, and I’m about to explain.

One thing that many of you know is that part of my education background includes degrees in Criminal Justice, Paralegal Studies, and some coursework in law school.  I also worked for many years as a legal assistant and paralegal for several prestigious Chicago law firms and my exhusband was an attorney from a family of attorneys, so I had quite the exposure to the legal field.

That said, I made it pretty well known that I was quite passionate about the legal field and then when I was diagnosed with bipolar in 2006, I was not just passionate about the criminal justice and legal field as a whole, but also as it pertained to those with mental health issues.

A few years later I became so much more interested in the criminal justice system, especially prisoner, prisoner rights,  and prosecutors and their conduct and discretion.

What you don’t know is why.

I myself had my own experience with the legal system…

Only I was on the wrong side of the courtroom this time.

Why did I do what I did? I admit that I did something very stupid and foolish. I was not thinking clearly at the time, I was scared and in that moment all I wanted to do was protect someone I loved, and I was in autopilot, never thinking that what I was doing was actually a crime AT THAT MOMENT.  Looking back, yes, it was a crime. But, in the chaos of the few hours of what had gone on, I had no idea what to do and being the person I am, gut instinct kicked in and you protect your loved ones.

This is probably the first time I have gone public about this.  I won’t go into many details or anything of that nature, because those don’t really matter. What matters is that because of this crime, I have paid some hefty consequences.

With my legal background, and since the case was indeed a federal case, I know, (as we all should, since it’s written plain as day, right there) that the Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution prohibits the federal government from

imposing excessive bail, excessive fines, or cruel and unusual punishments to criminal defendants who have been convicted of a crime.

I will no longer be able to work in the legal field because of this momentary lapse of judgement. This was a non violent crime, and I had no prior record. The other 30+ people indicted had been involved in the actual crime. My part was a lack of judgement after the indictment had been executed and my punishment was far greater than some of the other 30 individuals. In fact, a lot of them were completely dismissed from the case.

I accepted complete responsibility for my actions. I fulfilled my sentence (several years of probation), however, with respect to the punishment being proportionate to the crime, I do believe the legal system failed me there.  I was promised something else and did not recieve that, and then, to lose my entire career, and the only career I had ever known and made a living doing, had all my schooling in, to be taken away as well, I do not think THAT is proportionate to my crime.  Other defendants who were active in the crime and part of the 30 people, who served prison time, are able to go back to their careers, and I am not.

This is why I started to become an advocate for prisoners rights. There are so many prisoners that are charged with so many crimes that they either didn’t commit and are being used as pawns, or are being treated like dirt for something so minimal, while more violent or repeat offenders are being treated better or are out on the streets.

I am from Chicago and lived in Cook County.  Cook County Jail is the nations #1 LARGEST MENTAL HEALTH FACILITY!! A JAIL!! Not a hospital or a treatment center, but a jail. Many prisoners who have mental illnesses are not treated properly for them either. I can do many posts about that.

There are also factors like behaviors that untreated people with mental illnesses do that get them incarcerated, but if,they had been treated or had proper treatment, would not need to be in jail.  Then you have people who commit crimes just so they don’t have to live on the streets, at least in jail you get fed and housed.

And so I digress….

Back to my point.

I’m a mental health advocate but I am also an advocate for prisoners rights, prison reform, changes in prosecutorial discretion, and just plain making the criminal justice system what it was intended for because I myself have experienced things from the system that make it flawed and I hope I can help prevent these types of things from happening to others

*SIDENOTE – I have already checked, MY SPECIFIC CHARGE IS ONE OF THE TWO CHARGES THAT CAN NOT BE EXPUNGED OR SEALED!!! Believe me, I’ve tried.

(Yes, I did do insurance defense work, toxic tort/asbestos work, defended Chicago Police Officers in misconduct charges, and other defense work, so it might seem weird that I’m pro prisoner rights. When you work in the legal field, in the civil litigation side, when you defend a person or a company/corporation in a lawsuit, you are not looking for guilt or innocence.  You look for how MUCH fault was the defendants and how much fault was the plaintiff’s.  It is a very different type of law, so you can not compare the two.)
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Christi

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  1. I can understand your frustration with the law and it not being fair. I am trying to support my sister who is bipolar who is going through some legal issues and she does not understand any of it and the court appointed attorney does not even contact us. It is frustrating because she did not realize she was doing anything wrong. I hope she will only get a fine and some probation because she would not last in jail. There is no resources for people with mental health issues and the law, or support systems. Thank you for being there for others.

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