20 May, 2017


             The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) and Harvard University estimated that about 30% of inner-city children are affected by post-traumatic stress disorder, an illness commonly associated with soldiers who have returned home from war.  Seldom do we view it from genetically evolved or environmentally influenced (Nature vs. Nurture) perspectives.

            In the field of psychology, these two schools of thought represent a long standing discussion and debate regarding human development.  On one hand, are those who believe that human beings are fundamentally created to be the way they are by nature.  On the other hand, are those who believe that our development in a specific situation or environment, especially during early childhood, is the main thing which determines the type of personality, social skills, and social problems that we will evidence throughout our lives.  For most people, it would be a natural inclination to lean towards nature concerning mental health disorders. While in reality, most mental health disorders are developed as a result of specific situations and/or environmental concerns (nurture).

            Through the prism of prison I look around and out into society, gazing at souls moving in a continuum of traumatic events.  Silent screams of torment blaring a cacophony of “bad acts”.  These so-called statutorily defined “bad acts” do a grave disservice to the Human, who should, at all times, be treated holistically.  There are no moments in life that stand on their own.   Nevertheless, judicially and statutorily, whole persons are treated as fragments.  Thus, creating invisible people.  This matter is compounded when a scientific diagnosis becomes concrete but only a certain segment of society is allowed to walk on it.

            Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is a diagnostic phrase coined by psychiatrists between 1975-1980, as a mental disorder brought on by traumatic events that range “outside” of normal human experiences.  Without question, war is strictly a human experience, and it is our brave men and women who return war-torn to wear the moniker and walk the road with very little resistance.

            Loving husbands and wives come home to their loved ones only to discover that the warm body lying next to them in the dark of night or the visual and sound effects of their children playing violent video games trigger the horrible nightmares of Vietnam, Desert Storm, or the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars.  They also become hyper-vigilant with regard to anything that could be considered an injustice to themselves or others. Thereby, causing them to react aggressively and irrationally, be it emotionally, verbally, or physically.

            Similarly, some violent offenders experience symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder as a result of the residual effects of growing up with undiagnosed mental health disorders such as Attention Deficit Disorder (“ADD”), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder   (“ADHD”), Bipolar, etc.  that have been exacerbated by being abused, bullied, assaulted (with or without weapons), robbed at gunpoint, or witnessing violence in their communities.

            Too often are our inner-city youths depicted as (“super”) predators and consequently given lengthy sentences and thrown in prison, as opposed to properly vetting them to identify what would be the most effective treatment before, during, and after their incarceration.  Use of the Sequential Intercept Model as an approach to decriminalization of people with serious mental illness could be a viable alternative.  (Mark R. Munetz, M.D., Patricia A. Griffith, Ph.D.)   It is

“ . . . a conceptual framework for communities to use when considering the interface between the criminal justice and mental health systems as they address the concerns about criminalization of people with mental health illness.  The model envisions a series of points of interception at which an intervention can be made to prevent individuals from entering or penetrating deeper into the criminal justice system.  Ideally, most people will be intercepted at early points, with decreasing numbers at each subsequent point.  The interception points are law enforcement and emergency services, initial detention and initial hearings; jails, courts, forensic evaluations, and forensic commitments; reentry from jails, state prisons, and forensic hospitalization; and community corrections and community support.  The model provides an organizing tool for a discussion of diversion and linkage alternatives and for systematically addressing criminalization.  Using the model, a community can develop targeted strategies that evolve over time to increase diversion of people with mental illness from the criminal justice system and link them with community treatment.”

(Psychiatric Services 57:544-549, 2006)

            Obviously, people with mental illness who commit crimes with criminal intent that are unrelated to symptomatic mental illness should be held accountable for their actions, as anyone else would be.  However, should such people be detained for the rest of their lives, or longer than others when there could be mitigating evidence to support leniency?

            What is to come of fatherless children who live in impoverished communities?  Many of  these children have experienced traumatic events ranging from molestation, rape, and violence in their households or in the larger community. As a product of my environment, I sincerely believe that mental health is a discussion that must take place in every household.  It could have a tremendous impact on violent crimes and suicides.

            Clearly, I am not a psychiatrist nor a psychologist.  However, I am a father of three children – Seanna, 28; Sean, 26; Shakirha, 23; and a grandfather of two – Zuri, 4, and Abdullah, 3.  I fear that in communities, like mine, with poorly developed mental health systems, few will be detected early.  Ultimately, guaranteeing that more youth and adults alike suffering from post-traumatic stress and other mental health disorders will continue to move through the criminal justice system undetected and undiagnosed.  Consequently, this demographic will probably continue to relapse into drug and alcohol abuse and criminal behavior oblivious to their psychological deficiencies.

            Obviously, growing up in urban communities can present a plethora of socio-economic concerns.  What is to come of fatherless children who, as a result, may face even more psychological challenges?  Who is monitoring their mental health?  I’m not big on making excuses for myself, or others, especially when there are victims involved.  However, there is a big difference between an excuse and a reason.   An excuse is an attempt to negate accountability.  Whereas, a reason serves as a motive or cause of a particular effect.  Identifying the correlation between mental health disorders and (violent) crime could lead to the development of alternative methods to crime prevention, rehabilitation, and curbing recidivism.

            As a peer counselor at SCI Dallas’ therapeutic community – Moving Towards Change (MIC) --, I encounter a disproportionate amount of men suffering from co-occurring disorders (mental health and substance abuse).  Many of them were unaware of this condition prior to their incarceration.  Likewise, there are probably many, including myself, who are still unaware of a pre-existing condition or even the effect of the trauma associated with being incarcerated – which is why this article is important!

            If we are not aware a problem exists, then how can we properly identify, monitor, and receive treatment for it?  I believe that every child exposed to traumatic events either in school or in their household, as well as, anyone admitted to the emergency rooms in hospitals should be evaluated for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and other mental health disorders that could become intensified by violent acts committed against them.

            With all of the controversy concerning the appeal of the Affordable Care Act (“ACA”/”Obamacare”), I’m sure that this issue could very well be subject to the status quo of bureaucracy.  However, we live in an innovative age of technology where illnesses and diseases that were deemed incurable now have an antidote.  Likewise, by taking an innovative approach towards providing a mentally healthy environment, we could have a powerful impact on our society.

            For more dialogue, please contact  me:  Sean K. Davis, #BM6717, SCI-Dallas, 1000 Follies Road, Dallas, PA 18612.  Or you can go to and open an e-mail account. You can also contact Dr. Mark R. Munetz who is the Chief Clinical Officer of the Summit County Alcohol, Drug Addiction, and Mental Health Services Board, 100 Cedar Street, Suite 300, Akron, OH 44307, e-mail:  Dr. Munetz is also affiliated with the Department of Psychiatry at Northeastern Ohio Universities College of Medicine in Rootstown, Ohio.  Additionally, you can contact Patricia A. Griffin Ph.D., a Senior Consultant for the National GAINS  Center for People with Co-Occurring Disorders in the Justice System and the Philadelphia Department of Behavioral Health by visiting her website at http;//www.partnersofexcellence.pit,edu/ contact.html).


MR. CARL S. DANIELS  is a Restorative Justice Advocate and Contributing Editor to IN SEARCH OF FATHERHOOD®.

MR. SEAN K. DAVIS is a Restorative Justice Advocate and Contributing Editor to IN SEARCH OF FATHERHOOD®. 

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