Proskauer performs pro bono work for a number of innovative and impactful nonprofit organizations, including Beyond Kids Reading (BKR). This week we had the privilege of speaking with BKR’s founder Dr. Craig N. Horning.
When a veteran is discharged from the armed forces, they begin the transition to civilian life. However, the type of discharge received can have far-reaching consequences for veterans as the stigma of an “Other Than Honorable” discharge follows veterans throughout their lives and limits the federal benefits they can receive. Proskauer is actively involved in helping veterans upgrade their discharge status, when they have been unfairly denied benefits due to an improper classification.
In recognition of Mental Health Awareness Month and Well-Being Week in Law, Proskauer’s Senior Manager of Wellness, Tracey Saliski, brought Brianne Gallo and me together for a discussion about finding purpose in life and work through participation in public service at Proskauer. It was a privilege to present on this…
Proskauer, in conjunction with attorneys from Children’s Rights, Disability Rights New York, and the National Health Law Program, have filed a class action lawsuit against New York officials in response to the mental health crisis arising from New York’s failure to provide, in sufficient quantity, frequency, and…
An anxious mother, detained in a separate facility from her son, is informed that authorities had lost track of him. A devastated father is deported without his child. A crying child is ripped from his father’s arms and put into a cage-like metal cell. These Proskauer clients – all escaping violence in Central America – suffered those horrors not in their home countries but in the country where they sought asylum, in the United States.
Beginning in 2017 as a pilot project, the U.S. government began splitting thousands of families in an effort to deter immigration across the southern border. The practice became official in 2018 through the government’s “zero tolerance” policy which called for the detention and prosecution of all individuals – including those seeking asylum – who crossed the border anywhere other than an official port of entry.
While national outrage prompted an official end to the policy, the government did not stop, and to this day continues to separate families. In total, over 5,500 children have been separated from their parents since 2017, at least 1,100 of whom were separated after the policy officially ended. Tragically, the parents of 666 separated children still have not been found.
What is “media empathy” and what is the mission of the Media Empathy (ME) Foundation?
To us, “media empathy” means portraying people with mental illness in a compassionate way that recognizes their humanity and their struggles and makes them relatable, rather than vilifying them or treating them comically. This empathy is often missing in the narrative around mental health today. For example, while the media typically understands and depicts the challenges faced by cancer patients in a sympathetic and accurate manner, it often makes misrepresentations about what it is like to live with a mental illness.
Our mission is to advocate for a culture in which people can speak freely about mental health issues and can access supportive resources to help manage their illness. Despite many campaigns aiming to destigmatize mental health issues, portrayals of mentally ill individuals in the media remain problematic and social distancing hasn’t really improved since the 1950s. We seek to collaborate with those who create and shape media to change the narrative surrounding mental illness.
Last month, the U.S. state with the highest rate of incarceration (in the country with the largest prison population) took steps to reduce its incarceration of non-violent offenders.
Oklahoma’s Governor Kevin Stitt (Republican) commuted the sentences of over 500 inmates. All of these individuals were non-violent offenders with an average age of less than 40. This decision points to a larger shift in conventional wisdom concerning mass incarceration and its effect on public safety.
A 2017 study by the Vera Institute of Justice demonstrates the weak correlation over the past 40 years between incarceration and public safety. Out of concern for the skyrocketing cost of overcrowded prisons, cost-conscious public officials have joined with those desiring a less punitive, equitable system to rethink criminal justice in America. A consensus is building around the need to start directing resources to rehabilitation as opposed to incarceration. According to Governor Stitt, “[the goal] has been about changing the culture and process as we prepare to release individuals and to help set them up for success upon reentry into society.”
The families and children migrating from Central America have suffered terrible traumatic experiences, and a recent report by Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), a non-profit advocacy group, addresses the serious, long-term medical consequences of this trauma. These important findings provide compelling support for more humane immigration policies, and inform best practices for lawyers working with immigration clients.
Trauma Suffered by Young Migrants
Multiple studies link trauma to long-term negative health outcomes, including chronic disease, impaired cognitive development, and mental health conditions. With analysis by medical school faculty and students from Weill Cornell Center for Human Rights, the report is significant for its sole focus on child asylum seekers. Out of the 183 children in the study, nearly 80% experienced direct physical violence, 71% experienced threats of violence or death, 59% witnessed acts of violence, and almost 20% experienced repeated sexual violence or exploitation. Sixty percent of the children experienced some form of gang violence, and 47% experienced violence perpetrated by family members. A constant theme among the children was the lack of protection from law enforcement in their home countries. (Eighty-nine percent were from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.) Many also reported traumatic experiences during transit to the U.S. through dangerous terrain, with inadequate food or water, where they remained vulnerable to continued acts of violence.