(This is a section of a paper I delivered to the University of Florida College of Law Dean Richard Matasar at a sit-in in his office on 9/17/96, in which I was arrested protesting the legal system.)
The Florida Baker Act is provided to determine whether people are dangerous to themselves or others. An analysis of the three times I was "Baker Acted" demonstrates that the legal profession perceives anyone it doesn't understand or agree with is a candidate for a mental institution.
I spent ten months in jail on the bomb threat charge being released on February 15, 1995 at which time I went on a hunger strike staying day and night in the jail lobby as an act of civil disobedience. I was advised on numerous occasions by corrections officers that I would be arrested for trespassing or vagrancy but never was. After three days I was taken to the Fort Myers Rescue mission under court order, staying there for two days after which I was dismissed by the Rescue Mission. The Fort Myers police attempted to return me to the mission and force them to keep me there under the court order. However I assume the court had no jurisdiction over either the subject or me to order me to stay there so the order was probably null. In any event the police gave up and I returned to the jail lobby to continue my civil disobedience.
A few days later on February 23, 1995, an article about me appeared in the afternoon Cape Coral BREEZE. The following morning about 8:00 AM a corrections officer asked me if I felt I had nothing to live for and if I wanted to die; to both of which I replied no. He then left, returning in about thirty seconds, with a piece of paper that stated I had nothing to live for and wanted to die and he advised me further I was being Baker Acted. I was duly taken to the Ruth Cooper Mental Health Center where I stayed for the requisite 72 hours under observation. At the end of this time I was told I was mentally healthy and could leave. However I was recovering from my hunger strike so I requested and was granted permission to stay for another 72 hours to recover my health after which I returned to the jail lobby.
Prior to my arrest on the bomb threat charge, at 57, I had never been arrested previously, never had had a problem with liquor or drugs nor had I ever seen a mental health person of any kind. While in jail for the ten months I had never been involved in a fight nor was I ever disciplined for anything. I had also been on a hunger strike in jail which didn't appear to bother the authorities so my hunger strike in the jail lobby for eight days could scarcely have bothered them either. in short, I didn't fit the profile of anyone dangerous to themselves or anyone else and the authorities of course knew it. So my conclusion is that I was Baker Acted to get me out of the jail lobby so I couldn't talk about the crooked dealings of the criminal justice system to people who might have read the article.
Regarding my second Baker Act, on March 15, I went to the State Attorney's Office demanding among other things my discovery file in the bomb threat charge which I had the right to have and which they refused to provide me so I refused to leave until I should get it and was therefore arrested for trespassing in the State Attorney's Office. I had had a series of court appointed attorneys who should have done this but as discussed in the previous section none of them would do anything that would expose crooked dealings of other members of the Bar including the State Attorney.
In the arrest papers for this charge, the police got the statute under which I was arrested wrong, the charge against me was incomprehensible no matter how it should be read and the State Attorney's Office even got its own zip code wrong. I spent three months in jail and for the first time I was put in special cell blocks reserved for people with serious behavioral problems including murderers and gang members. On one occasion, a huge cell mate with serious behavioral problems threatened me for several hours during the night and the jailors refused to respond to my cries for help before finally taking him to another cell.
I was forced to listen to a loud TV 24 hours a day for several weeks on end which caused me to lose much sleep and get a serious case of nerves. These circumstances were plainly out of the usual procedures for the jail for I was only there on a misdemeanor trespass charge and still had an exemplary record in jail never having been in a fight or having been disciplined for anything. Thus the purpose of it all I'm sure was to induce me to stop my civil disobedience.
After over three months, the case went to trial represented by a public defender. Among the many idiosyncrasies of the trial, I requested of the judge whether there was an affidavit in support of the charges against me and he replied there wasn't. Later when I inspected the record, I found that my plainly stated request had been left out of the appeal transcript and there was in fact an affidavit; which was false.
At the end of the trial I was convicted of the trespass charge and the judge said that he was going to Baker Act me if I didn't volunteer to go to the Ruth Cooper Mental health Center; so I volunteered.
Consequently the same day I was driven in a police van, chains hand and feet, out to the Ruth Cooper Center. As soon as I was taken out of the van, one of the mental health people opened the front door and said "Allston you can't come in here" whereupon the driver, undoubtedly knowing he wouldn't be welcome back at the jail with me in the van, ran around to me as quickly as he could, removed my chains hand and foot, ran around to the driver's door, jumped in, slammed the door and sped away leaving me standing there in front of the Mental Health Center.
Seeing me standing there, the mental health person kindly invited me in and gave me a meal. She seemed to think I had requested to go there, which of course was not the case for I was merely accommodating the judge who was going to Baker Act me if I didn't volunteer. After my meal she asked me where I wanted to go and I said I wanted to return to the jail lobby. She wouldn't take me there but had me driven to the Salvation Army where I walked back to the jail lobby the next morning.
My assessment of this rather comic episode is that the judge didn't want me back at the jail lobby after my release. So knowing I didn't qualify for the Baker Act, he tried to rig it so that it would appear as if I had requested to go to the Ruth Cooper Center and this might increase the chances they might judge me mentally unbalanced in some way and send me off to a mental facility thus more permanently away from the jail lobby.
The third time I was Baker Acted is more bizarre yet. On 3/8/96, I had written to several law school deans seeking a law faculty member for pro bono counsel. On 3/15/96, just exactly one year after I was arrested for trespassing in the State Attorney's Office for the first time as discussed above, I was arrested again, still trying to get my discovery file in the bomb threat case. I had by this time obtained what was described as the first so many pages of the file (characteristic of the State Attorney's many devious moves in the matter), but needed to know if it was all of the file so I could know for certain whether it contained certain items which I had the right to have copies of but which it was painfully obvious the State Attorney was doing everything to block me from obtaining. One of the things I needed to know was whether it contained a sworn statement from Commissioner Judah, as discussed in the previous section.
I was duly put in jail where I went on hunger strike. Just nine days after my arrest and still on hunger strike I was told by a corrections officer that I had been convicted of the trespass charge although I had never seen a judge or gone to a hearing of any kind (nor had I gone to an arraignment) and I was told I was being Baker Acted. I requested to know what judge had convicted me and to see his order convicting me but neither the name of the judge nor a copy of his order were provided. I was duly taken to the Ruth Cooper Center the same Sunday afternoon and released the following Monday morning.
My assessment of this circumstance is that someone didn't want me to use the hunger strike to try to gain counsel from a law school faculty member so I was just convicted in absentia and Baker Acted (without trial or hearing because such a proceeding would have left a further record demonstrating I wasn't Baker Act material -- although with perhaps eight previous psychological examinations in jail and two previous Baker Acts all focusing on whether I was dangerous to myself or anyone else and an exemplary jail record, it is at least an understatement to say it was well established I wasn't Baker Act material) in order to get me out of jail and away from the lobby.
In each of these three situations, I was seeking to force the legal system to confront its crooked dealings through my acts of civil disobedience and the Baker Act was openly utilized in each case, quite illegally, to get around having to do so. The legal profession was in essence attempting to utilize the psychology profession as a dumping ground for its own bungled crooked dealings with the scarcely veiled hope that I might be shipped off to a long term stay at a mental institution to end my civil disobedience.
ROLE OF THE SOCIAL SCIENCES:
This section demonstrates more than anything the dangers of unbridled state power. And clearly the psychology profession has a more constructive role to play than just to be a dumping ground for state power gone bad. Indeed this situation only begs the legal profession and all of the social sciences to sit down together and to delineate where each can best make their contribution so this kind of thing can only be history.
As in the problems of the previous section, I would like to get these cases examined and documented objectively by the legal profession as groundwork before proceeding to examine its psychological, sociological and economic meaning.
And again the issue goes back to the fundamental point that the public gave the legal profession its very privileged position in our society and in return has every right to expect it to address objectively its problems and employ all resources available to it to give the public the best service it can in return.