Archive for August, 2016
In Bob Perske’s memory, I’m posting some of my favorite posts about him.
On January 7, 2011, Colorado Governor Bill Ritter, Jr. issued a “posthumous pardon” to Arridy, one of the five wrongly executed people with intellectual disabilities.
Pastor to People with Disabilities and their Families
Bob Perske is one of the most gentle and positive people I know. He lives God’s message to care for the “least of my brethern.”
It might surprise people to know Bob hangs out with criminals on death row.
In a previous post I shared his “history of people with disabilities and hope for families.”
Because Bob understands the history of people with disabilties, he knows FEAR was one of the main reasons for removing people from their families and locking them up in institutions, away from society. Fear is still one of the main reason people are excluded from quality lives in the community.
The world in which we live is not always safe, secure, and predictable. It does not always say “please” or “excuse me.” Everyday there is a possibility of being thrown up against a situation where we may have to risk everything, even our lives. This is the real world. We must work to develop every human resource within us in order to prepare for these days (Robert Perske: “The Dignity of Risk.” 1972).
Bob is still hopeful for families, but he wanted to share his recent testimony about people with intellectual disabilities who have been convicted of serious crimes they didn’t commit. Crimes they confessed to because they wanted to make the police officers happy or get them to stop the interrogations. Crimes they didn’t even understand.
Everyone wants people who kill, steal and rape people behind bars. Everyone wants dangerous people off the streets. Everyone wants JUSTICE for the victims. And, Everyone wants the right person convicted.
But Bob Perske and others ask:
“What if the person who confesses to the crime is a person with an intellectual disability?”
Certainly, just because a person has the label of intellectual disability doesn’t make them innocent–but it also shouldn’t make them vulnerable to giving false testimony in our criminal justice system.
Although I did a lot of writing about kids and families earlier, deep in my heart I think they also need to be aware of futures where they can be misunderstood by interrogators and they need to be alert and ready for these grim possibilities.
What can we do?
ELECTRONIC RECORDING OF CUSTODIAL INTERROGATIONS
Robert Perske, Citizen Advocate
Persons With Intellectual Disabilities
CT: REGARDING SB NO. 954 AN ACT CONCERNING THE ELECTRONIC RECORDING OF CUSTODIAL INTERROGATIONS (March 9, 2011)
Dear Committee Members:
For the past 34 years, I have served as a worker and author on cases involving persons with intellectual disabilities who were coerced into confessing to major felonies they did not commit.
I am a member of The ARC of Connecticut and The ARC of the United States.
I am the author of “Perske’s List: False Confessions from 75 Persons with Intellectual Disabilities.”
It will be published in September’s Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, a journal of the American Association on Intellectual Disabilities. (AIIDD).
The article is 24 pages long. It shows that:
• 65 have been legally exonerated.
• 29 have been exonerated by DNA tests.
• 5 are now headed for court hearings thanks to “Innocent Project” groups.
• 5 have been so wrongly executed they will always be painful to justice-loving lawyers when they think about them.
• 1 of the five wrongly executed was Joe Arridy. On January 7, 2011, Colorado Governor Bill Ritter, Jr. issued a “posthumous pardon” to Arridy.
• I predict that Richard Lapointe of Connecticut will someday be added to this list.
The time has come when judges and juries should be helped by advanced video technology to see everything that went on in an interrogation room. Until they can do that, our justice system will be tainted.
Check out Bob’s articles, books, websites or give him a call.
As parents we worry about our children being victims. Few of us imagine our children as the aggressor.
What can be done to give them better protection, a more fair and equal justice? Because sometimes even the people who have confessed to being the aggressors–are Victims.
Electronic equipment seems like an easy answer to me. I would think it would help protect the rights of everyone, including the police officers.
Keep Climbing: Onward and Upward
All my best,
Discussion: These are life and death issues. Would video technology and electronic recordings of custodial hearings bring better justice to everyone? Is this worth the cost? What do you think of Bob’s role as a pastor and “citizen advocate”? How can we make our children less vulnerable?
Robert and Martha Perske
Today we heard the sad news that Bob Perske died. He was an advocate who made a difference. I will miss him.
At one of my first TASH (then The Association for Persons with Severe Handicaps) conferences, I heard Bob Perske speak about Hope for the Families. His book, by the same name, helped me make sense of our family’s new life as parents of a son with the labels of intellectual disabilities, autism and more.
Bob Perske has been one of the pioneers for people with disabilities and their families. In Parallels of Time Bob Perske is seen pictured with giants in our field. He has written many terrific books including Circles of Friends and Unequal Justice, his current work with people with intellectual disabilities caught in the criminal justice system.
Bob is an amazing minister, speaker, writer and just great person. People with disabilities and their families are fortunate to have him in our lives. Martha, his wife, uses her talent to create pictures which spread joy and a vision of inclusion across the world.
Below is one of Martha’s pictures and the introduction to Hope for the Families which I have passed along to my friends, my classes, and anyone who would read it.
Hope for Families of People with Disabilities
Not so very long ago, you and I were conditioned to perceive persons with handicaps as deviants. They were seen as…
Possessed by evil forces
Carriers of bad blood
A drag on the community’s resources
The products of illicit sex
Too ugly to be seen in public
Objects to be laughed at
A Group that would outbreed us
People with contagious sicknesses
Sexual monsters and perverts
Children who never grew up
Our parents and teachers conditioned us by what they said—or didn’t say—to feel uncomfortable around hose imperfect people. We were led to believe that if we got too close to them, something evil would rub off on us.
Consequently, persons with disabilities were condemned to struggle against TWO handicaps. One was the actual handicap. The other was he additional wounding they received from our prejudices.
Wasn’t the handicap itself enough? Why did we have to cripple them further?
Let me offer one theory to explain such behavior:
Once we believed fiercely that the world was becoming better and better.
And in keeping with this belief, everyone was expected ultimately to develop…
A pure heart
A brilliant mind
A beautiful body
A successful marriage
A high-status job
And live in a perfect society.
Then along came a few defenseless persons with obvious physical and mental handicaps. Their presence rattled our plans for a perfect world as a high wind rattles a loose shutter. We didn’t like that, and the result was that we could not stand to have them around us.
World War II
Then something happened. One country, in an effort to create a super race, started a world war. By the time it ended, the minds of all humankind were trying to comprehend the terrible things some groups of human beings had done to other groups. All of us tried to understand what had happened in places like Buchenwald, Auschwitz, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, London, Bataan, and Corregidor.
After World War II
After World War II, our belief in the gospel of world perfection began to fall apart.
And, we were reminded of some terrible facts.
All of us have gaps in our bodies and minds.
All of us are unfinished.
Some of us can hide our deficiencies better than others.
None of us will ever achieve perfection.
Those of us who think we are closest to perfection may be most likely to drag the human race to new lows.
Today we do not know whether the world is getting better and better—we only know it is getting more complex.
And yet it is an astonishing fact that humankind’s healthy interest in person with disabilities began to mushroom after the Holocaust and the Atom Bomb. One cannot help wondering if there is a connection.
Robert Perske Hope for the Families: Abingdon Press, Nashville, TN.1981. Click here for Robert Perske’s website.
Today, advocates in Ohio, Wisconsin, Indiana and other places around the country are asking the legislature to preserve Medicaid and other programs for people with severe disabilities. The crucial support programs our children need to survive are at risk.
Money is always scarce, but as Bob points out, we have made progress in our values and experiences of including people in the community. We have to believe in hope and better futures for our children.
I am reminded of two quotes:
“Those who do not learn from the past are destined to repeat it.”
“A measure of a society is how it treats its most vulnerable people.”
As parents we understand budget cuts and are even willing to concede progress will be slow, BUT we expect progress!
If you found this interesting you might also like a related article about Remarkable Parents who Never give up.
Keep Climbing: Onward and Upward
All my best,
What’s Your Take?, Be Brave and Share
Do you think our society values people who are different or have special needs? or, are we still just a drain on the system and resources? Do you think people with disabilities have two handicaps?
If you like this, please retweet and share with your community. Thanks.
note: Bob gave me permission to print excerpts from his book Hope for the Families.
Olympics, Disabilities and Inclusion
There are many legends around the origins of the Olympics. But the main idea was countries and individuals would meet every 4 years and set aside conflicts–and this shared experience would lead toward greater understanding and fewer conflicts.
Many believe the ancient Olympic games began with a foot race.
The 2012 Olympics were held in London, England. And, a footrace is not so simple. Turns out, the definition of a “foot” was a source of conflict.
Even with later personal tragedy, The Olympics story of Oscar Pistorius from South Africa is an inspirational lesson about the inclusion of people with disabilities.
Check out this video, “The fastest man with no legs” who uses his “blade runners” to race in the finals of the Olympics.
Yes, he races in the segregated Paralympics, but also in the inclusive regular Olympics.
This is an example of inclusion, self-advocacy, the power of a supportive family and an exceptional adult with disabilities.
I think this is also an excellent example of what the Olympic Spirit is all about. The Greek founders might never have envisioned this sort of story, but I’ll bet they were cheering up on Mount Olympus as Oscar became one of the fastest runners in the world.
If you have feet, you have tendons and muscles which give a “spring” to your step.
If you don’t have feet, you … what—sit at home? OR…
You only have the choice of a segregated Special Olympics or Parolympics event?
As Dennis Burger says, “I always think it’s ironic when officials claim an unfair advantage by a guy with a prosthetic device. Go Oscar!”
Lessons from the Olympics
Why is it that those of us who would never spend 10 seconds playing or watching ping pong, or skeet shooting, or footraces… voluntarily devote our precious time to these events on TV?
Why is it we choose to root for one team or one person?
With all the important events happening in the world, why would the evening news start out with the country’s Olympic medal count?
What is the magic that draws our attention?
I think the answer has to do with the concepts of “Us” and “Them.” The answer is rooted in our deep psychological need to belong.
We can wonder about the concepts of nationalism but like it or not, we are part of a tribe, a nation, we are part of “Us.”
And when the collected ego of our nation wins, we win.
So we say, “Go USA” or “Go England” or “Go Canada” when we really don’t care one bit about archery or who can do the backstroke.
In Maslow’s famous “hierarchy of needs” belonging and having people who care about you is critical to survival–more important than how many skills you have or self-actualization. Sometimes this means being part of a tribe, sometimes being part of a family, sometimes part of a church, school or … nation.
Or, sometimes sharing a bond with someone with a disability.
So when we hear about a runner who uses blades because he has no feet, or a woman who only has one hand and is a table tennis champion—suddenly we care about them.
We switch our allegiance and transfer all our goodwill to these courageous individuals because they have a disability and are part of our TEAM INCLUSION. We don’t know them personally, we aren’t a part of their country, but they are part of our heart.
They prove that all our daily advocacy efforts are worth it. That the dream of inclusion can be real.
They are changing the attitudes and social consciousness of a whole generation.
And it doesn’t matter if they are from South Africa or Poland or anywhere—they belong to us and our vision of an inclusive world.
I’m hoping you and members of our Climbing Every Mountain community will also share stories of belonging, inclusion, the Olympics, and building communities.
Keep Climbing: Onward and Upward
All my best,