Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Man Robs Bank to Get Healthcare in Prison

The criminal justice system has long been a primary care provider for the mentally ill. A new case from North Carolina suggests that jails may become primary health care providers for people with other medical problems as well.

James Richard Verone tried to rob a bank in Gastonia, North Carolina so that he could get foot and back surgery and a diagnosis for a protrusion from his chest.

He took a cab down New Hope Road and picked a bank at random — RBC Bank.

Verone didn’t want to scare anyone. He executed the robbery the most passive way he knew how.

He handed the teller a note demanding one dollar, and medical attention.

“I didn’t have any fears,” said Verone. “I told the teller that I would sit over here and wait for police.”

Unfortunately, Orin Kerr, a writer at the Volokh Conspiracy, isn’t sure that Verone committed a crime.

Theft requires intent to permanently deprive another of property. But it’s not clear that Verone had any intent to permanently deprive the bank of its money. If I understand the facts, he just wanted to do what was necessary to be arrested, without any actual intent to deprive others of their stuff (thus the $1 request). Verone wants people to know why he committed his act, so they know he’s not a bad guy. But I think his reason shows that he lacked the intent that the crime requires; if I’m right about that, Verone is actually not guilty of the crime charged.

Hopefully, Verone won’t have to rob another bank to get his surgeries.

In 2000, the last year for which nation-wide data is available, over 100,000 prisoners were receiving psychotropic medications and over 17,000 prisoners had to be under 24-hour mental health care. Our country’s jails and prisons are taking a bigger and bigger share of the mental and physical healthcare burden.

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