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Is Early Intervention Safe?

Opinion Editorial
September 28, 1999

By Linda Gorman

The hubris of the “mental health community” was prominently displayed following the Ft. Worth shootings when Joe Lovelace, past president of the Texas affiliate of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, gave an advance view of its agenda. “When,” he asked, “will society recognize its better to intervene early than to wait and play the odds the person is going to act in a way tragic enough that societys going to respond?”[1]

Early intervention is the latest fashion in mental health. Its proponents want the power to compel “at risk” individuals to submit to psychological conditioning. The policy question is whether the mental health community can be safely trusted with such power. Its record is not encouraging.

People in law enforcement have long recognized that criminals share certain behavioral characteristics. John Douglas used the assumption that serial killers shared behavioral patterns to develop the FBIs successful serial killer profiling system.

The fact that a person has already committed a crime is an important clue to his personality. Profiling tells us something about criminals. It tells us little or nothing about how many people in the general population may fit the profile but not commit crimes.

Successful early intervention requires information about the innocent as well as the guilty. Getting this requires tracking a random sample of the population for decades. This is hideously expensive and unimaginably tedious. Researchers generally make do with what they have, usually a bunch of imprecise probabilities wrung from a mass of dodgy data tortured by various statistical techniques.

Maddeningly vague profiles are the result. Among the Violence Institute of New Jerseys indicators for identifying potentially violent 13 to 19-year-olds are “lack of enjoyment or fun in life,” “a repeated pattern of not listening to authority figures,” “feelings [that] shift from very happy to very angry or very sad without an obvious corresponding reason,” “few friends,” and “nearly always seems angry and/or feels persecuted.”[2]

In use, these indicators boil down to some mental health workers opinion about whether a particular individual behaves normally. Such opinions in child abuse cases have cost more than a few people their freedom, their families, and their fortunes. When given great power, mental health workers in the McMartin Case in California, the Edenton Case in North Carolina, the Wee Care Case in New Jersey, the Amirault Case in Boston, and the outrage in Wenatchee, Washington lent their professional credence to fantastic tales of weekly evening church orgies, rapes with butcher knives, and molestation in magic rooms.

Whitman County Superior Court Judge Wallis Friel was appointed to hold hearings on the conduct of the case against Harold and Idella Everett in Wenatachee. He found that Child Protective Services “used therapists and counselors as “witness-managers” working on behalf of prosecutors. In 1998, four years after the initial charges, the Seattle-Post Intelligencer reported that “scores of children remain separated from parents, brothers, sisters and friends. The state has put 17 of the 60 children up for adoption. Numerous children say they were hurt horribly — not by rapists but by state Department of Social and Health Services caseworkers and counselors and therapists hired by DSHS or its Office of Child Protective Services. Their stories are corroborated by clinical reports, CPS episode reports and interviews.”[3]

The report of the 1991-92 San Diego County Grand Jury details how mental health workers have misused their power and abused the innocent. A wife supporting her husbands denial in a child abuse case risks being labeled as “accommodating his denial,” judged untrustworthy, and having her children taken from her. A child denying molestation may be diagnosed with “child abuse accommodation syndrome” and judged unable to remember the experience because he is “multi-phasic,” dissociative, or “in-denial.” Thus, in the words of the Grand Jury, “all members of the family can deny a false molest allegation and, in each instance, the system uses the denial as evidence of guilt.”[4]

In the last 25 years the mental health community has collected a fortune in federal matching funds in return for finding child abuse in every nook and cranny of America. Its role in destroying families, blighting lives, and condemning the Wenatchee 28, Grant Snowden, the Souzas, the Amiraults, and dozens of other innocents to undeserved jail terms has not been fully examined.[5]  Now it now wants additional funding and power to rule on the violent tendencies of American school children.

The Soviet government successfully deployed mental health experts against those it judged a threat to the community. U.S. experts want to do the same here, despite the fact that hundreds of lives have already been ruined by uncontrolled power in the hands of people deranged enough to believe that children dont lie, that memories can be repressed but not altered, and that denial proves guilt. Given the state of the art, families will be better protected if such programs are denied official status.

Linda Gorman is a Senior Fellow with the Independence Institute, a free-market think tank in Golden, Colorado, https://i2i.org. This article originally appeared in the Colorado Daily (Boulder), for which Linda Gorman is a regular columnist.

This article, from the Independence Institute staff, fellows and research network, is offered for your use at no charge. Independence Feature Syndicate articles are published for educational purposes only, and the authors speak for themselves. Nothing written here is to be construed as necessarily representing the views of the Independence Institute or as an attempt to influence any election or legislative action.

Please send comments to Editorial Coordinator, Independence Institute, 14142 Denver West Pkwy., suite 185, Golden, CO 80401 Phone 303-279-6536 (fax) 303-279-4176 (email) webmngr@i2i.org


[1] Mary Doclar. 19 September 1999. “Experts look at gunman in hindsight.” The Denver Rocky Mountain News, p. 48A.September, 1998.
[2] “Identifying and Responding to Adolescents Who May Harm Others.” Violence Institute of New Jersey at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. p. 1.
[3]Andrew Schneider and Mike Barber. 24 February 1998. “Children Hurt By the System.” Seattle Post-Intelligencer. http://www.seattle-pi.com/pi/powertoharm/therapy.html
[4] 1991-92 San Diego County Grand Jury. 29 June 1992. Child Sexual Abuse, Assault, and Molest Issues. Report # 8. San Diego, California. http://www.co.san-diego.ca.us/cnty/cntydepts/safety/grand/reports/report8.html
[5] Dorothy Rabinowitz of The Wall Street Journal has written numerous articles on the injustices done in the name of preventing child abuse. Those that appeared in The Wall Street Journal include “A Darkness in Massachusetts,” 30 January 1995; “A Darkness in MassachusettsII,” 14 March 1995; “A Darkness in MassachusettsIII, 12 May 1995; “Wenatchee: A True Story,” 29 September 1995, p. A12; “Wenatchee, A True StoryII”, 13 October 1995, p. A12; “Verdict in Wenatchee,” 15 December 1995, p. A16; “The Children Behind the Glass,” 15 May 1996, p. A14; “The Snowden Case, at the Bar of Justice,” 14 October 1997, p. A22; “Through the Darkness,” 8 April 1998, p. A22; and “Reckoning in Wenatchee,” 21 September, 1999, p. A26. Some are posted on the web. The Darkness in Massachusetts articles can be read at http://www.rickross.com/search.html, search on “Rabinowitz.” The Wall Street Journal, also ran editorials on the subject, including “Wenatchee Update” on 6 October 1995, p. A10; “Out of Jail” on 27 March 1998, p. A14; and “The Amirault Decision,” 15 June 1998, p. A28.

Copyright 1999 Independence Insitute