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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.

—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