By Alysia Santo | The Marshall Project | March 18, 2015
Doctors tell Ronald he is schizophrenic, but he doesn’t believe them. For the past few weeks, he’s been an inmate and patient on the 19th floor of Bellevue Hospital, where mentally ill prisoners, mostly from Rikers Island, are held in a ward called the forensic unit.
Just down the hall from the forensic unit is a small courtroom, where Ronald (name changed to maintain patient privacy) appeared on a recent Tuesday in his light-blue hospital pajamas and slippers, his hands and feet cuffed. This is not the court where Ronald will be tried for the felony he’s facing, if indeed he ever gets to trial. The issue here — the only issue in Room 19E2 — is whether the mentally ill can be treated against their will. Ronald was refusing to take medication, so Bellevue applied to the court to administer antipsychotic drugs over his objection. “I used to have a mental illness in the past, but not anymore,” Ronald insisted to Judge Arthur Engoron, who was tasked with deciding between the patient and the hospital. Continue reading »