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Mental illness not a criminal justice issue

How unfortunate for Mr. Sung Koo Kim that for quite a long time he was a suspect in the highly publicized disappearance of Brooke Willberger (http://www.co.benton.or.us/sheriff/ems/missing_brooke.html). The press built up an imaginary case against Kim for Willberger's disappearance and, as a consequence, police and the public clung to that idea long after he was clearly not the perpetrator. How else to explain his cumulative sentences (see below) of now 14 years and counting, for being mentally ill and stealing college women's underwear and having porn on his computer?

Washington County Circuit Judge Donald R. Letourneau, noting that his (the judge's) daughter will be a college junior next fall, also found Kim guilty of causing 'a sense of alarm in young college women throughout the entire Willamette Valley,' and as we all know this too could be a crime if there was a law against it.

Judges in Oregon have to run for office and that's a real incentive to pander to the public's thirst for revenge. Politics is one reason for Kim's long sentences. That's in addition to Oregon's public policy of allowing summary execution (eg. Jose Mejia Poot, Foud Kaady, Raymond Gwerder) for the mentally ill.

The fact is that in Oregon and all across America we do not really believe in mental illness. We are rugged individualists and believe in the right wing gospel of individual responsibility. Treating mental illness is just coddling the weak and making excuses for criminal behavior, etc.

In civilized industrial societies - mostly in Europe - mental illness is treated as a health problem, not as a criminal justice issue. But, America cannot afford mental health treatment; we have a war on terrorism to pay for.

CARL REYNOLDS

Sherwood