contact us



123 Street Avenue, City Town, 99999

(123) 555-6789


You can set your address, phone number, email and site description in the settings tab.
Link to read me page with more information.


Crimcast is a virtual resource devoted to critical conversations about criminology and criminal justice issues. Our blogposts, twitter feeds, podcasts and other content provide an overview of trends, research, commentary and events of interest to criminal justice practitioners, academics and the general public. CrimCast is sponsored by The Center for Crime and Popular Culture, St. Francis College, Brooklyn, NY.

Filtering by Tag: health care

Kings Park Documentary Screening, NYC

Nickie Phillips

The NYC Mental Health Film Festival is screening Kings Park - May 18 2014

On June 21, 1967, at the age of 17, Lucy Winer was committed to the female violent ward of Kings Park State Hospital following a series of failed suicide attempts. Over 30 years later, now a veteran documentary filmmaker, Lucy returns to Kings Park for the first time since her discharge. Her journey back sparks a decade-long effort to face her past and learn the story of the now abandoned institution that once held her captive. Her meetings with other former patients, their families, and the hospital staff reveal the painful legacy of our state hospital system and the crisis left by its demise.

Sunday, May 18th, 2:00 pm
Q&A with filmmakers & cast
St. Francis College
Remsen Street, Brooklyn, NY
Telephone: (212) 780-1400 x7726 

For more information, go to the 10th Annual NYC Mental Health Film Festival.

Sex in Prison: Myths and Realities

Nickie Phillips


Crimcast welcomes Tammy L. Castle, co-editor along with Catherine D. Marcum of Sex in Prison: Myths and Realities (2014), to discuss issues surrounding sexual behavior, sexuality, and policies regarding sex in prison. Dr. Castle’s book brings together work from experts covering a variety of topics such as sexual assault, health issues, challenges facing LGBT inmates, and the implications of incarcerating millions of people in institutions that prohibit sexual intimacy.

How did you become interested in the topic of sex in prison?

I began writing about sexual behavior in prison while working as a research assistant for a professor in my graduate program. He had recently finished interviews with inmates about the topic, and I worked with him on several manuscripts that were published using that data. I also contributed a chapter to his book, which explored the contemporary practice of and policies related to sexual behavior in prison. The research at that time was dated, in part due to the stigma associated with researching such a topic both inside and outside the academy. It was because of my prior research in this area that Dr. Marcum contacted me to contribute a chapter and serve as co-editor of the book.

Your book reports that collecting accurate statistics on the extent of rape and sexual assault of men and women in prison is extremely difficult. Catherine Marcum, in her chapter “Examining Prison Sex Culture,” reports that sexual assault rates vary from 1 to 41 percent. How can we make sense of such a disparity?

The first issue to consider is the difficulty of collecting this type of data in prison/jail. Although the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) signed in 2003 requires the Bureau of Justice Statistics to report sexual assault rates, they can only report incidents that come to the attention of prison/jail staff. As noted in the book, inmates are hesitant to report for a variety of reasons including the stigma of being assaulted, fear of retribution by other inmates or staff (if a staff member was the perpetrator), and the desire to avoid the negative consequences of reporting (e.g. removal from general population).

Also, the number of sexual assaults reported varies from facility to facility. In some institutions, sexual coercion through manipulation is much more common. The institutions vary in what behavior gets defined as a sexual assault.

Your book addresses an overlooked area of research, that of consensual sex in prison. Kristine Levan points out that, aside from the obvious power imbalance between guards and inmates, some researchers have found that most sexual activity that occurs in prison is consensual. Why do you think that the myth persists among the general public that nearly all prison sex is coercive?

Photo: Jelle Vancoppenolle

Prisons are closed institutions—secure and often located in rural areas—and it is difficult for the general public to find information on the realities of prison life. For that reason, most of what they know comes from the media. The depictions of prison sex in the media are almost always sensational, whether it is being romanticized (as in the TV show ‘Orange is the New Black’) or portrayed only as a violent act (e.g. gang rape). The commonly held myth that prison rape occurs frequently, and is a natural consequence of living in prison, is found in most films that depict prison life.

Given that many members of the public are opposed to any perceived “amenities” or activities that prisoners might find pleasurable, why might a policy of conjugal visitation be worthwhile for both the inmates and society-at-large?

It is difficult to influence public opinion on attitudes toward inmates and amenities. Even with sexual assault, the public is often less than sympathetic to a “deserving” population. However, conjugal visitation in several states represents one component of a larger program aimed at family preservation. In other countries, specifically in Latin America, family preservation programs are more much common and accepted. Surveys on inmate amenities find stronger support for family visitation programs among the general public, who view the family members as “undeserving” of the negative impact of incarceration on the family unit.

These programs have been found to impact adjustment both during and after incarceration. Studies have shown that increased visitation results in fewer infractions while in prison, and provides participants with incentives to behave. Maintaining the connection with family also lowers recidivism rates and produces a “normalizing effect” on the inmates. Finally, states with conjugal visitation programs report lower rates of sexual assault. Some prison staff argue that programs such as these lower tension and hostility in the institutions overall.

What are the most overlooked health issues with regard to sex in prison?

As Potter and Rosky discussed in their chapter on health issues, disease transmission among inmates is the most pressing health concern. Some inmates enter prison with bacterial STDs or HIV, and then spread it via sexual contact. However because most correctional health data is not published it is difficult to estimate the rates of transmission. Most prison sex policies are prohibitive rather than preventative, although correctional facilities can decide whether to support harm reduction measures in an effort to reduce transmission.

Tell us about your current research and let us know if we can expect future work from you in this area.

This book culminates several years I spent working on the topic, and given the access to data provided by the PREA, I do feel that there is more work to be done by scholars who wish to explore this taboo subject. My other research interests include comparative justice and media, including my recent article Achieving Justice through the International Criminal Court in Northern Uganda: Is Indigneous/Restorative Justice a Better Approach? that examines the dimensions of justice and role of the International Criminal Court in Northern Uganda.

Tammy L. Castle

Tammy L. Castle is an Associate Professor in the Department of Justice Studies at James Madison University. She has published broadly in the areas of sexual violence and prisons, although her current research focuses on hate propaganda. For further information or discussion about the book, please contact her at:

Terrence McNally’s Mothers and Sons

Nickie Phillips

Demetra M. Pappas, JD, MSc, PhD, Crimcast Correspondent

As luck would have it, I saw Terrence McNally’s new play, Mothers and Sons, the same week that I saw Dallas Buyers’ Club. The 2013 Dallas Buyers earned Matthew McConaughey a Best Actor Oscar as heterosexual (and homophobic) “guy’s guy” Ron Woodroof, an electrician and rodeo cowboy who smuggled unapproved pharmaceutical drugs into Texas and created a “virus club” for HIV/AIDS patients after his “30 days to live” diagnosis. In real life, Woodroof viewed this as flipping the bird to the medical establishment, as much as saving time on his life’s clock. He succeeded for years, if success is measurable by the extra years that he lived (not to mention the additional patients who lived longer as a result of his efforts).

Mothers and Sons is the examination by McNally (who also hails from Texas, though from Corpus Christi) of the years after the death of Andre, the boyfriend of lead character Cal Porter (Frederick Weller), who died of AIDS some 20 years earlier.  In 90 minutes, the audience witnesses the real time visit by Andre’s mother, Katharine Gerard (yet another powerful performance by Tony Award winner Tyne Daly). When the play begins, it becomes apparent that Katharine tracked Cal down via his sister, to a beautiful new apartment (designed by Tony Award winner John Lee Beatty), a husband named Will Ogden (Bobby Steggert) and, most shockingly to Katharine, their six-year old, Bud Ogden-Porter (Grayson Taylor).  Katharine, coming to repatriate a personal belonging of her son, which Cal had sent to her, makes her surprise appearance into a family’s life, rather than into the life of the formerly single man she resents for surviving and thriving in the wake of her son’s death.

In other words, McNally is not giving us (and foisting upon Katharine, whose part was expressly written for Daly) Modern Family, but rather A Modern Family. There are difficult to view memorabilia, which serve as conversation starters for the underlying discussion of family and personal secrets, the sick role and the role of the care giver, the meaning of love (both romantic and familial).  Katharine tells Cal that her son Andre “was not gay” until he moved to New York (obviously, and later proven, untrue). There are trades of accusations as to whom and how the transmission of Andre’s HIV took place.

There is formality and contained physicality of drama, an interesting with directorial choices by Sheryl Kaller. As one such example, when the curtain rises, Katharine is standing rigidly while wearing a fur coat (which she refuses to take off for a length of time), and she and Weller (looking equally uncomfortable) look out at the audience for some 30 seconds. They refer to each other by surnames for a length of the play (unthinkable in today’s society of informality, perhaps even more so since the players repeatedly make contemporary references and refer back 20 years to Andre’s death).

The story of Cal’s former lover’s death and his recovery to moving forward to a new marriage and biologically related offspring appalls Katharine, but serves as a social history of AIDS.  Also, in addition to finely making the point that 50-year-old Cal’s generational compatriots were slowly and cruelly robbed of their lives in a parade of horrors, McNally has Cal making the point to Katharine that the world lost contributions in the professional and artistic worlds.  Well-done is McNally’s creation of a 15-year junior husband, who grew up assuming that HIV/AIDS was a risk factor, who assumed that he would have a chance for a full life with children, a life to be lived well.

Today, I had a congenial disagreement with a long-time friend who saw this superb chamber piece a few days after I did. She said that she was disappointed that Katharine does not change in the course of the play;  my response was that Katharine changes enormously, giving both sorrowful back story and a surprising glimmer of hope for an unexpected future.

See this excellent piece and decide for yourself.


Demetra M. Pappas, JD, MSc, PhD was named the 2011/2012 SGA Faculty Member of the Year at St. Francis College for her work in the Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice. Her first book, The Euthanasia/Assisted Suicide Debate, (Greenwood Press:  2012) has been nominated and short listed for the 2013 British Society of Criminology Book Prize and most recently nominated for the 2014 International Qualitative Inquiry Book Prize. Her doctoral dissertation for the London School of Economics and Political Science (Department of Law, co-supervised by the Department of Sociology), was entitled, The Politics of Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide: A Comparative Case Study of Emerging Criminal Law and the Criminal Trials of Jack ‘Dr. Death’ Kevorkian.. She also writes about dramaturgy, culinary culture, visual sociology and criminal justice issues.  She may be reached at and followed on Twitter @DemetraPappas

The Belgian Euthanasia Debate: Should it be Kid Stuff?, Part 1

Nickie Phillips


Euthanasia/Assisted Suicide/Right to Die and or Live/Death with Dignity Part I:  The Belgian Euthanasia Debate: Should it be Kid Stuff?

Demetra M. Pappas, JD, MSc, PhD, Crimcast Correspondent

As the title suggests, this is Part I of a two-part commentary on the rights (and burdens) of children pertaining to medical euthanasia, physician assisted suicide, life and death with dignity, and (tangentially) the concept of medical futility.  Taken together, they juxtapose debate in Belgium (regarding the potential for  legally permitted euthanasia of children) and debate in America (regarding the question of medically prolonging life in the alleged face of medical futility).

As anyone who has read my recent book (which took a pointedly neutral stance on physician prosecutions for medical euthanasia and assisted suicide of consenting adults with terminal illnesses, focusing rather upon how civil and/or criminal liability for such actions moved the debate further) and as anyone who has sat in one of my classes, conference presentations or honorarium talks would know, I am extremely cagey about stating whether I am pro or con, other than to say that there are compelling arguments on both (or indeed, a multitude of) sides.

In this commentary, I am pointedly departing from the judicious stance (no doubt learned as a law student and enhanced by time as an appellate judicial clerk, as well as a fair amount of reading, trial/hearing attendance, listening to interviewees and conference participants, etc.). So, here is the first spoiler alert:  I am not in favor of the Belgian proposal.

In December 2013, Belgium’s Senate passed a “child euthanasia” bill by a large majority, and the bill is facing debate in the Chamber of Representatives as early as January 2014.  If passed and signed into law, this would allow for legal euthanas

belgium flag

ia of terminally ill children (euthanasia for adults is already legal, and has been since 2002).  The bill requires “constant and unbearable suffering” and also allows for decision making by what are called minors who have “a capacity of discernment.”

I have some serious concerns about legally permitting (albeit with, or perhaps because of, a provision for parental consent) children to elect to end their lives. I have even more concerns about a lawful provision allowing for doctors, with all of their professional credentials, to be empowered to suggest this as an option to minor children who are terminally ill or who are experiencing what may be “constant and unbearable suffering.”   Physicians have higher social status by virtue of their professional authority, and, when dealing with children, have the additional social status of being adults, whom children world-wide are generally taught to respect (if not outright obey and capitulate to).  I find myself worrying for the terminally ill children who will almost certainly be literally looking up at a doctor, male or female, who also has the professional schooling, credentials and trappings of authority, whether white (or any other color) coat, stethoscope, badge, title.

It is true that terminally ill children, by necessity, have to sustain and undergo more adult problems. They live more adult lives and are confronted by far more adult issues than those more ordinarily faced by children, tweens and teenagers being socialized at school and at the playground, while these young people are not adults.  However, their lives are more, not less complicated, by the issues and death trajectories they face. Consider that in American society, an 18-year old can legally sign a contract, can lawfully enter into marriage (but not lawfully drink a champagne toast at their wedding party), are permitted (sometimes legally encouraged) to enter the military (but not permitted by law to have a beer after a battle won or lost until the age of 21). As a society, we only first trust our children to vote in a municipal, state or national electoral process after the 18th birthday.

My fear here is that underage patients will be subtly (or unsubtly) coerced, whether by doctors or parents (or even worse, a combination of the two).  The euthanasia debate, which is to say the debate regarding putting end-of-life control into the hands of doctors, is fraught with complications all around. Adding the complication of underage children/tweens/teens compounds the potential for error – not of misdiagnosis, but of overzealousness on the part of the doctor (in either direction of over treating or of giving up on a child). Also, while we all hope that parents will act in accord with biological instinct (and hopefully socialization) and protect a sick child, there is no guarantee of such. I have fear that terminally ill children may be subtly (or less-than-subtly) coerced into euthanasia, for sake of “surviving children,” for sake of family finances, for sake of social worlds of the parents or the other children of the parents.

In other words, my worry for the children is more about the adults in the euthanasia scenarios that may play out in Belgium.  My fear is not about the Belgians, it is about adults impinging upon the human rights of children, even assuming the best of intentions and taking as a given that a Belgian child euthanasia program will not turn into anything resembling the Nazi child euthanasia program (PS some would more immediately go to the slippery slopes argument, and that is a fair argument to make).  The potential for erosion of the trust relationship between doctor and patient is tremendous, leaving aside the legal and moral issues (and frankly setting aside any theological issues).  And, I hasten to add, there may be social, fiscal and other forces that may well undermine – in unanticipated ways – the parent/child relationship.

As an aside, there is concern that if euthanasia for children becomes lawful in Belgium, there will be a burst of death tourism. This is not an unreasonable concern:  in my doctoral work on Michigan’s Jack “Dr. Death” Kevorkian, there was great interest in death tourism, and I was shown binders of letters way beyond the 137 cases Kevorkian participated in assisting in suicide/administering euthanasia. An interesting, though unfortunate, opportunity for a future study will be to see whether there is a spike in Belgian euthanasias of people from other jurisdictions, and to compare to the Swiss Dignitas program (which has seen some death tourism, subject to both litigation and reportage) and to Washington State (which, after patients had difficulty making the Oregon residency requirements, pointedly removed the residency provisions from its ballot initiative and enabling legislation).

In the vernacular, I am not saying I do not trust or believe or respect the kids and their wishes here; what I am saying is that I do not trust the so-called adults here, whose duty, whether as physician or parent, is to protect the child (for the record, I am not even sure that I would be comfortable relying upon a guardian ad litem, who would be charged with protecting the rights and best interests of the child patient).  Such adults may have conflicting duties (such as protecting assets for other children or themselves, which may go to care of the child who is ill during his/her lifetime).  While I do not believe in prolonging suffering by fruitless and medically futile treatment (a whole other discussion, which I plan to address in Part II of this pair, which will regard the case of 13-year-old Jahi McMath, who has been declared brain dead following a tonsillectomy gone awry; at the time of this writing, her parents are seeking to have her moved to a long-term care facility and are meeting with resistance from the hospital), the lawyer in me cannot at this time endorse a process which will end the life of children/tweens/teens who, by definition, are overwhelmingly not deemed to have the legal capacity to be able to consent, short of a proceeding (and additional protections) to ascertain a level of knowledge, competency and informed voluntary consent.

Demetra M. Pappas, JD, MSc, PhD was named the 2011/2012 SGA Faculty Member of the Year at St. Francis College for her work in the Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice. Her first book, The Euthanasia/Assisted Suicide Debate, (Greenwood Press:  2012) has been nominated and short listed for the 2013 British Society of Criminology Book Prize and most recently nominated for the 2014 International Qualitative Inquiry Book Prize. Her doctoral dissertation for the London School of Economics and Political Science (Department of Law, co-supervised by the Department of Sociology), was entitled, The Politics of Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide: A Comparative Case Study of Emerging Criminal Law and the Criminal Trials of Jack ‘Dr. Death’ Kevorkian.. She also writes about dramaturgy, culinary culture, visual sociology and criminal justice issues.  She may be reached at and followed on Twitter @DemetraPappas.

New Journal Explores Intersection of Health and Justice

Nickie Phillips


The graying of America's prison population, drug treatment programs in correctional settings, and the lack of social support for inmates re-entering society... these topics and more are the focus of the new journal Health & Justice, aimed at capturing the interaction between criminal justice systems and health services.  Edited by Faye S. Taxman of George Mason University and Lior Gideon of John Jay College of Criminal Justice, the journal, which already released its first articles online this year, reaches broadly, including researchers across many disciplines as well as justice practitioners and medical professionals working with justice-involved individuals. "Criminal justice populations are highly prevalent in public health problems that are not being addressed.  We feel that not to address them is an injustice," Gideon explained.

The journal looks forward to reviewing and publishing a variety of perspectives drawn from a wide range of methodologies.  "We like theoretical pieces, protocol studies, reviews of innovations in the field, evaluations of treatment programs, meta analyses, all kinds of work related to health and justice," Gideon told Crimcast.


Click here to download the first open access articles from Health & Justice.

Click here to learn how you can submit a manuscript for review.

Piper Kerman Discusses Health Issues in Prisons

Nickie Phillips

Piper Kerman

On December 4, St. Francis College welcomed Piper Kerman to Prof. Montecalvo's "Health Issues" class to discuss health care issues faced by incarcerated women. Piper's book "Orange is the New Black" details Piper's time spent in federal prison for a drug-related offense. Since being released, Piper has been a fierce advocate of criminal justice reform with a specific focus on the challenges women face in prison.

On the overuse of incarceration as a solution to the crime problem:

Over 60% of female prisoners are incarcerated for non-violent offenses.

On the prevalence of mental health issues suffered by those in prison:

The three largest providers of mental health care in the United States are Riker's Island, Cook County Jail, and LA County Jail.

On the treatment of pregnant incarcerated women:

More than 30 prisons allow officers to shackle female prisoners while they are giving birth. Only 18 prisons have passed laws banning shackling.

Piper Kerman (author), Nickie Phillips (director, Center for Crime & Popular Culture)

You can read more about Piper and her activism here and follow her on twitter @Piper

Season 1 of the television series based on Piper's book is available on Netflix.

Eddie Vedder and Pearl Jam: Interpersonal Violence, War, Guns, and Green Criminology

Nickie Phillips

By El Mariachi 94 [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Guest Post by Gennifer Furst, Associate Professor, William Paterson UniversityAs Pearl Jam releases its tenth studio album and celebrates the 23rd anniversary of its first performance, the band’s lead singer, Eddie Vedder and the four other band members (along with musician Boom Gaspar) are making headlines speaking out about criminological themes. From their beginning, Eddie and the guys have never shied away from issues of social justice. In fact, through the band’s Vitalogy Foundation, named after their third album released in 1994, they support the work of non-profit organizations in fields such as community health, the environment, and social change. Two dollars of every ticket they sell goes to the Vitalogy Foundation.

The Early Years

Much has been written about Eddie Vedder’s political commentary delivered during his performances from progressive issues on abortion to anti-war sentiments. Back in March 1992 during the band’s appearance on MTV’s Unplugged Vedder stood up during the performance of “Alive” and wrote “pro-choice” on his arm with a bold black Sharpie marker. The following month, during an appearance on Saturday Night Live, he wore a homemade t-shirt with an image of a hanger  on the front and “No Bush ‘92” written on the back. During the same performance, he changed the lyrics of “Porch”--a song some believe apolitical--to include a message about women’s right to choose. The band also address abusive relationships on one of their band's best known anthems, "Better Man" from 1994's Vitalogy.

The band was an early voice in today’s anti-bullying movement. The lyrics and video for “Jeremy,” one of the band’s most well-known songs from their breakthrough album Ten, brought attention to the issue years before Columbine, often regarded as the school shooting event that started the conversation. More than two decades later the issue of guns and mass killings in schools would again become an issue Vedder prioritized.

Touring During War Time

In addition to their activism on domestic social justice issues, Pearl Jam’s attention to the wars in the Middle East has been on-going. The song “Bu$hleaguer” on 2002’s Riot Act was a clear criticism of George W. Bush’s blatant deception and manipulation of the American public into supporting an unjust war:

A confidence man, but why so beleaguered?

He's not a leader, he's a Texas leaguer

Swinging for the fence, got lucky with a strike

The lyrics are explicit in their denunciation of the Bush administration and their actions. The bush, or minor leagues, is a reference to Bush as inept and unqualified to lead, and as someone who lucked into a position in the major leagues – that of President. Released during the buildup to the Iraq war, and touring during the initial stages of the Iraq invasion, the band experienced the wrath of those unwilling to question authority. For example, Vedder was accused of “impaling” the President

By conguita [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

when during their summer tour in 2003 he appeared on stage wearing a Bush mask. In order to be able to sing, he removed the mask and hung it on the microphone stand. Contingents of concert-goers booed at the gesture. However, the backlash never proved to be as damaging as the reaction to the Dixie Chicks who disbanded shortly after Natalie Maines expressed her dismay at being from the same state as Bush.

Then, as now, Vedder argues his disdain for the wars is rooted in support for the troops. He expresses concern for the victims – the soldiers and the families who have lost loved ones to an unjust war. In addition to meeting veterans and welcoming their stories, during performances he often acknowledges the veterans present. At a concert in Colorado that kicked off their summer 2003 tour (and where the Bush mask made its U.S. debut, having been used in Australia and Japan) Vedder declared,

Just to clarify... we support the troops.…We're just confused on how wanting to bring them back safely all of a sudden becomes non-support….We love them. They're not the ones who make the foreign policy. Let's hope for the best and speak our opinions.

The anti-war message reappeared in 2006 in “World Wide Suicide,” another cut from their self-titled album Pearl Jam (also known as the Avocado Album) that criticized the war and the country’s foreign policy. Quoted in Newsweek Vedder speaks out against the military industrial complex,

It's just not the time to be cryptic. I mean, our tax dollars for this (Iraq) war are being funneled through huge corporations – one of which Dick Cheney used to be head of (Halliburton).

Viewing the United States' involvement in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as criminal, Vedder remains angry about the last presidency, and continues to bring attention to what he views as unjust killing in the name of war,

Those fucking bastards, they put us in this situation and screw up the whole fucking planet and goodwill with every other nation, and they are not going to be held criminally responsible.

Vedder became more personally involved with the criminal justice system when he became a vocal advocate for the West Memphis


3 and the case of Damien Echols. In 1994 three young men from Arkansas were falsely convicted of the grisly murders of three young boys. Echols was sentenced to death. With no physical evidence, the convictions were based on the satanic panic that occurred in a small southern town (see Jenkins & Maier-Katkin, 1992). Echols shares a writing credit for the song "Army Reserve" from the album Pearl Jam (2006), a collaboration that occurred during one of Vedder’s visits to Echols on death row. Vedder remained a staunch supporter of the boys and was present when the three men were released in August 2011 after having served 18 years.


Vedder would later insert himself into public debate regarding another politically divisive issue: the right to bear arms. During a publicity interview in September 2013 promoting their new album Lightning Bolt, Vedder stated to surfer Mark Richards,

The fact that we're living in a country where 90 percent of the people want further gun laws -- to maybe somehow put a dent in some of this insanity that's happening -- and yet there's no further legislation taking place, it's very frustrating and upsetting.

A snippet of the clip where he went on to say that "I get so angry that I almost wish bad things upon these people," was aired as a stand-alone sound bite and exposed Vedder to criticism. What he went on to say, but was generally absent from most press pieces, was

But I don't have to because it seems like they happen anyways. It seems like every week I'm reading about a 4-year-old either shooting their sister, their dad, their dog, their brother or themselves, because there's fucking guns laying around. But I guess it's 'fun.'

Vedder responded to the criticism regarding his statements about guns at the October 25th Hartford Connecticut show, which took place a mere 50 miles from the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy in Newtown, CT where 26 people were murdered. To members of the audience, it was obvious something was going to occur. The other band members left the stage and Vedder knelt on the stage, collecting his thoughts. He stood up and spoke into the microphone, addressing the crowd of over 16,000 fans who eagerly awaited what he had to say.

Tonight I got to meet three great men, incredible fathers of children who were lost, and it was such a powerful… a very powerful moment to have this chance to communicate to somebody that we had been thinking about so deeply.

And to know that it’s okay, in fact, not just okay, but it’s necessary that we continue a discussion to figure out how to unravel the situation where something like that can happen and make sure the odds of it happening again are very slim.

Vedder made reference to the criticism he received in the press in response to his previous comments about the need to protect people from gun violence. He framed the need for a discussion about firearms as a First Amendment issue. He defended his, and everyone else’s, right to voice an opinion about our personal security and well-being. Vedder encouraged the members of the audience to have the courage to demand a public discourse on the issue.

And you know, as well as I, you have to be very careful when talking about something like this. Because they want to defame your character or take away your right to speak, I mean while they’re protecting the second amendment they also don’t think you have the right to speak as an American as a taxpayer as a father, as a parent.

We’ve got a right to speak on this issue when the safety of our children is directly affected. And you will take some hits if you put it out there, but that’s the thing.


Lest anyone think Eddie and the band were putting their opinions out there for the public in an uninformed or ignorant way, Vedder let the crowd know they consulted with experts and scholars. He used a critical approach to explain why the public may be swayed by those in favor of relaxing gun regulation.

I just want to clarify and we’ve done some research and I’ve talked to some very, much smarter people than myself – there’s a lot of them – that the myth that the gun lobby is the most powerful lobby in our is a myth. That’s a myth. The money is not the most money. The amount of people – it’s just in the millions.

It’s a myth, but it’s just because they’re louder. They’re louder and they’re very tenacious and if you speak up against them they will jump on you, they will tear you apart, and make it so that nobody else wants to say anything, or they want them to be fearful that…I mean we’re talking about, I’m gonna stop. You know what they’re talking about.

Vedder galvanized the crowd by telling people what they can do about the issue. He reminded everyone to exercise their right to vote (an issue the band has long-supported; for example, they performed in Rock the Vote concerts in swing states in October 2004). As with his message about the wars, he told the crowd that pressure from voters, using the power each person has to voice an opinion, is what brings about social change.

So, if all the research is saying, and all the polls conducted, you know, and not just people reacting to what happened, but you have to not just react you have to prefect. You have to go into prevention mode. So what we have to do, if the majority of people agree that there should be more legislation just to make it a little harder. We’re not taking away the right, just a safety issue – a safety precautionary, the same things you have to do to get a driver’s license or a car. It can’t be as easy as buying a pair of shoes. All I implore you, and I don’t mean to be preaching to the converted, but sometimes the choir has to sing louder, and that’s one of these issues.

He summarized by saying,

If we were louder, it can happen, we just have to be louder  and we have to let the politicians know that they will be reelected if they do what we ask, and we are asking for them to do it now. Cause what we don’t want is for any of those children’s lives to be wasted.

The band followed with a powerful performance of “Life Wasted” from their 2006 self-titled album. In the five-plus minutes that Vedder spoke during the band’s break in the show, he used the word “gun” only once, when he was referring to power of political lobby groups. Perhaps he meant to protect himself from the inevitable criticism he knew would result. Without using the term “gun” it becomes more difficult for his words to be taken out of context by those who would try to manipulate his message.

Green Criminology

Environmentalist of the Year

Green Criminology is the study of harms to, crimes against, and laws that regulate the environment. Green criminology examines how human behavior threatens the environment. Green criminologists study not only environmental pollution but also mining, poaching, and timber crimes and the ensuing effects on humans and non-human species.

Vedder is advancing these issues that are important to green criminologists. Since 2003 the band has worked with scientists to calculate the amount of carbon dioxide output on their tours. They then invest in various carbon-offsetting environmental projects. In fact, Pearl Jam was named 2011 Planet Defenders by Rock The Earth for their environmental activism. Vedder, a known surfer, has been a long-time participant in a variety of environmental groups that work to protect oceans and other waterways.

During his October 26, 2013 appearance on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, Vedder used the opportunity to bring the issue of environmental contamination into the fore of people’s minds once again. Fallon played a clip from his July 2012 appearance featuring the two singing a duet called “Balls in Your Mouth” which Vedder joked should now be seen as “an environmental anthem.”

The oil spill, BP

Has left tar balls, all over the sea.

So don’t go swimming, down in the south

Unless you want, tar balls in your mouth

Balls in your mouth, balls in your mouth

Don’t swim in the ocean you’ll get balls in your mouth.

Vedder interspersed information about the Department of Justice trial against BP and the large amount of tar uncovered by the Coast Guard after Tropical Storm Karen hit the Gulf Coast, while Fallon riffed on the idea of “large balls” being found after the recent storm. Vedder remained on point and urged viewers to recognize the long-term effects of the BP oil spill.

But there’s this thing called the Gulf Restoration Network that you can look into and we were one of a group of people that tried to raise money for this organization so they could keep putting out information that was truthful and maybe was a different account than the kind of shiny happy commercials that the oil companies were putting out saying that ‘it’s all fine’ and ‘it’s all taken care of’ which if you did the research it would be interesting to see what you’d come up with.

As with his comments about guns, Vedder again referred to research as a source of truth, or at least as a source of information that stands in contrast to commonly held beliefs.

As the spokesman for Pearl Jam, Eddie Vedder has used his ability to reach tens of thousands of people during a concert to promote issues of social justice. Over the band’s two-plus decades history, Vedder has educated his fans about a range of topics. He not only speaks about these important subjects but, of course, he also sings about them. By incorporating them into music culture he is marking the sociopolitical landscape of the time.

Vedder and Pearl Jam donate their time, names, and profits from their concerts to support these causes. They were early advocates in the fight against interpersonal violence, in the form of both bullying and domestic abuse. Vedder challenged the decisions of leaders and spoke out against the war during a time when many chose not to question authority. As the stories about gun violence stack up each day, Vedder and Pearl Jam are expressing their concern and urging their fans to as well. While green criminology is a relatively nascent area in the discipline, these criminologists may find allies in popular culture ready to advance their causes. With Pearl Jam, Eddie Vedder continues to not only make music but also make a progressive mark on society as well.

Further Reading

Jenkins, P., & Maier-Katkin, D. (1992). Satanism: Myth and reality in a contemporary moral

panic. Crime, Law and Social Change, 17, 53-75.

Pearl Jam (2011). Pearl Jam Twenty. NY, NY: Simon & Schuster.

The Irish Case Against Assisted Suicide: An American Perspective

Nickie Phillips

The Irish Case Against Assisted Suicide: An American PerspectiveDemetra M. Pappas [1]

This past week, the Irish Supreme Court ruled that 59-year-old multiple sclerosis patient Marie Fleming does not have the right to an assisted death. Suicide has been decriminalized in Ireland since 1993; however, the judgment of the Court, delivered by Chief Justice Susan Denham said that the Irish Constitution does not encompass an “explicit right to commit suicide, or to determine the time of one’s own death.”

When Fleming, a former university (college) lecturer, argued her appeal in February, she was using a wheelchair. She noted that she was in constant pain, but more than that, argued that her inability to swallow would probably cause her to choke to death. This is a constant fear of those afflicted with illnesses such as Huntington’s Disease, ALS and MS. Indeed, in the 60 Minutes “Death by Doctor” tape of Jack “Dr. Death” Kevorkian, in which he narrated his medical euthanasia of 52-year-old ALS patient Tom Youk, Kevorkian noted that Youk was “terrified of choking, terrified.” Kevorkian was convicted, but many at the trial and sentencing (myself included) were of the view that the jury verdict was more a result of him sending the tape of himself euthanizing Youk to CBS, and then narrating it for moderator Mike Wallace. In this comment, I am not arguing in favor of (or opposition to) assisted suicide. This is, I believe, a personal choice which may as a matter of law be made by patients in jurisdictions where assisted suicide is lawful. Ireland is not one of those jurisdictions. There is a difference between decriminalizing suicide and affirmatively allowing for suicide – medically assisted or otherwise. Suicide, or self-homicide, has been decriminalized in Anglo-American jurisdictions, so as not to forfeit the suicidant’s property to the state or the Crown and so as not to impose the Anglo-American penalty of burial at crossroads. In a sense, this is (and I say this secularly, although I imagine that it holds theologically) literally so as not to visit the sins of the parent upon the descendants. Moreover, even where assisted suicide is lawful, in some jurisdictions (such as Oregon), the ability to self-administer has been a mandatory element to meet the threshold. A compelling example of this was given in the HBO’s (Sundance award-winning) film, *How to Die in Oregon*, by the story of 84-year old Ray Carny, who ultimately died in the hospital, physically unable to give himself the lethal cocktail, one of the requirements of the Oregon Death With Dignity law.[2] As a daughter of a man who unsuccessfully attempted to commit suicide (by self-starvation) after he became symptomatic with Huntington’s Disease,[3] and had to withstand a parade of physical and psychiatric horrors for another 20 years until his death (by “pneumonia”), I empathize enormously with Ms. Fleming’s desire for personal autonomy. As a lawyer, I can certainly understand the judicial wish to protect the public interest by protecting those who might be vulnerable by declining to relax the law. This comes from a concern that to do otherwise would begin a slide down what Yale Kamisar (among others) called the slippery slope to medical euthanasia, with its potential for abuses, such as those most notoriously exemplified by the Nazi experience. As a concluding commentary, I predict that no jury would convict Fleming’s 65-year-old partner, Tom Curran, notwithstanding the technical legal criminal liability and potential 14-year sentence (who would be unlikely to be prosecuted in the first place). This last is an educated guess, based upon cases against doctors and “civilians.” As to doctors, there are examples of grand juries that have declined to indict doctors – who are held to a higher standard of law – such as in New York’s case against hospice physician Dr. Timothy Quill in 1991, which precipitated a civil case that went to the United States Supreme Court, and that of Louisiana’s Dr. Anna Pou, who engaged in euthanasia of a number of elderly patients in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Likewise, trial juries have engaged in jury nullification (such as New Hampshire’s Dr. Hermann Sander in 1950, and the Kevorkian juries of 1994, and two more in 1996) and courts have declined to incarcerate (such as Winchester Crown Court in the 1992 case against Nigel Cox). Even in the most complicated of circumstances – such as Georgia’s Carol Carr, who shot two sons as they lay side-by-side in a nursing home, with end-stage Huntington’s Disease and most recently Arizona’s George Sanders, who received probation after shooting his MS-afflicted wife -- compassion for the “assister” has been the norm. I emphasize that these were in gun shooting cases (it should not make a difference that there is blood involved, but in reality it does). I suspect that Fleming’s purpose in going to court had little to do with the practicality of the law in action, rather than the law on the books. The first person through any door of activism is sure to get bloody, wheelchair or not. Fleming may be a physically disabled patient, but she is also unquestionably a vigorous activist. Her success, whether she realizes it or not, was in getting into that courtroom in the first place, as painful as the process of the litigation and as difficult the death trajectory.

[1] DDemetra M. Pappas, JD, MSc, PhD currently teaches in the Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice at St. Francis College, where she was named the 2012 SGA Faculty Member of the Year. Her first book, Historical Guides to Controversial Issues in America: The Euthanasia/Assisted Suicide Debate, (Greenwood Press, 2012) (100 year study of US and UK doctors prosecuted for medical euthanasia/assisted suicide and role of meI dia) has been nominated for the2013 BSC Criminology Book Prize.  Her PhD, from the London School of Economics and Political Science, Department of Law and Department of Sociology (dual registration), was awarded in 2009, based upon her dissertation of an ethnography entitled, The Politics of Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide: A Comparative Case Study of Emerging Criminal Law and the Criminal Trials of Jack ‘Dr. Death’ Kevorkian, in which she studied the chief prosecuting attorneys/judges, juries, patient’s family members and the media, as well as the changes in law and court culture pertaining to Kevorkian. [2] Review by Demetra M. Pappas, How to Die in Oregon, HBO Documentary Films,” in The New York Resident/Resident Health (August 2011), p. 61 [3] Demetra M. Pappas, "Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide: Are Doctors' Duties when Following Patients' Orders a Bitter Pill to Swallow?", in G. Howarth and P. Jupp (eds.), Contemporary Issues in the Sociology of Death, Dying and Disposal, Macmillan, Inc. (1996).


Should “Dying with Dignity” be a Crime? The Euthanasia/Assisted Suicide Debate

Nickie Phillips


Crimcast sat down with Dr. Demetra Pappas, St. Francis College Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice professor and author of The Euthanasia/Assisted Suicide Debate (2012), to discuss her book’s thorough legal and historical exploration into this important topic. Her book (which was recently nominated for the 2013 British Society of Criminology book prize) documents the cases that contributed to the rising euthanasia movement in England and the U.S. in the early twentieth century and follows the movement through critical decades, such as the 1950s, and the rise of the assisted suicide debate in the 1990’s, along with the infamous Jack Kevorkian cases of the 1990s. Her tour de force concludes with the current state of euthanasia and assisted suicide related law in light of more recent cases such as Terry Schiavo, and the latest legislation from U.S. states that have considered whether to decriminalize assisted suicide. Pappas does not take a side in the debate, but rather puts her legal and analytical skills to work in providing a fair-minded and informative account of all the considerations, arguments, and developments that have shaped the controversy.

You describe the early history or euthanasia-related law as one that put doctors in the position of final arbiters in complex and heart-wrenching decisions about euthanasia. Why was that the early trend?

Unlike the contemporary view of medicine, in which patients are seen as active participants in their health care decisions and treatment, during the rise of modern medicine during the late 1800s and early 1900s, doctors were viewed as all-knowing. They had powers to relieve pain through emerging anesthetics and pharmaceuticals, powers to cure previously fatal infectious diseases (largely due to the discovery of antibiotics, though the same argument applies to cancer and chemotherapy treatments) and to, if necessary “heal with steel” by surgically removing cancerous (and other) tumors. This confluence of factors gave doctors extremely high social (as well as professional) status and public esteem, which has been likened by some (both positively and negatively) to gods. Patients, on the other hand, were passive (and often uninformed) recipients of treatments, seldom consulted, and certainly not in the partnerships or even consumeristic social arrangements that we see in the medical system today. Doctors had a great deal of unfettered discretion in treatment, in the early part of the century, with an as-yet undeveloped theory (or legal reality) of informed consent). In what was an overwhelmingly paternalistic Anglo-American society (with highly educated and socially prominent class of physicians), doctors were all but sole arbiters in cases where medical euthanasia occurred. In the event that a doctor was somehow held to account for medical euthanasia, Anglo-American legal theory regarded criminal law constructs of necessity and duress (as mitigation, but also informally used as a jury nullification technique) in cases of terminally ill patients in what we now would refer to as end-stage illness.

The book puts forth the argument that the centrality of doctors then shifted to a focus on the patient as a consumer of medical services. Tell us why this shift occurred by the end of the twentieth century. What about the role of patients’ families or next-of-kin?

The Euthanasia/Assisted Suicide Debate by Demetra Pappas

I love this question – it puts a great frame on the overall issue. During the 20th century, informed consent came into medical practice and legal requirement. That precipitated the beginning of the shift, I believe. In addition, the medical technology which can keep a heart beating, lungs breathing and tubal feeding in cases where a patient is in a persistent vegetative state spurred the advent of cases which many colloquially refer to as pulling the plug. These started with the Quinlan case in the 1970s; not many people know that the Quinlans were devout Catholics, their efforts were really very brave and ahead of their time and started a trend resulting in the United States Supreme Court decision in the Cruzan case (in 1991, ironically the year Kevorkian started his practice and New York’s Dr. Timothy Quill, discussed in chapter 6, wrote his controversial New England Journal of Medicine essay, which resulted in his brief prosecution – in which the Grand Jury declined to indict him – after which he was part of the extraordinary pair of cases that went to the United States Supreme Court in 1997). So families were the backbone of the PVS cases, by definition, though also involved in the euthanasia and assisted suicide cases (usually as consenting or being called as witnesses).

You report that the two most active euthanasia doctors (Jack Kevorkian and Harold Shipman) disproportionately aided women in dying. Why do you think this is the case? Is euthanasia a gendered phenomenon?

I am going to answer in reverse, if I may. In Washington State (which I discuss in chapter 8) and Oregon (which I discuss in chapter 7), where there are legal procedural mechanisms for “death with dignity” (in fact, physician assisted suicide by prescription for Seconol or similar barbiturates), the statistics for who avails themselves of consultation and/or of death with dignity are very close to 50-50 (with a 10 per cent or so variance from year to year). Of course, procedural mechanisms require a whole host of protocols to be followed. These include (but are not limited to), repeated and enduring voluntary requests (at least one in writing), consent procedures of imminently terminally ill patients, outside consulting physicians to verify the terminal illness and projected lifespan, psychiatric/psychological consultation protections of the patient, encouraged family participation in the decision making process, residency requirements (in Oregon), documentation that patients have been informed of other alternatives to medical death with dignity. With Kevorkian, patients sought him out, and there was a study in which Michigan Medical Examiner Dr. Dragovic found that some 72 per cent of Kevorkian’s patients (or clients or victims, depending upon your perspective) were women. Kevorkian knew most of his patients/clients/victims/decedents for very short times (some as little as a couple of days) as his practice increased and escalated, and I note that the patients sought out the former pathologist for the express purpose of ending their lives. As an aside, the criminal justice system actually brought to trial cases involving three male decedents (indeed, both the first and the last cases tried involved male patients) and four female decedents, closer to the 50-50ish statistic of the Oregon and Washington patients. That said, Oakland County prosecutor Richard Thompson brought many more charges, which his successor David Gorcyca dismissed prior to the infamous 60 Minutes “Death by Doctor” broadcast of Tom Hyde’s medical euthanasia by Kevorkian (which resulted in Kevorkian’s sole conviction). With Harold Shipman, although he was beloved by his patients, he was viewed as a true serial killer, who simply decided to (and did) administer lethal doses to patients. One might ultimately posit the theory that whereas roughly equal numbers of male and female patients may want “death with dignity” (i.e. to end their own lives) a disproportionate number of women (especially of earlier generations) looked to (overwhelmingly male) doctors and gave them control (as with Kevorkian) or access (as with the vulnerable women in the Shipman cases). It will be interesting to see what the next several decades hold, with generations of empowered women who take as a given (we hope) the idea that they, not a third party male (doctor or not) are in control of their lives, their destinies and their fates. Hmm, another book may be waiting to happen!

At the time the book was published, you felt that the trend in Anglo-American law was toward decriminalization of assisted suicide. Have there been any new developments since your book was published that support your conclusion? Has anything unexpected happened?

There have been a number of developments, some of which regarded decriminalization, some of which regarded mitigation (compassionate treatment of criminal defendants) and yet also in the move or effort toward criminalization. I will outline a very few here. Just last week (read, the first week of April 2013), Connecticut failed in its attempt to become the fourth state to have legal assisted suicide or death with dignity, when members of the state legislature announced that the bill would fail to come out of committee, citing time constraints (a way of tabling something). Less than one month ago, in an example of what seminal legal theorist Yale Kamisar (1950s, chapter 3) would have noted as a case of the law in practice being as malleable as the law on the books is absolute, in Pheonix, Arizona, 86-year-old George Sanders received a sentence of probation (notwithstanding the originating murder charges) for killing his ailing wife, who had been afflicted with multiple sclerosis. The prosecutor, the judge and the couple’s grandchildren were all in agreement about this. This reminded me of my discussion of Carol Carr (chapter 8), who shot her two Huntington’s Disease afflicted sons as they lay side by side in a nursing home; Carr was allowed to plead guilty to assisted suicide, which no stretch of the sociological or criminological imagination (let alone black letter law) would have allowed for. On the other hand, there is a legislative moment to criminalize assisted suicide in Montana. In another example, Connecticut is now considering legalizing assisted suicide – a step beyond decriminalization, whether de jure (as in Montana’s Baxter decision) or de facto (as in Arizona’s compassionate treatment of Sanders).

What are you working on these days? Are you continuing to study euthanasia or have you moved on to new controversial topics?

[While] I am continuing to give conference papers (I just gave one at a medical humanities conference about the euthanasia of King George V, which was the subject of chapter 2 of the book, and got great questions inviting me to tie in to other, more recent events, the result of which is that I feel another article coming on!) and to expand into other areas from the book (as with a law school colloquium yesterday comparing the medical and legal deviance of Jack Kevorkian and Michael Jackson's doctor, Conrad Murray) and write more articles about euthanasia and assisted suicide[, t] However, there is no question that I needed to step away from the book a bit. This I did in two ways. First, I am continuing to develop a line of research on anti-stalking movements and mechanisms (I won a prize in 1997 for my ethnography and article on the effort to redraft Minnesota’s anti-stalking law after the Supreme Court struck it down in 1996, the article is "When a Stalker's Hot Pursuit Turns Coldly Calculated Chase in Minnesota: How Specific Need Expressions of Intent Be or Do Actions Speak Louder Than Words?", 20 Hamline L. Rev. 371, 1997). I have had a paper on “The Stalked Student: Two Unanticipated Qualitative Studies, Across a River, a State Line, a Decade,” accepted for this year’s American Society of Criminology conference. In addition, I am developing a line of research in visual sociology concentrated on hurricane and natural disaster recovery (my student's work on the visual sociology project is published here: "The Sociology Assignment: When Visual Images of Hurricane Sandy Got Personal," Note by Dr. Demetra M. Pappas, Post and Images by students Kelsey Papanicolaou and Leah Vanden Bosch, Post and Captions by Valia Haskopoulos,, March 17, 2013 (pedagogical methodology, visual sociology, natural disasters). In a different vein, I write theater reviews and travel and cultural pieces, my most recent theater piece (which was fun for Broaday, and more serious for the Off-Broadway) can be found hereManilowon Broadway and Forever Dusty, which appeared in the March 2013 issue of The New York Resident (find the article by"turning the pages" to page 83). Each set of interests somehow seems to inform the other and I more often than not seem to find common threads over time in juxtaposition and comparative work , such as last fall, when I reviewed The Exonerated for its 10th anniversary run at New York's Culture Project, and then showed my students the film and devised a midterm exercise and THEN did an ongoing string of pieces for Crimcast (I think in horse racing terminology, that would go beyond a tri-fecta to a multi-fecta!). And, on the side, I am working on developing a course in dramaturgy and the sociological imagination, as well as criminal justice representations in dramaturgy. But I have to admit, having the chance to travel and write about cultural and culinary experiences in other locales, such as on a recent trip to Puerto Rico (after which I also wrote up a little known pre-revolutionary prison fort dungeon for Crimcast!) l is a great way to get my head out of the clouds.

In closing, thanks so much to Crimcast for the interest in my work and the opportunity to reflect (and project!) in this interview!

News of the Week: Homeland Security, Sexuality and the Law, Labor and Unions

Nickie Phillips

This is our latest installment of Dr. Demetra M. Pappas' "News of the Week" in which she uses short topics as a teaching tool to stimulate conversation in her sociology, anthropology, criminology and legal studies course. 1. HOMELAND SECURITY/DEVIANCE/SOCIAL MOVEMENTS/THE SAM RACE COMMENTARYABOUT THE POT NOT BEING ABLE TO CALL THE KETTLE BLACK:  Boston Marathon Bombing: The latest is three more suspects. Is it deviance or terrorism or both? Note: Sam still rules, no black men are in custody.  PS Sam is now famous south of the Mason Dixon line, and should be readying himself for The Daily Show or Bill Maher on HBO’s Real Time!

2. MEDICAL SOCIOLOGY/SOCIOLOGY OF AGE (AND YOUTH)/SEXUALITY/GENDER.LAW AND THE LEGAL SYSTEM/REGULATORY MECHANISMS:  On the television news today (NY1), there was a report that the FDA is going to lower the legal age for young women to be able to get Plan B (also known as “the morning after pill”) if they can prove they are 15 (one-five, PS you may or may not want to consider discussing statutory rape here, too).  In part, this is in response to a recent ruling by Brooklyn Federal Judge Edward Korman a few weeks ago, to the effect that drugstores should be required to make the drug available to women (and young women) of any age. What is your opinion of this?. And, further, what is your opinion of this SPECIFICALLY IN RELATION TO AGE, GIVEN LAST WEEK’S PROPOSED QUESTION REGARDING CITY COUNCIL SPEAKER CHRISTINE QUINN’S EFFORTS TO RAISE THE LEGAL AGE TO PURCHASE TOBACCO CIGARETTES TO 21?

3. LABOR AND UNIONS/SOCIAL INEQUALITY/SOCIAL MOVEMENTS/MAY DAY:  Today is the celebration of “May Day,” in honor of union protest rallies (this year, in Union Square, supposedly the Occupy Wall Street movement protesters will join). Last week, there was a scandalous Indian factory collapse (check out the cover story of The New York Times, “Tears and Rage as Hope Fades in Bangladesh,” by Jim Yardley, regarding the 337 dead in the deadliest accident in the garment industry’s history (650 survivors have horrific injuries, and among the missing are many whose relatives are holding  up pictures in images reminiscent of post-9/11 New York). Is that the “triangle factory” of India?

For more information on Dr. Pappas' pedagogical approach, see her article, "Creating an Antidote to Student Apathy: The News of the Week," in Teacher Scholar:  The Journal of the State Comprehensive University, Volume 3, Number 1 pp. 45-51.

Behind the Doors of Our Communities and Nursing Homes: The Hidden Mistreatment and Abuse of Our Elderly

Nickie Phillips

Guest Post by Lillian Jeter, expert witness and consultant in elder abuse cases

Behind the doors of our communities throughout America lies a hidden shame as well as daily criminal acts called elder abuse. These crimes are committed against our most vulnerable and dependent elderly: those with dementia and Parkinson’s disease, those unable to walk, those who are bedridden, and those with no one to cry out to in their pain.

Even more horrific are the abuse and neglect which occur in the “sanitized” corridors of the for-profit nursing homes throughout the country. Representing about 3-5% of older persons, this small representation is the most vulnerable and most dependent due to physical, mental, and disabling conditions, where “home” is now one room in a facility with oftentimes little or no visitation.

While not everyone at home with a caregiver or in a facility is being abused, the national data indicates that at least 6% of all older persons are being, or have regularly been, abused in a given year – oftentimes on a daily basis. Since it is known that many acts of abuse go unreported, this percentage is likely much higher.

Acts of abuse fall into five separate major categories: physical, psychological, neglect, sexual, and financial exploitation. In the cases that I have investigated, more often than not, a single victim is subject to several forms of abuse on a regular basis.

Who are the Abusers?

When one mentally conjures up an abuser in their mind, a picture of a stranger who is dirty, smelly, and physically overpowering comes to mind – someone with bad teeth, smelly breath, and greasy hair. This type of portrayal could not be further from the truth of what a real abuser looks like.

Abusers are adult children – both female and male – as well as the victim’s own husband or wife. Abusers are other family members who are now caring for their dependent aunt, uncle or relative. Abusers are close friends who now have power of attorney and/or guardianship or in some cases, professionals who have handled the victim’s finances/legal affairs/ or other professional service for years. Abusers in nursing homes can and often are other residents but also cloak themselves in the air of authority as registered nurses, LPNs, and direct care aides.   One step removed, we find Directors of Nursing, Managers, and Owners failing to report the crime to the police and/or to proper federal and state authorities.

Thus abusers are those with power and control over the dependent older victim – power to give or take away, power to assault or not, power to improperly obtain monies, power to psychologically abuse the victim as well as failure to bathe, allow to go to the toilet, and/or sexually assault or molest.

We all scream out in disgust about children who are molested and abused, but where is the similar cry about our dependent elderly in these same types of conditions and subject to horrific criminal acts? Where is the justice for these victims whose cries of pain are stifled and who have no one to call for help?  Where is the justice for those who are suffering from late stages of dementia, who are easy prey to sexual predators, and who suffer indignities day in and day out without being believed? Where is their justice and protections under the law?

I respect all of your responses and encourage you to join into this discussion.

Lillian Jeter pic

Lillian Jeter is a former law enforcement commander who uncovered a case of elder abuse and neglect in 1985 that changed the nation’s whole perspective on the mistreatment of vulnerable older persons. Lillian serves as a consultant in elder abuse cases internationally and provides expert witness testimony in civil and criminal cases. 

Further Reading:

National Council for Aging Care's Guide to Recognizing Elder Abuse and Knowing Your Rights

National Center on Elder Abuse

Center of Excellence on Elder Abuse

University of California, Irvine - School of Medicine

The Neglect of Elder neglect as a White-Collar Crime: Distinguishing Patient Neglect from Physical Abuse and The Criminal Justice System's Response by Payne, Blowers & Jarvis, Justice Quarterly, 2012

Prison Hospice Care

Nickie Phillips

This episode features Jessica Barbeiro, R.N., Bridgewater State College, in a discussion about elderly inmates and prison hospice care.


National Prison Hospice Association -

Aday, R. (2003). Aging Prisoners:Crisis in American Corrections. Westport, CT: Praeger.

Harrison, M. (2006). An innovative program for elderly inmates. Corrections Today.

Elderly inmates swell prisons, driving up health care costs -

Behind bars: Aging prison population challenges correctional health systems -