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 Published by the Churches of Scientology in California

Special Election 2004 Statewide Edition
 
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Freedom Magazine, published by the Church of Scientology


Trapped in the System

Meet Jane: One of the countless young lives stigmatized by forced incarceration, involuntary restraint, “mental disorder” labels and a raft of psychiatric drugs that nearly killed her.

by Susan Hall

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •


“I saw one girl grabbed by the hair and her head slammed against the floor. I saw another who was having seizures because the people giving the injection claimed they forgot to give another medication with it to handle the side effects. She was scared and crying, but the nurses said it was ‘no big deal.’ Her eyes would go out of focus and would roll back.”

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

Jane grew up in adoptive care with four other children. When she was 12, a bitter family argument broke out over the use of the telephone. Her older sister wanted her to hang up, but Jane refused. The sister went to a neighbor’s home and called the police, who were disinterested — until she told them Jane had threatened her with a knife.

It was a lie, but patrol cars, with sirens blaring, arrived in remarkably short order. As accusations flew, Jane yelled several regrettable things, admittedly “mouthing off to a cop.” The officer took her into custody and she found herself inextricably caught in the juvenile system.

When the case came before a judge, he wondered what this child was doing in juvenile detention. She went home temporarily, but was then placed into a group home. Not wanting to be there, she became a “troublemaker.” She did not realize that would land her in Van Nuys Psychiatric Hospital, to be drugged and restrained into apathy.

She soon found herself on Tegretol,1 a medication specifically for epilepsy; Jane, however, is not an epileptic. When she questioned medical personnel about her need for this drug, none could explain. Later, daily Thorazine2 was added. (See “Psychiatric Drug Definitions.”)

After returning to the group home briefly, she was transferred to Las Encinas Psychiatric Hospital in Pasadena. There she was diagnosed as “hyperactive” and placed on four different medications, including Benadryl3 to help her sleep, and her mandatory Thorazine.

Medications and dosages were switched frequently, causing various unpleasant side effects. Any complaints or disagreements with the drugging would mean restraints and shots — injections Jane described as “horrible numbness with a dull pain all through one leg at the same time.” It frightened her to be “grabbed by a body builder kind of guy, thrown and held down.”

Her 13th birthday passed in the ward.

From Las Encinas, she went to Harbor View Center in Long Beach and from there to the Augustus Hawkins Psychiatric Ward at Martin Luther King Hospital, where she overdosed on Seroquel.4

Somewhere along the way, she found herself in other group homes. Her memories blur together, fragmented or hazy with respect to the exact time and place. Struggling to recall exact details, she told Freedom, “I’m pretty sure I was in a couple more places, but I can’t remember exactly.”

The list of psychiatric drugs she was forced to take lengthened all the while — Zoloft,5 Wellbutrin,6 Elavil,7 Zyprexa,8 and, always, more Thorazine.

Upon admission to Harbor View, she was ordered to sign some papers. Sleepy and disoriented from a shot, she wanted to lie down. Permission was refused until she signed a form described by the staff as “just an agreement to show you would cooperate, take your medicine, and be a good girl.”

In reality, it was a consent form to participate in experimental drugging. As Jane put it: “At least on the street, you have a choice to take some drugs or not.”

Punishments in these places involved being restrained — strapped down, sometimes overnight, sometimes all day and night. Jane described the rooms where such disciplines took place as “worse than prison cells, reeking of urine and vomit, walls plastered with hawked-up meds and spit.”

She explained how she had “peed on myself because I was strapped to a bed and nobody would come to take me to the bathroom.” Even her head had been strapped down because attendants said she tried to bite the person who had the needle. Another time she was restrained because she “didn’t want to eat and was crying.” She recalls how some staff once “shut off the lights and laughed because it was pitch black in there and they knew I was afraid of the dark.”

Normal and Nearly Drugged to Death

Psychiatric drugs, often addictive and always dangerous, have extensive and even irreversible physical side effects. Even more insidious are the mental and emotional cravings engendered by these substances.

Where Jane had once fought against the pills, she now welcomed them. She learned how to cheek her medications and save them up to take one huge dose.

“I started living for the high alone,” she recounted. “I was in heaven, floating like a cloud. I could see myself, floating up out of myself, but my body was still sitting there. Unfortunately, I’d go into comas or pass out in the hallway. Then I had my little tunnel and light encounter. I was just shooting down a tunnel. I could always get more pills by telling the psych interns I needed help sleeping. Then I’d share them with the other girls.”

She recalled coming to on the floor one time in Augustus Hawkins with an intern checking her pulse and commenting it was up to 150.

“When I was 15, I took about 20 or 22 Seroquel,” she explained. “They got about a pill and a half out of my mouth and I went back in my room. It wasn’t a suicide attempt. I feel dumb now because I realize I could have died, but that wasn’t my objective. I was just chomping these pills. I then walked out in the hallway and just lay down on the floor. It’s good that I wasn’t in my bed; they might have forgotten about me and I’d have died. Most of the staff thought I was probably okay because I did sometimes get tired and lie down in the hall. This one brand-new intern was more caring so he checked on me. My pulse was really high and my blood pressure was really low. They rushed me down the hall in a wheelchair because they realized I was on my way to a coma.

“I was high as a kite. My eyes were open, but I couldn’t talk. I went in and out of consciousness. They put tubes in me; I tried to take them out because they hurt my throat, so they put the leather straps on. At first they were going to give me a sedative, but the staff told them I had already had a bunch of pills. They kept slapping me to keep me awake. It finally dawned on me that if I went to sleep, I might not wake up. But I said, ‘Goodnight,’ because in a coma, it’s peaceful. When I came to, it was awful; I hurt.

“To this day, I’m not sure how long I was out, but I was gone for about two weeks from the psychiatric unit. I finally woke up because my little brother, who was about 12 at the time, said to me, ‘No matter what you do, I’ll always love you.’ So I came back. I was trying to hug him, but the restraints were in the way.”

Horrors at Metro

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • •


“I started living for the high alone, I was in heaven, floating like a cloud. I could see myself, floating up out of myself, but my body was still sitting there. Unfortunately, I’d go into comas or pass out in the hallway.”

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

One night a group of kids found a way to set off the fire sprinklers so the metal bolts in the doors to the ward would click open and retract, enabling some of them to escape at least for a little while. As Jane described it, it involved working a toothbrush into a sprinkler head; however, the fire department found black marks on the wall and decided it was attempted arson. (Apparently nobody wondered how a girl locked up behind security doors had gone about acquiring the supplies necessary for committing arson.)

The court gave her a choice between Youth Authority (prison) or psychiatric care in Metropolitan State Hospital.

“Metro was the worst of all the places I had been,” she said.

Although Jane herself was not assaulted, other girls told her that one inmate had been raped by an attendant who worked there. Rapes allegedly happened in the adult ward as well. “But it’s hard to win a case because, if you’re a mental patient, nobody believes you.” Jane would know; a lie got her into the system and, once labeled “bipolar” and “hyperactive,” nobody had any official need to listen to her.

In the ward, incidents of excessive force with physical restraints were common. A patient refusing to take psychiatric drugs voluntarily would be rushed by attendants, held down, and injected with a powerful, dangerous, psychotropic agent, Haldol.9 Jane heard of one patient who, given this medication, experienced what the inmates called “lockjaw,” an inability to eat or speak normally for several days.

“I saw one girl grabbed by the hair and her head slammed against the floor,” she said. “I saw another who was having seizures because the people giving the injection claimed they forgot to give another medication with it to handle the side effects. She was scared and crying, but the nurses said it was ‘no big deal.’ Her eyes would go out of focus and would roll back.” The doctor and other attendants laughed at her predicament, smugly admonishing the understandably upset teenager that this was what she deserved for not cooperating. “They told her to behave better next time and it won’t happen again,” Jane explained.

Some of the attendants, knowing what awaited inmates in Metro’s adult ward, would warn the minor patients to do whatever was required in order to gain release before they turned 18. In the adult facility, people could end up “in leather cuffs or straitjackets and one of those gowns all open down the back, but minors like me have conservators who don’t like to see us looking like that with visible restraints.”

Word on the floor was that the adult ward was really hell.

For Jane and her fellow inmates there was yet one small hope that someone would listen and protect them: a sign posted on the hospital wall provided a phone number and advised that any disagreement or upset over treatment would be handled by calling this help line. What the girls did not know — not immediately anyway — was that the phone was internal. Anything they said was not kept in confidence but relayed back to the very people who were harming them in the first place.

As Jane recounted for Freedom: “One staff member told us, ‘We know who the rat is. Don’t you realize who you’re calling?’ It was the hospital all along.” And those complaints brought reprisals — the worst betrayal imaginable for they came in the name of help.

Continued ...

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