Pubdate: Fri, 04 Jan 2002
Source: Miami Herald (FL)
Copyright: 2002 The Miami Herald
Author: Robert Merkin


Re the Dec. 28 article Youth dies by hanging in jail cell: Even if 
convicted as an adult on both charges, cocaine possession and resisting 
arrest would not have earned 17-year-old Gary Petit-Frere the death penalty.

What kind of psychiatric evaluation concluded that a teenager suddenly 
locked in jail and facing a mandatory-minimum felony isn't a suicide risk?

Cocaine use by a 17-year-old is a red flag for psychiatric illness, and the 
boy should have been taken directly for psychiatric evaluation -- if it 
existed. Nationwide, since the dismantling of public psychiatric hospitals 
in the 1980s, jails and prisons are now our public institutions that 
``care'' for the mentally ill.

On the way to his suicide, how many police officers told Petit-Frere that 
he was going away for some serious time as they coerced him to betray other 
drug suspects (and assist their own careers)?

Is the Legislature that designed this system mad with savagery against the 
young? How was the community served by a boy who hanged himself in his cell 
four days before Christmas?

Northampton, Mass.
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