Posts Tagged ‘Jail’

Schizophrenia; Care or jail-time?

June 11, 2019


Left to Right; Frank and Gerard about 1942!

Last night’s 4 Corners program on the ABC featured the story of a young man who after many years of abhorrent behaviour ended up killing 6 people. It traced his days as a young boy who went through school whereby according to the friends and teachers he already showed up as a boy who was different, with strange behaviours who was increasingly becoming more and more erratic and dangerous. At 14 years of age the school went into lock-down as he had taken detonators to school. He gave as reason;  to blow up the school and get even with his fellow students for picking on him.

James Gargasoulas was a troubled young man. The ABC decided to spend seven months on the story in order to point out that the tragedy not only could have been, but should have been avoided. It was clear that his spree of crime and violence was well known to the police and for some years. Nothing was done about him and one wonders why when the signs were so overwhelming and his behaviour so unpredictable that nothing was done to try and find out why his behaviour was so unpredictable. Why did it not get picked up that his mental state was in need of serious diagnoses and given some kind of mental examination and care? The only thing sure was the continuation and repeat of his unpredictable behaviour. He was diagnosed with Schizophrenia but none-the- less sent to life-time jail. He killed 6 people. It seems that the only place for mentally ill people who commit violence in Australia is jail.

This whole episode brought back the story of my own brother, Frank. He too was unpredictable and given to bouts of rage and violence. His behaviour too started well before adulthood. He too stood out and was different. His behaviour became unmanageable for my parents and at one stage after have stabbed one of my brothers with scissors was taken in and put in a mental hospital. This was back around 1958 or so, when Frank was just 19, and I was one year younger. His stay in that mental institution was something out of the middle ages or Bedlam. He would be wrapped in wet blankets to try and subdue him! Wardens would walk around with keys dangling from belts. I am just regaling memories of a period when I too was still a young man.

014Frank's birthday

(Right) My dear brother Frank in Holland, a few month before he passed away.

It was a horrible situation.  Our family suffered badly during that period. There was (as so often) a Royal Commission in the affairs of that Mental Hospital, Callan Park, but nothing improved. I am not sure if mental health has improved in the intervening decades! I doubt it. The episode of James  Gargasoulas is proof that mentally ill people remain undiagnosed and not given due care, no matter what happens, and what terrible deeds result from their unpredictable nature due to that illness.

At one stage my brother Frank jumped from a bridge and badly mangled his foot. After many years of bureaucratic battles my parents managed to get him back to Holland where conditions for mentally sick people already then were much better. For the rest of his life he was given good care and was no danger to others or himself. He spent a lifetime in a care institution where he would be managed  and looked after as well as possible. He would be given good care for his physical well being. He had an income for his cigarettes, clothes, or whatever he wanted. He had his own room with TV and suitable mobility equipment towards his latter years. He died almost two years ago aged 79. Below is a photo taken a few moths before he passed away. His life was not wonderful but he was given good care.

Frank could easily have ended up like the poor boy from Coober Pedy, James Gargasoulas now in jail. He killed six innocent people. It could have been avoided!

Because (Nr5)

May 14, 2011

Because (Nr5)Posted on May 15, 2011 by gerard oosterman

The screws at Long Bay weren’t at all like the friendly folks in Muswellbrook. The cell measured mere two by three and half meters. I was considered low risk and given the job as sweeper. It wasn’t easy and the nights were long and boring. I swore never to do anything like crime again. Un-expectedly, a  screw called ‘Punchy’  cracked me one below the belt which made me double over, racked with a busted bladder for which they gave me a couple of aspirins. A doctor was only called two days after when I was sick with fever… The fever became so bad I was put in hospital but that screw stayed on smirking as ever. It was a hostile place. The radio was centrally controlled and blaring out loud all day with ads waxing on about Cadbury chocolate bars together with 43 beans in Nescafe… The food was terrible and the mutton routinely wriggled with pale looking maggots that one just learnt to brush off. What have you done Frankie? How did you come to this? Bloody Ernie. He never told me he had a pistol.

Kelly and bra straps 

Kelly’s lovely kiss and her bra straps kept me going as much as ‘going’ was possible. Geez, how the time crawled. My only relief was writing letters to mum, dad, and Kelly. My dear mum had tucked the bible and book of psalms inside my little suitcase, no doubt worried sick of whom else I would get mixed up with inside those forbidden brick walls. Her visits were sporadic. It’s not so easy to travel up and down from Muswellbrook. ‘Your dad is too busy with your brother’s health, has to keep massaging him to keep his muscles going”, she said each time. My brother was eleven now and his bones growing bigger but his muscles were not corresponding, keeping up. Tests were being done in Sydney but she had forgotten the complicated name. Something to do with wasting muscles,  dystrophy or something like that, she added crying, her tears soaked up by  her Aunt Bellum’s embroidered hanky on the little table behind the screen that separated us…’”He sometimes has trouble walking up to his bedroom”’. “‘He keeps buckling over”’ and Aunt Bellum reckons that in her family some boys had had the same disease, eventually dying from it. “Women can’t get it, only boys, but we carry it over”, she was sobbing now. I was starting to see the reason why Aunty Bellum never got married and her always worrying about me. I remembered her saying about girls, ’be careful not to get taken’. Was she considering that I could succumb to the same disease that my brother had inherited?

Kelly’s letters became a life-line that kept me from losing the will to keep going. The Long Bay ambience was getting to me. ‘Punchie’ was still creeping around with his fondness for unexpectedly knocking blokes out in the one expert punch, when no-one was looking.  I stayed away as much as possible, with my broom at the ready, just in case!

(to be continued)

Because (Nr4)Posted on May 13, 2011 by gerard oosterman

The job of getting money together was more driven by Ernie to buy his ‘romance’ rather than my own lack of money. For me it was more of a dare and show of bravado and wanted to somehow make up for my well- known lack of spelling in swaggering around town with money in my pocket.   Kelly would be impressed! Being young and having experienced the hot wiring of cars it wasn’t such a big career deal to step up to a next level. I should have stayed at school but they were confusing times and my younger brother had also been troubled by suddenly buckling while climbing the stairs to our bedroom. My parents seemed worried.

 We took to climbing a fence of the factory where we knew electric fans were being made. Sauntering nonchalantly past the factory earlier, we had seen the truck being full of the fans. The padlocked gate was easily prised with the jemmy bar. What wasn’t so easy to prise open were the jaws of the Rottweiler which, soon after, clamped itself on Ernie’s jacket, determined not to let go till the guard arrived with gun drawn. This snarling monster-dog was trained to remain out of sight till a penetration was made inside its perimeter.  I reckoned the Rottweiler took a fancy to Ernie, possibly could smell the Bull Terrier on him. How fortuitous for me! We were opening the latch of the truck and admiring the boxes of fans when the snarling dog came upon us. The temerity of the guard to lock us then up inside the truck with fans was an insult not lost to me while pondering the time inside.

Still, I did not lie in Court, confessed all and was duly sentenced. Mum crying on Aunt Bellum’s shoulder. Dad hugged me and said, “don’t add anymore to our worries, you brother is getting a wasting sickness…” “Do your best in jail and write to us”. “At least you told the truth, didn’t fib like Ernie”. Ernie’s plight did not bring him any ‘romance. Instead he got 3 years, no parole. He had pinched the pistol from his dad’s shooting club. Dad and Ernie used to go pig shooting at the back of Macquarie Marshes with the help of a totally disinterested and untrained bull terrier. Ernie used to run with the dog in his arms while dad trained his rifle on the wild pig. The bull terrier just refused to engage in pigs, preferred to get stuck into the German Sheppard across the road instead.

(to be continued.)