How a “Lapse of Judgement” Became Involuntary Detention,
and a Security Threat


The Brattleboro Reformer, citing intense public concern after a county-wide security alert regarding an “autistic” man’s release from involuntary detention, obtained the court transcript in which the judge “concluded that ‘the lapse in judgment’ by the subject in making the threatening statements was not connected to any major mental illness… one of the biggest problems in the State’s case is actually demonstrating from the time (the man) was held against his will… any behavior that really is consistent with an impulse to act on the statements that were so concerning… ”

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Of further interest:
Transcript sheds light on Brattleboro school scare (The Rutland Herald)

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Kermit Cole
Kermit Cole, MFT, founding editor of Mad in America, works in Santa Fe, New Mexico as a couples and family therapist. Inspired by Open Dialogue, he works as part of a team and consults with couples and families that have members identified as patients. His work in residential treatment — largely with severely traumatized and/or "psychotic" clients — led to an appreciation of the power and beauty of systemic philosophy and practice, as the alternative to the prevailing focus on individual pathology. A former film-maker, he has undergraduate and master's degrees in psychology from Harvard University, as well as an MFT degree from the Council for Relationships in Philadelphia. He is a doctoral candidate with the Taos Institute and the Free University of Brussels. You can reach him at [email protected].


  1. The thing is, involuntary commitment hearings are never covered in the news media. Most people assume that it’s very hard to be involuntarily committed, I know from some experience that it is not. So then when a news article does come out covering involuntary commitment, it shows an improbable victory for a man few would have sympathy for, without informing the readers of just how improbable it was.

    Sounds like it has a motive to me.

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  2. “(U)ntil there is a very, very strong showing, Courts don’t have any business telling people how they should get their mental health treatment,” said Wesley. “Many, many people in this society don’t need a court to understand that they need to get mental health treatment.”

    And that’s what it’s all about. Just play ball and never admit that you’re not mentally ill and don’t need treatment, just argue that you’re better off getting treatment outside the hospital.


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