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REMEMBERING CAMARILLO

As a former employee of Camarillo State Hospital, I took exception to some of Jeffrey Anderson’s comments regarding the conditions and treatment given to patients there [“A Trip to Purgatory,” November 8–14]. I began employment at CSH in 1979, in what was known as the “autism program,” the staff of which were the most dedicated professionals I had ever encountered. I experienced on-the-job training in other areas, and was particularly impressed with the work of therapists, in their rehabilitation programs, as they helped cut through the denial of alcoholics and drug addicts. Patients were treated with respect and dignity, and never did I hear one referred to as “bitch” or “crazy nigger,” as recounted in Anderson’s article. I agree that the physical layout of the facility was imposing, but he failed to mention the necessity of security, to protect patients and public alike.

It would have been more appropriate if Anderson had disclosed the fact that there are thousands of prisoners in the California corrections system who are not receiving treatment for mental illness. Moreover, due to the closure of state facilities like Camarillo, more and more homeless persons with mental illness go untreated due to their noncompliance with medication regimens. Camarillo State Hospital was a world-renowned teaching facility, performing research on the causes and treatment of schizophrenia, as well as autism — the only facility in this country that could make this claim.

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—Ric Schwimmer Senior Psychiatric Technician Porterville

 

Jeffrey Anderson makes Ms. “Mad” escaping as far as Highway 1 sound like the poor beleaguered rabbits in Watership Down making a break for a better life. Of course Camarillo sent burly workers equipped with leather restraints, and I’m sure the civilians on Highway 1 breathed a sigh of relief when violent patients were captured. The people that wind up in state mental facilities — whether developmentally disabled, sexual predators or just plain violent — can be incredibly scary. Thank God these floridly psychotic patients aren’t walking the streets of your neighborhood.

—Lew Berger Licensed Psychiatric Technician Los Angeles

 

Jeffrey Anderson should be writing fiction, as that appears to be his interest, instead of exploiting four still apparently unstable individuals for a story. Camarillo State Hospital may not have been the country-club environment that some of the clients wanted it to be, but under the circumstances, the institution did a very humane job of caring for the unfortunate individuals who found themselves placed there. If Anderson had taken the time to check, he would have found hundreds of former clients who feel indebted to Camarillo for the help they received during a very difficult period in their lives.

—Virgie Yates Oxnard

 

Camarillo and other such places were never hospitals, nor were they asylums. They were — and where they remain, are — institutions that abused people over far too many years to chronicle. Survivors of such places are not patients, or clients, or any other euphemism. We are, quite simply, survivors.

—Harold A. Maio Los Angeles

 

I enjoyed reading Jeffrey Anderson’s article. However, I must object to the claim that CSU Channel Islands will be the first full-time, four-year university in Ventura County. California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks is an exceptionally good school, and located well west of the Los Angeles County line.

—Roger K. Weiss Foothill Ranch

WINONA AND THE WHO?

Re: “Winona and the Chicago 7” (A Considerable Town, November 1–7]. Either Greg Goldin is completely ignorant of the realities of the criminal-justice system, or he is totally disingenuous in his analysis of the Winona Ryder trial. Rather than relying on a public-opinion poll, he should have polled criminal-defense lawyers about whether Ryder was being “overcharged.” He would have learned that a $5,500 theft is always prosecuted as a felony and that the District Attorney’s Office always takes the case to trial if the defendant doesn’t plead guilty to a felony (unless there are proof problems, which didn’t appear to be the D.A.’s perception here).

In fact, the L.A. City Attorney, which prosecutes most misdemeanors in Los Angeles, regularly demands 30 days in jail of defendants with no prior record for thefts in the $1,000 range. The D.A. usually seeks at least 60 days in jail for thefts over $5,000. In Ryder’s case, the D.A. isn’t seeking any jail time. Is this excessive prosecution?

I hold no animus toward Ryder and I don’t want her to go to jail, but what are the usual, non-celebrity ä defendants now going to say when prosecutors insist on at least 30 days in jail as a condition of a plea bargain? Why should they go to jail when pleading guilty to a lesser theft, when Ryder goes free when she takes her case to trial and is found guilty by her peers?

As a criminal-defense lawyer for 25 years, I have seen the cop-wannabe arrogant and sometimes perjurious attitude of many store-security personnel, so I am not trying to judge whether Ryder is guilty or not. But Goldin’s obvious hostility toward D.A. Steve Cooley has blinded him to the realities of the case.

—Herbert Weiss Los Angeles

 

If anyone wasted the taxpayers’ money, it was Winona Ryder, who knew she was guilty, admitted she was guilty and never risked so much as a day of jail time at any stage of this adventure. Why doesn’t Goldin question her decision not to take her medicine and plead guilty?

To Steve Cooley and his office I say, “Thanks for staying the course and seeing justice done.”

—Eugene Boggs

Professor of Law University of West Los Angeles School of Law

 

Comparing poor little rich girl Winona to the Chicago 7 is about as far out as comparing O.J. Simpson to Dred Scott. Despite her obvious guilt, Winona Ryder won’t have to spend even half an hour in jail, no matter what the outcome. (She’ll also likely be able to double her fee for her next film, after all the publicity. So much for “martyrdom.”) Hopefully, following her conviction, Greg Goldin will have regained control of his faculties and gone on a quest for someone who truly needs salvation. For example, Jeb Bush’s daughter down in the great state of Florida.

Now that’ll keep him busy for a while.

—Charles Reilly Anaheim

 

MORE DERRIDA

In Kristine McKenna’s “The Three Ages of Jacques Derrida” [November 8–14], the subject of her interview says, “I’m an ally of feminine culture. But that doesn’t prevent me from having reservations about some manifestations of feminism. To simply invert the hierarchy, or for women to appropriate the most negative aspects of what’s conventionally viewed as masculine behavior, benefits no one.”

What feminists of record have proposed these “manifestations of feminism”? He doesn’t say. Such “manifestations” are actually ideas fabricated by opponents of feminism to discredit it and have been kicking around in the media since the earliest days of the women’s movement. And what is this “feminine culture” he refers to? Isn’t such a category exactly the sort his philosophy endeavors to deconstruct as a projection rather than as actually existing? It’s dispiriting when someone of Derrida’s stature says he wants to “end the oppression of women,” then recycles the same old trivializing rhetoric about a movement that is working toward social change.

—Laurie Stone New York City

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