Ronald Chante should still be alive and kicking

June 19, 2012

It is said about America that, unlike other civilized and Western nations, that we put too many people in prison and jail who should be in a mental institution. Whether that is true across the board remains to be proven one way or the other, but in Arizona last Sunday, there was a clear example of that fact.

Police said Ronald Chante stole a Phoenix police utility truck and crashed into police officers during the chase. Records show he was in trouble with the law dating back 15 years. People who knew him said he had a drug problem, but he was obviously mentally ill and needed help...

"You get a person who is out there on their own who doesn't know they need help and they fall through the cracks and this is a perfect example," said Defense Attorney Vladimir Gagic. 

("AZ man shot by police 'misunderstood'?" by ABC 15 Brian Webb and Navideh Forghani)

The reason I mention this case is that because there is no reason Ronald Chante should be dead. Instead of lying dead on a cold morgue floor, he should be alive and kicking in a mental ward, or at least still in custody. I sincerely believe if Mr. Chante had been taken into custody in any other developed nation, for example, Japan, Canada, Italy, etc... he would still be alive today. 

In fact, even if it had been a less developed nation, he would still be alive. Sadly, at least in Maricopa County, one does not get mental health treatment unless one asks for it directly or a family or friend asks for it. So when someone like Mr. Chante goes to jail and no one bothers to notice the obvious, he ends up dying and putting the lives of ordinary citizens at risk at the same time. 

I know some people seem to think that because he wanted to commit "suicide by cop" that absolves the county jail and Maricopa County Sheriff of all moral responsibility. It does not. The fact he wanted to commit suicide, regardless of the particular method, is the sign of his mental illness. And if have a county jail system that cannot cope with the obvious problems that Mr. Chante displayed, then what is the point of even having what we now call county government? If our society can't stop the obvious and clear danger that Mr. Chante was to himself and others, what is the point of having a society at all? 

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