For the past four years or so, I have been a regular contributor to this space. My goal has been to put forth issues along the interface of the criminal justice and mental health systems, where things can often be quite contentious. My goal has been to provoke thought, not anger; considered debate, not outraged reaction; reasoned discussion, not emotional arguments.
For the most part, I think I have succeeded. I have received much feedback in the comments section at The Crime Report website, on social media and in person. Most of you have responded cordially, even when you disagreed with my positions and views.We who choose to work with people who struggle with mental disorders and who are caught up in the criminal justice system face a difficult adversary: human beings are complex. Motivations are multifaceted and often ambivalent. Issues are complicated.
Solutions are difficult to identify.
Unfortunately, this sometimes leads to advocates for one view or another to stake out extreme and deeply held positions regarding “the problem,” positions that would try to fit square pegs, and triangular pegs, and elliptical pegs, into round holes. If I have learned nothing else in my many years of practice in this area, it is that there are no round pegs. The problem is not the pegs. The problem is the hole.
The pegs are the people we are tasked with trying to help or to manage. Each one is different, each one is unique. We cannot identify any single solution that will help them all.Frankly, it has often seemed to me that we can identify a single solution that will help more than the single person we had in mind when we devised it.
So when I see publications from advocacy groups on all sides of the issue that put forth simplistic, one-size-fits-all solutions, I lose hope in the future. These solutions are not only simplistic, but simple-minded; and they will not get us to a better place. I am leaving this space because I have been appointed to take on a new role in my state, as the Clinical Director for Forensic Services within the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
This new job will be all-consuming, and blogging risks interfering with the open, honest discussions we will need to have together in Maryland. In my new role, my task will be to bring the various perspectives together to try to design a system wherein we have the flexibility to meet the needs of all individuals with mental disorders who become involved in the justice system.
I hope to work with our partners on all sides, moderating and participating in constructive, rational, thoughtful discussions. Debate is good, but only when the parties at the table respect each other's point of view, each other's motives, and each other's good faith.
I hope to be able to foster this by working with stakeholders to move Maryland forward as we struggle with these complicated issues.
With that, I bid you all adieu, and I wish you all the best in your own struggles to make your world a better place. It is time for me to be the change I wish to see.
Erik Roskes, a regular blogger for The Crime Report, is a forensic psychiatrist and serves on the teaching faculty in the Psychiatry Department at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. The opinions expressed are those of the author only, and do not represent those of any of Dr. Roskes' employers or consultees, including the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. He welcomes readers' comments. Dr. Roskes' website is http://www.erikroskesmd.com/.