psychiatric imprisonment

Editorial
constitution Oregon

Psychiatric Imprisonment in Oregon

Fred Foldvary
by Fred E. Foldvary, Senior Editor

A woman has been held in a mental institution in Oregon against her will. She has not harmed anyone. She has not injured herself. A judge does not like her behavior, so the woman has been deprived of her liberty and her rights under the Oregon and US constitutions. When a judge can arbitrarily put any person in a mental institution with no criminal conviction, no due process, and hold her there for a long time, society has lost its liberty. Government no longer has to put disfavored people on trial; it just has to declare them to be insane.

In Bend, Oregon, Terri Sue Webb decided she would ride her bicycle naked, because she was a free human being. There is no law on the books there that makes public nudity illegal. After several nude bicycle rides around town, Webb was arrested on a charge of disorderly conduct for a trip that, according to the district attorney, unlawfully and intentionally caused public inconvenience, annoyance and alarm, and obstructed vehicular traffic on a public way. Webb says she was just trying to celebrate life and did not mean to offend anybody. Her attorney said the case didn't fit the definition of disorderly conduct, as her actions did not cause the public inconvenience, annoyance or alarm.

The disorderly conduct charges against her were dropped on the condition that she not appear nude in public for three years. Web argued that the probation condition was violation of her constitutional rights and her rights as a human being. She defied the ruling in a city park, and was then sent to the Oregon State Hospital in Salem. (See Bend News and NAC.)

Unlike regular trials, mental-case hearings are secret trials, closed to the public. In Oregon, the law limits mental-institution commitments to a maximum of 180 days, but perhaps a judge can commit her again on another charge if she persists in nakedly defying the government.

If the legislators of the State of Oregon wish to criminalize public nudity, they should enact a law, and then let the state attorneys prosecute those who violate it. If a jury votes to convict, then the violator will be punished in accord with due process. That is how criminal law is supposed to work. When the government instead uses psychiatric imprisonment, they show contempt for their own laws and for justice.

For such a law to be enacted, the people of Oregon would need to change the Constitution of the State of Oregon, since in Article I, Oregon's Bill of Rights, Section 1 recognizes "natural rights inherent in people."

Section 33 states: "Enumeration of rights not exclusive. This enumeration of rights, and privileges shall not be construed to impair or deny others retained by the people." This is similar to the 9th Amendment to the US Constitution. Both constitutions recognize that our rights are not limited by those explicitly stated in constitutions. The constitutions do not create rights, but recognizing pre-existing rights. The basic natural right of human beings to be free of any legal prohibition or restriction on peaceful and honest action. The constitutions thus recognize our right to do whatever does not coercively harm others. Mere offenses are not harmful; to be a harm, an act must invade the domain of another person.

Oregon's Bill of Rights also outlaws involuntary servitude: "Section 34. Slavery or involuntary servitude. There shall be neither slavery, nor involuntary servitude in the State, otherwise than as a punishment for crime, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted." But they put Terri Sue Webb in a mental institution against her will and without being duly convicted of a crime.

If the people of Oregon want to imprison people in mental institutions without a jury trial conviction, they need to repeal their Bill of Rights sections 1, 33, and 34, and replace it with this: "The government of the State of Oregon shall not recognize any inherent natural rights of human beings, and its officers and judges shall have the power to imprison any person in a mental institution without a trial or conviction if a judge so wishes."

That would make it clear to the citizens that they have no rights in Oregon. But then there would be the problem of the US Bill of Rights. That would need to be repealed also. But the tyrants of Oregon and elsewhere will not go to this trouble, because they can get away with just ignoring the constitutions. There is little public outcry, because this is first done for odd groups as in Waco and unusual behaviors such as nudity.

This is how liberty is destroyed from within. Start with something unusual, then gradually spread the practice until it becomes impossible to stop. If we let the statists get away with psychiatric imprisonment, they will eventually make it impossible to protest, like in the old Soviet Union. We need constitutional provisions explicitly depriving judges from putting people in psychiatric prisons, because current constitutional guarantees are not preventing it.

-- Fred Foldvary      



Copyright 2002 by Fred E. Foldvary. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, which includes but is not limited to facsimile transmission, photocopying, recording, rekeying, or using any information storage or retrieval system, without giving full credit to Fred Foldvary and The Progress Report.


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