WONDER WOMAN GOES OUT FOR TRICK OR TREATMENT
“Who watches the watchmen?” Not sure that one’s ever been answered. Who judges the judges? Check the byline.
Deborah Domaine, A.K.A. the super villainess The Cheetah, was serving a sentence in Iron Heights Prison. In Sensation Comics Featuring Wonder Woman #15, a federal court was holding a hearing on Debbi’s motion to be transferred to the Ohlendorff Metahuman Psychiatric Hospital, because Iron Heights wasn’t equipped to treat her “severe dissociative identity disorder.”
The prosecution called Wonder Woman as a court-appointed expert witness on prison security. During Wonder Woman’s testimony, we got all the background exposition they don’t put into captions anymore. Last year, Debbi escaped from the psychiatric facility of Concord Federal Prison and attacked Wonder Woman in the National Air and Space Museum. During the ensuing fight – what’s a comic book story without an ensuing fight? – one hundred thirty-eight innocent bystanders were injured. Collateral damage. Wow, that fight had more collateral than ten bank loans. Anyway, Debbi was recaptured and transferred from Concord to the more-secure Iron Heights.
According to Debbi’s lawyer, Iron Heights’s medical staff adjusted Debbi’s medication and Debbi’s behavior had stabilized. So Debbi filed a motion to be transferred to Ohlendorff where she could receive the treatment necessary to cure her of her mental illness. Wonder Woman opposed the transfer and testified Ohlendorff’s security protocols were too lax to insure that Debbi would remain incarcerated there.
Why was Wonder Woman called as a court-appointed expert on prison security? I guess because her foes escape incarceration every alternate Tuesday that gave her expertise on which DCU prisons are secure. Personally, I’d question Wonder Woman’s expert status unless she said none of them are. DCU prisons have the biggest Open Door Policy since John Hay.
Unfortunately for Wonder Woman but not for the story – this was only page 4, something had to fill out the remaining pages – Judge Holzman transferred Debbi Ohlendorff. Then, short story shorter; Debbi escaped, Wonder Woman captured her, and Debbi went back to Iron Heights.
You might be wondering how Ohlendorff, a psychiatric hospital dedicated to treating metahumans with mental illness problems, could lack sufficient security to make sure its extremely dangerous patients all stayed on the grounds. I know I did. Seems a bit counterproductive. But, then, so does making a hotdog that’s bigger than the bun and it’s not like that never happens.
I wondered even more about defense counsel’s argument that neither Iron Heights nor any other metahuman prison was equipped to treat Debbi’s mental condition. The Eighth Amendment’s cruel and unusual punishment clause requires prisons to supply inmates with adequate medical care. The US Supreme Court said so in Estelle v. Gamble. Federal courts have applied Estelle’s rule both to physical health and to mental health care. When prisons show an intentional indifference to the mental health issues of its inmates, they violate the Eighth Amendment. Among the ways prisons can show indifference are a failure to have an adequate, qualified mental health staff on-site and the failure of large prisons to have a licenced psychiatrist on staff.
We know Iron Heights, like other DCU prisons, locks its cell doors on the honor system, so it might also consider viol-Eight-ing the Amendment to be as a badge of honor. Maybe it didn’t have on-site psychiatric staff, either. In that case…
Wait. No. No. Defense counsel said that Debbi received medications in Iron Heights, that Debbi’s medication had been adjusted by Iron Heights, and that the medication had stabilized Debbi’s behavior. Someone on Iron Heights’s staff was administering those meds. More important, someone on staff was competent enough to evaluate Debbi’s medications and adjust them by prescribing a proper dosage which had stabilized Debbi. That someone had to be a doctor. Debbi was receiving some treatment in Iron Heights, treatment that seemed to be working. How was Iron Heights not equipped to handle her mental disorder?
But for the sake of argument, let’s assume Debbi’s argument was valid. There is a case which held the failure to transfer an inmate from a prison to a hospital when the prison could not adequately treat the inmate was deliberate indifference; lending support to Judge Holzman’s ruling. But transferring Debbi to a hospital the judge knew couldn’t keep her locked up, that’s a different matter.
Mentally-ill inmates may have the right to be transferred to a hospital, but they don’t have the right to choose which hospital. Courts have ruled prisons must give inmates medical treatment, but they don’t have to give the exact treatment the inmate requests if other treatments are adequate. In addition, the government’s responsibility to protect its citizens means mentally-ill inmates should be hospitalized in an environment that is consistent both with their treatment and with public safety. If the defendants demonstrate a threat to public safety – by, say, escaping every alternate Tuesday and injuring one hundred thirty-eight innocent bystanders – courts are justified in having them hospitalized in a more restrictive hospital than the one the defendant might choose.
Judge Holzman might have granted Debbi’s motion to be transferred to a hospital. But in light of her past record, I find it doubtful that Judge Holzman would have transferred her to a hospital that a court-appointed expert on security testified wouldn’t be able to hold her. Hell, Judge Holzman didn’t even let Debbi into his courtroom; Debbi attend the motion hearing via closed-circuit television. If Holzman thought Debbi was so dangerous that he didn’t want her in his courtroom; he would not have sent her to an insecure mental health facility. He would have sent her to a hospital but one that was more secure. Like Concord or Arkham Asylum. Then Debbi could receive the treatment she required and the public would be safer, because Debbi was in a more-secure facility.
One where she might only be able to escape every third Tuesday.