Text of speech given at the One Year Candlelight Memorial for Jeremy, July 8, 2010.
A More Just Society
One full year has gone by since I last saw Jeremy. His family and close friends are still missing him, very much, every day. He is missed so much because of the powerful way he lived his life and the profound way that he touched the lives of people around him. What gives me strength today, is the fact that there are people who still feel moved enough to gather here and seek - Justice for Jeremy. We can’t stop here, we need JUSTICE for EVERYBODY who is arrested, jailed, and carelessly released while mentally impaired. In this respect, we seek a more JUST SOCIETY.
Over the last 12 months we have established working relationships with the City of Lathrop, the San Joaquin County Mental Health Board, the Sheriff of San Joaquin County, the Mitrice Richardson Support Group, and the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Supporters have kept the Justice for Jeremy Memorial Fund maintained, so that we could produce the mobile billboard you can see across the street. If you live in Lathrop or just commute along Lathrop Road, you’ve seen us here every 8th of every month, carrying signs, ringing cowbells, and passing out leaflets to passing traffic. We are not doing this to bring Jeremy back, we are seeking a more JUST SOCIETY.
I envision a country that gives every citizen the right to pursue life and happiness with the freedoms that our forefathers have given dearly to establish and defend. A JUST SOCIETY will not discriminate against age, race, sex, religion, sexual orientation, or physical disabilities. It is, indeed sad, that our society, in the year 2010, still stigmatizes persons with mental illness. People are not able to be open about, and seek help for, illnesses that affect their minds. Health insurance companies discriminate against mental illness in the form of reduced mental health benefits. Psychiatrists are not paid on par with their fellow MD’s who treat other parts of the body. 40 years ago, the Vietnam war brought home “post traumatic stress disorder”. Are we prepared for the challenge of PTSD from the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars? I seriously question whether Lathrop and San Joaquin County public safety agencies are up for the challenge when they have so recently and so visibly failed Mr. D’Avila and Jeremy.
No one denies that the mentally ill can commit crimes. But, being mentally ill while in public, is NOT a crime. Without adequate training, awareness, procedures in place, and the humanity to care about our fellow human beings, our public safety and corrections personnel will continue to fail our citizens. There was no justice for Jeremy, but let there be justice for those who are yet to come. Is it too much ask, that behaviors of mental illness be distinguished from crimes of public intoxication, vagrancy, disturbing the peace, defrauding an innkeeper? Not in a JUST SOCIETY, it isn’t. In a JUST SOCIETY, it must be expected, no, demanded! In the year 2010, we demand a higher standard.
We can grieve together, but it is much better to work together. Together we can support the Justice for Jeremy campaign, educate ourselves and the government in order to meet the challenge of giving the right care for mentally impaired individuals, as a more JUST SOCIETY.