Dear Rep. McCann:
I am writing about HB1253-2014, a bill to take the right to jury trial away from persons believed to have a mental illness, currently scheduled for a vote on the floor of the State House of Representatives in Colorado on Tuesday, April 15.
I am a person who has been forcibly treated for mental illness in the State of Colorado on the basis of false allegations that were known to be false by the State personnel who used that force upon me.
It’s been known to happen. That’s why the trial was invented, and why societies as ancient as Athens understood the need for ordinary citizens to review the facts when the State chooses to use force to deprive a person of liberty.
I was too young to have the option for a Jury trial when that happened to me, so I understand just how important that right is.
When the State chooses to act improperly, what recourse does a citizen have other than the right to trial by jury?
I know what that right is worth because I have lived without it. I can assure you that right matters. It’s not just theory. It is democracy itself.
If I had had that right, perhaps I would have not had to suffer so much at the hands of the State. Now, you’re trying to take that right away from adults.
I don’t understand your recent sponsorship of House Bill 1253 (2014)  in the Colorado General Assembly. The bill is written, in its own words, to remove “the option for a jury trial for a certification for either a mental health or substance misuse hold.”
That means, according to your proposed law, that if the State wants to lock someone up, it merely has to accuse that person of being mentally ill or a drug user.
According to statistics from the National Institute of Mental Health, “An estimated 26.2 percent of Americans ages 18 and older — about one in four adults — suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year.” 
That’s over a million Coloradans you want to put at risk of being locked up by the State without the right to jury trial. I am but one of that million.
Rep. McCann, under your new law, that could happen to you.
If the allegation is false, who will save you? Isn’t that what juries are for?
Criminals have the right to a jury trial before the State locks them up. Why would you take this right from people not even accused of a crime, but still subjected to forcible detention and worse by the State?
Are you so afraid of people like me that you’d decide to take our civil rights away?
Or do you just care less about fundamental constitutional protections and democratic ideals when they are applied to my people?
The State of Colorado has never stooped so low into knee-jerk bigotry as to deprive my entire people of the Jury trial at any point in its history. A million people.
Since before Colorado was a State, the Jury Trial, that last best hope of democracy itself, was preserved. In every version of the civil commitment statute, that right has been available. It was specifically preserved in 1868, 1877, 1908, 1935, and most recently when the statute was completely overhauled in 1975.
What could your reasoning for this possibly be? You have Stated none on the record. You haven’t even given a reason for attacking the civil rights of a million Coloradans.
Please, Madam Representative, reconsider what you’re doing. Kill HB1253 and make sure nothing like it is ever reintroduced.
In 2014, no one in public office should feel comfortable going after the civil rights of a million Americans. In 2014, no one should try to take the jury trial away from any citizen, let alone one out of every four citizens.
No politician should believe they can afford to go after a whole people’s civil rights.
It’s undemocratic. It’s unamerican. It’s just plain wrong.
You should be ashamed of yourself.
Aubrey Ellen Shomo
This is an open letter and may be reprinted anywhere by anyone.
Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.