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Mental Illness Was Kelly Thomas’s Death Sentence

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(Jan. 24, 2014) Kelly Thomas was given a death sentence because he was “mentally ill, disheveled and unmedicated in public,” says Treatment Advocacy Center board member Carla Jacobs.

kelly-thomas“The reality is that our mental health system is complicit in Kelly’s death,” she told columnist Steve Lopez of the Los Angeles Times about the acquittal of the police officers charged with Kelly’s beating death (“Law could be Kelly Thomas’ legacy,” Jan. 21). “It is not geared to protect those with the most serious illnesses.”

Jacobs said she hopes the legacy of Thomas – a homeless man with untreated schizophrenia – at a Fullerton, California, transit station will motivate Orange County at last to implement Laura’s Law, the state’s assisted outpatient treatment (AOT) law.

Thomas’s father, Ron Thomas, described as “distraught” by the verdict, told Lopez he would welcome the implementation of AOT in California –and more. “There should be mandatory mental health training for all peace officers.”  

We agree. If more California counties implement Laura’s Law and provide training for police officers on how to respond to a psychiatric crisis, it may save those who could otherwise face a fate similar to Thomas.

“In Kelly Thomas’ memory, we owe them a better turn,” columnist Lopez concluded.

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