The BHU program originated from a lawsuit settlement in April of 2007 (see Disability Advocates, Inc. v. New York State Office of Mental Health).
Disability Advocates, Inc., Prisoners' Legal Services of New York, the Prisoner's Rights Project of the Legal Aid Society, and Davis Polk & Wardwell brought the lawsuit against the Department of Correctional Services (DOCS) and the Office of Mental Health (OMH). DOCS runs the New York State prisons. OMH is in charge of mental health treatment and services within New York State Prisons.
The main purpose of the settlement is to improve mental health treatment and services for all prisoners with serious mental health needs in DOCS- operated prisons.
In hood slang this program is about changing how the pigz has constantly violating prisoners with mental health issues throughout these years.
The program is taking mental health prisoners out of SHU (Special Housing Unit), basically the box, who are confined to their cells 23 hours a day, 7 days a week and admitting these prisoners to programs that will be very beneficial in helping us transition our bad ways to more positive ways.
For example, there are prisoners with serious mental health issues who tries to commit suicide & the DOCS pigz will discipline these prisoners instead of giving these prisoners treatment for their illnesses.
The problem at the BHU program at Sullivan Correctional FAcility is that the OMH BHU Director Ms. Harris is not stepping up to the DOCS Deputy Superintendent of Security Griffin, who truly runs the program.
The thing is this, the DOCS don't want these programs to exist because of the fact that they feel like the SHU prisoners are getting over by being released from the box and being sent to these program, so DOCS goals is to try and sabotage these programs any way they can.
The BHU pigz are constantly violating us by issuing fabricated tickets, deading us on supplies, cosmetics, showers, food, sending us back to the box (SHU) for alleged security reasons, forcing us to work unassigned porter jobs, that we don't even get paid for.
We have prisoners who are not medically cleared and approved to work in the food pantry and if prisoners refuse to work, they are being sent to the box for demonstration! The pigz have deaded me on food and the OMH staff are aware of this, but still don't do anything about it.
There's so many things I need to explain to you in details, but the fact is it's too much, therefore on behalf of all the BHU prisoners, we are requesting any type of assistance that you may provide because we've been submitting all types of complaints, grievances and we are not getting any results, but plain old more bullshit and corruption within these prison systems.
In closing, me and my fellow comrades wanna say thank you for remembering us behind these walls, and the struggles existing every where in every hood!
notes: Disability Advocates, Inc. v. New York State Office of Mental Health Private Settlement Agreement. summary from The Legal Aid Society.
MIM(Prisons) responds: We have received a number of reports regarding the BHU over the last year, many of them hopeful of the possibilities of the new program. Others describe it as no different from the SHU, and even this supporter points out the great inadequacies in eliminating abuse so far. Anything that gets people out of SHU will likely have progressive characteristics and we support BHU prisoners in their struggle to stay out of SHU and hold the state to the promises made in the Disability Advocates, Inc. settlement.
However, we do not put forth the BHU or other psychological approaches as solutions to the mental health problems faced by prisoners. The writer mentions the extreme case of suicide which requires "treatment." In MIM Theory 9: Psychology & Revolution, MIM discusses mental institutions as the flip side of the same coin as prisons, both of them being tools of social control. MIM even addresses a revolutionary approach to suicide that recognizes our relationship to the world around us and our ability to transform it, rather than focusing on getting us to accept an oppressive world that we should be sad and upset about.
Former Governor Spitzer signed more recent legislation aimed at getting people with serious mental health problems out of the SHU on January 28, 2008. "Governor Spitzer’s action formalizes the state’s decision to ban the use of solitary confinement for inmates with a serious mental illness who violate prison rules. Instead, these inmates will be placed in a residential mental health treatment unit where they will receive intensive psychiatric and behavioral treatment in a therapeutic setting." (1) As MIM has been saying for decades, and the state has openly admitted, the purpose of the SHU is to repress certain political ideas and social groups. And as MIM describes in MIM Theory 9, "intensive psychiatric and behavioral treatment" has the same goals.
The other problem with this legislation is the focus on the split between the mentally ill and not. Those who fall apart under the torture of being in the SHU have been successfully treated in the eyes of the state who is trying to break revolutionary and rebellious spirits. Therefore, the state is fine with letting those who have been broken out of the SHU while holding those who are able to stand strong in resistance. So while we may have decreased the amount of torture being committed by the state (that is still not clear), we have not done anything to address the problem that prisons and mental health institutions serve to repress elements of society that would otherwise be forces for progressive change for all of society.
Historically, experimentation with isolation, drugs and invasive brain surgery have all occurred hand-in-hand. Letting the state play one strategy of control off against the other, as if one is more humane or beneficial to the people is nothing but a good-cop/bad-cop sham. All prisoners need re-integration into society that includes education on how it is structured and operates in order to become sane productive members of this society.
(1) Mental Health Association in New York State. http://www.mhanys.org/publications/mhupdate/update080201.htm
(2) MIM Theory 9: Psychology & Revolution
(3) An Alternative to the SHU