HOW PSYCHIATRY DESTROYED MY LIFE
by C. Rodney Yoder
I am a 42 year old man who has been held for over a decade in an Illinois mental hospital. My story is as follows.
In 1979, I was sentenced to prison for a felony battery I deny committing although I admit commission of a misdemeanor. I was a 20 year old college Freshman who'd never been in trouble with the law. My Menard Penitentiary warden was Stephen L. Hardy. In 1982, an Illinois judge ordered me freed after finding Hardy had conspired with Illinois officials to illegally imprison me past my release date. .
Upon release from prison, I resumed my life by moving to Tacoma, Washington where I attended college, sold real estate, married and had two children. In late 1985 my family and I moved back to Illinois and I farmed and operated a machinery repair shop from 1986 until 1990. I divorced my wife in 1989.
On January 11, 1990, I learned my four year old son had been abused by a 42 year old man from whom my ex-wife was continuing to accept baby-sitting offers. I was later on that date accused of striking my ex-wife during an alcoholic blackout and I pled guilty to that charge and was sentenced to 18 months in prison.
After I served my prison sentence without incident, the Department of Correction's officials who'd participated with Stephen L. Hardy in effecting my unlawful incarceration in the early 1980s filed a petition to commit me to the Chester Mental Health Center. Hardy had just four years earlier been appointed to head the Chester MHC which sits adjacent to the Menard Penitentiary .
Upon arrival at the Chester MHC in June of 1991 the staff told me I would be held there for a "long, long time" as an apparent vendetta by Hardy.
For ten years I struggled to obtain legal redress against my psychiatric hospitalization. I had no money to hire a lawyer or independent experts. The local court repeatedly appointed the local public defender who has been described by appellate lawyers and others as "the de facto lackey of the prosecutor." This lawyer and his successor would not adequately protect my rights, obtain independent examiners or subject the CMHC's petitions to a true adversarial testing. Whenever I would try to represent myself, the local judge would declare that I was incompetent to represent my own best interests. The CMHC's petitions asserted I was so impaired by mental illness as to be incapable of even caring for my own basic physical needs and the CMHC would provide "experts" to testify that I was incompetent to represent myself. I was often tried in abstentia after the lawyer inflicted on me" would not consult with me and made fraudulent representations to the court that I had threatened him and/or refused to speak with him.
Additionally, I made repeated bids to state and federal courts in an effort to procure relief from my confinement at the CMHC and a host of attendant abuses I had been made to endure there. Although declared to be incompetent by the state court, I won several of these pro se actions.
When I was determined eligible to receive social security benefits with which I might hire a lawyer and procure experts, the CMHC fraudulently represented to the local Social Security Administration (SSA) office that I was a convict in prison or a "forensic" patient, i.e. not guilty by reason of insanity or unfit to stand trial, and thus not entitled under regulations to my benefits. The local SSA office then "suspended" my benefits. When I asked for a reconsideration, that was inexplicably ignored. An area lawyer, Robert Kassin, volunteered to help me and submitted additional requests for reconsideration or appeal. The local SSA office then alleged my file had disappeared. Kassin had to have two Congressmen request a Congressional Inquiry to force the local SSA office to compile or find my file so that an SSA, appeal judge could look at the decision. Finally, after a multi-year delay, I was awarded my benefits, including some back benefits.
I was then able to hire a lawyer to defend me and I have found numerous experts who have agreed to examine me and testify for just their travel and other actual expenses. At present, however, the government opposes my transport to a Chicago expert's office for an examination and is also obstructing my possession of needed word processing tools, software and supplies. I am also being denied a trial before an impartial judge and jury. The presiding judge is the former prosecutor and is a current client of one of the state's two lawyers. He refuses to recuse himself and has exhibited bias and hostility toward me for the last ten years. I further believe an impartial jury in Randolph County, Illinois is impossible because the corrections/mental health industry is the area's largest employer in a hardscrabble community and CMHC inmates have always been demonized as frightening criminals. (I am accused of no crime.)
In the last few years my case has garnered widespread attention at home and overseas. Groups concerned about the plight of those designated mentally ill, including Support Coalition International, have examined my plight and have issued repeated condemnations of my captors and pleas for an independent investigation of my plight. On May 22, 2000, Senators Joseph Lieberman and Richard Durbin requested that the United States Department of Justice investigate my continuing hospitalization.
Investigations by the Illinois Guardianship and Advocacy Commission's Human Rights Authority have found repeated violations of my rights and a lack of any attainable "treatment goals." Recent findings by the HRA that the CMHC has illegally confiscated word processing equipment and supplies was published in a May 23, 2001 St. Louis Post-Dispatch article, yet the state refuses to take any corrective action.
My plight has been widely discussed on the Internet and is being increasingly discussed in the newspapers and on radio and television. Mine is regarded as the most controversial case of involuntary commitment (IVC) in the USA and as emblematic of psychiatric oppression.
Many human rights activists have asked Governor George Ryan of Illinois to take a lead in investigating my case.
On November 20, 2000, pursuant to the order of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in an appeal I won pro se, the Chief Judge for the Southern District of Illinois traveled to the CMHC to ascertain whether, under Illinois law, I am legally competent. In this hearing, Stephen L. Hardy, Ph.D., and Michael W. Stempniak, Ph.D., both swore that they have never had any reason to doubt my ability to manage or care for my person, estate or affairs. On cross examination I introduced into evidence merely the latest (and pending) sworn petition by the CMHC asserting I am so impaired by mental illness as to be incapable of caring for my own basic physical needs. The federal judge demanded to know how these experts could assert such diametrically opposed sworn opinions and found me to be competent by overwhelmingly evidence. Apparently, for ten continuous years I have had filed against me perjured petitions for my continuing commitment.
Although my captors assert I am profoundly, grossly and manifestly mentally ill with "delusional disorder, persecutory type" and "bipolar disorder," I don't take or want any drugs. Scores of people, including many mental health experts, find me to be completely rational and free of any symptomology of mental illness and are puzzled by my continuing, let alone initial, hospitalization.
Additional materials about my case may be viewed at www.stopshrinks.org and other websites.