This morning we were assembled in Gospel Doctrine class working through Jesus healing the daughter of a woman of Canaan (Matthew 15), when our instructor was suddenly called out to assist with a medical concern.
We were deciding what to do next when a tall black man sitting in back of the class stepped up to the front and continued leading us through the scripture. He had lots of confidence, but it was clear from his street clothes and manner that he was probably not a member of the church. He said he was Lutheran but was making the rounds of other churches today. Eventually, our teacher returned to resume her prepared lesson.
We later learned that Joe (not his real name) had recently been discharged from the maximum security, state psychiatric hospital in the area. His current domicile was a sleeping bag on the banks of a river that ran through the city, he was getting showers twice a week at the local Baptist church, and he was looking to see what assistance might be available until his Social Service benefits kicked in.
Joe volunteered that he originally went to the psych hospital from county jail because he was considered incompetent to stand trial. He said he eventually stood trial, was convicted, and served his time in several California prisons. He was sent back to the psychiatric hospital as a Mentally Disoriented Offender (MDO). In other words, California Corrections thought Joe was too dangerous to be paroled directly to the community. After several months, however, a Judge decided otherwise and paroled him to the street.
According to Wikipedia the cost of caring for patients at this state psychiatric hospital is over $200,000 per year in contrast to about $50,000 a year to house prisoners. But a man cannot be arbitrarily kept in prison after he’s served his sentence.
comment: In previous blogs I’ve written that the goal and reality is that the majority of the patients at the state psychiatric hospital where I work will eventually be released to the community. This is the first time that a man who claimed to be from this maximum security facility has appeared at church on Sunday, certainly the first time one has stepped up to help teach the Gospel Doctrine class. The experience has demonstrated more than ever the need to be successful in treating the men at the hospital where I work.