Civil Liberties

What a More Liberal Approach to Involuntary Commitment Looks Like


Yesterday, Jacob Sullum posted a response to the pundits and politicians who say the Tucson murders make a strong case for involuntarily committing people who are "detached from reality" to mental institutions for treatment. Here's what a society more inclined to commit offbeat people to mental institutions might look like in practice:

Chinemerem Eze, a Nigerian national attending Brooklyn College, believed that her landlord had hidden a camera in her apartment. When she asked school officials for help, they shipped her off to a psychiatric ward. Then she found the camera.

Eze is suing Brooklyn College for false imprisonment, among other things, over a 2008 episode in which she approached school administrators for help in dealing with issues she was having with her roommates and landlord at her Brooklyn apartment. According to the complaint, Eze believed that she was being "defamed on the internet" by her former roommates and that "her landlord at the time had installed a hidden camera in her bedroom." Sounds nuts!

That's what school psychologist Sally Robles thought. When Eze went to Brooklyn College's Office of Campus and Community Safety Services to ask for help, security officers called Robles, who proceeded to ask Eze about her mental health history and whether she ever heard voices. When Eze protested that she was simply an international student asking the school's security staff for help on dealing with a housing issue, Robles called an ambulance.

Eze was "forced" into the ambulance by school officials, and ended up being committed to Kings County Psychiatric Hospital for two weeks, where in addition to being made "physically and emotionally ill and subject to great humiliation," she missed her final exams and was "terminated" by the school.

See also the stories of David Pyles and Adrian Schoolcraft.

Related: Apparently, our post-Tucson attention to political rhetoric now means that bloggers who criticize politicians get visits from the FBI.