Cornelius was a lifer.
It was pretty clear he spent most of his adult life in mental institutions.
As a six foot, eight inch mumbling black man with severe diabetic injury, he was quite memorable.
One day, at Rockland Psychiatric Hospital, at lunch, Cornelius made a terrible mistake. While sitting across from me, Cornelius traded for a piece of fruit.
And this was against the rules.
One of the hospital aides asked Cornelius to turn over his piece of fruit. Cornelius refused, and the aide put him in a headlock and savagely beat him.
And I did nothing to help Cornelius.
And that will always bother me.
Now, you have to realize that all of the residents of this facility were medicated mental zombies. I also was a zombie, but this incident sparked something inside me. It was so outrageously wrong.
I reported the incident to the authorities and a lengthy report was written up. I waited for something to happen. But nothing did. The aide continued working in the cafeteria without missing a single day. I couldn’t believe it. He should have been fired!
A few weeks later, a nearly identical incident happened in the cafeteria with a different patient and a different aide. Once again, I reported the incident to the authorities. And again, a lengthy report was written up. And yes, again, the aide was not punished.
These incidences haunted me for the rest of my time in the hospital, and after I was released.
So at the urging of my therapist, I pursued this issue about a year after I was out of the hospital. I wrote several letters to ChrisTavella, the hospital administrator, explaining what happened. I also asked that something be put in writing that would assure everyone that this would never happen again.
Dr Tavella never responded. After the third letter, a lower level administrator called me, totally pissed off, and tried to blow me off. She said that she would get a definitive statement together and get back to me. She never did.
I decided to take my case to the Rockland County local newspaper. After repeated attempts to speak to a live person, I finally reached someone. She told me that the newspaper would be at risk for being sued if they pursued this issue.
Not exactly a Watergate moment.
So for all I know, patients are still being beaten at Rockland Psychiatric Hospital. We will never know, because everything is done behind closed, locked doors.
And this bugs the living hell out of me.
Have I given up? Definitely not.
But I am at a point where I have to take a close look at where I go next.
I feel responsible, in a way, for my fellow patients.
So I must continue.