The Forgotten In Our Society

 Dear Editor:

This past Shabbos, I was reminded of how far I think we have to go in how we treat a large percentage of the population.

A relative’s child had been diagnosed with cancer, and understandably, the whole family was in disarray and going through a ton of anguish. The sympathy I felt, and everyone in my family felt, was palpable. I thought about this for some time - and I then wondered about the mentally ill. What if they weren’t treated as pariahs and punished for being that way? What if, instead, we treated them like those cancer patients (which I believe is an apt comparison) - what would be different for those mentally ill patients’ prognoses? Surely, being treated with sympathy and respect by their community helps cancer patients’ healing (it doesn’t hurt), and all those tefillahs that are said with sincerity on their behalf do so much. Imagine the cognitive benefits to the mentally ill if they were treated that way. Someone whose actual mentality is ruined could change for the better, and their prognosis too, if they were to be accepted by their community. And just like a person with cancer goes into remission and goes back and forth with their illness, mental illness is no different.

So why isn’t it treated that way? Why are we all so scared of mental illness, and treat its sufferers as bad people on whom we build our self-esteem by putting them down? I guess it could be that the average man can feel natural sympathy for a cancer patient because they can imagine going through it themselves. They can see its horrific effects. Mental illness remains hidden and invisible; there is nothing physically there.

If this mentality could change, it could save lives. Suicides could be prevented; addictions born due to isolation and lack of community that often coincide with mental illness (the classic dual diagnosis) could become obsolete. Just like I pray for the day when there is a cure for cancer, I also pray for the day we have a real cure for mental illness (perhaps we are getting there). Until we do, I pray for the day that the mentally ill are treated with the same level of sympathy and understanding and support.


A long-time mental illness sufferer

There Are Better Candidates

Dear Editor:

Queens State Assembly member David Weprin and Chairman of the State Assembly Corrections Committee was a guest speaker at the Lifers and Long-Termers Parole Summit held at the Otisville Correctional Facility on Friday, September 27.  This follows his previous attendance at the Lifers and Long Termers banquet held for prisoners in the Fishkill Correctional Facility on August 16. Earlier this year, he introduced legislation in the State Assembly to permit some prison inmates who committed murder or rape to be eligible for parole once they reach age 55 and have served at least 15 years of their sentence.  The same legislation was introduced by Manhattan State Senator Brad Hoylman in the State Senate.

This legislation would permit the state prison parole board to assess a convicted felon’s potential risk to society as part of its decision on the possible early release of the inmate.  Both Weprin and Hoylman reference as justification that allowing these criminals to be eligible for parole could save New York State a billion dollars or more over time.

Never shy around a microphone or photo opportunity, Weprin never promoted this legislation at one of his standard Sunday press conferences.  You never read about it in one of his periodic newsletters mailed to constituents at taxpayers’ expense. The same will be true about his participation in the Lifers and Long Term prisoners banquet held in the Fishkills Correctional Facility.

These ultra-liberal “politically-correct” banquets and legislation complement a similar push to allow convicted felons the right to vote while serving time in prison. Some want to grant paroled felons the right to serve on jury duty.  What’s next: reparations in the form of taxpayers’ rebates to reimburse ex-felons for lost income due to time served in prison? Weprin seems to be more concerned about breaking bread with those who have committed various crimes than victims of murder, arson, rape, muggings, robberies, auto and identity theft, or home break-ins.  I have no problems with educational or vocational training for prisoners so they can find employment versus going back to a life of crime upon release after serving their time.  Unfortunately, Weprin has become politically not kosher for Jewish and non-Jewish voters looking for someone to represent our interests in safe streets, schools and neighborhoods. Remember this when he runs for reelection to the State Assembly in 2020 General Election and NYC Comptroller in the 2021 Democratic Party primary.  He does not deserve your vote or financial campaign contribution.  There are better candidates to represent your interests.


Larry Penner