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The Graf Family mini-website has outgrown the MilwaukeeRenaissance.com greenhouse!

Projects that Bob Graf has started with other community members are still here on the MilwaukeeRenaissance.com, where growing conditions are so great for small, tender seedlings — see

Moving to our new wiki home, at NonviolentWorm.org:

Included below is the live home page of the NEW Diary of a Worm, on the New NonviolentWorm.org wiki website. Clicking any link below will bring you to our new site!

Nonviolent Cow : DiaryOfAWorm/Diary of a Worm browse

Welcome to the Journal of the Graf Family Growing Power Home Model

Rain Garden
August 2010

Tomatoes & Basil
from Front Lawn
Garden 2010

Back Yard
Garden 08/02/09

In January of 2006 I toured Will Allen’s Growing Power farm. Inspired by the Growing Power vision, my wife, son, a family friend and I constructed a home-based version of the Growing Power system in our sun-room.

We started by building an 8′ X 2′ box in our three-season room, and (with help of good persons at Growing Power and some worms) grew, with mixed results, salad greens and seedlings for the first summer’s garden. As the seasons change, our focus shifts back and forth between the sun-room and its evolving Growing Power Home Garden Project Box, and our Growing Power backyard garden, where we use the rich soil, worm castings and worms from the indoor box outdoors. Same system yet different.

Digging in the earth can uncover all kinds of things, and so can digging deep in ourselves. In my online journal, I have been recording daily reflections on the progress of our efforts in adapting the Growing Power model to our home and garden, mixed with my observations about life, peace, justice, faith, family, community and friends. Enjoy. Thank you! — Bob Graf

Click below to read any post in full — see the Archives for older posts.

Friday Nite Football Tree - Saturday, October 22, 2016

On the way to the grandstand at Hortonville High School
I saw this tree, a shining fall red color under the lights
Friday night high school football has its attraction
Especially when you grandson is on the field
But this tree got my attention
So at halftime on the way back from the concession stand
I stopped and watched this tree for a while.
The tree just stood there in all its fall beauty
And soon I moved on to the Friday night football game.


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The Butterfly and Bee of Elections - Monday, October 17, 2016

There are two sides in this election.
One side says to vote for my candidate
Because the other one is worst.
The other side says vote for my candidate
Because the other side is worst.

In my garden the butterfly has its favorite flower,
The bee has its favorite flower.
Both enjoy the nectar of their favorite flowers
But do not demonize the others choice.

But then again the butterfly and bee have no conscience,
There is no right or wrong.
And that makes all the difference.

When both candidates talk or do evil
We, in conscience, cannot pick either one.

But we can learn from the butterfly and bee
And just enjoy the nectar of life


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Blood of Yemeni’s is on Our Hands - Monday, October 10, 2016

Boys and men chant slogans during
a protest against Saudi-led airstrikes
in Sanaa, Yemen

The other day at a local SOAWatch vigil I heard someone say that in countries suppressed by the USA, like Guatemala, the people of the country do not blame the people of the USA for their troubles but the USA government and big corporate interest. This may still be true for some countries in Latin America but it seems less and less true, especially in the war torn countries in the Middle East.

A good example is in the bombing last Saturday by Saudi Arabia of a funeral service in Yemen, killing 140 people and injuring more than 500. In 2011, Hillary Clinton and her closest aides in the State Department celebrated a $29.4 billion sale of over 80 F-15 fighter jets, manufactured by U.S.-based Boeing Corporation, to Saudi Arabia. The arms sales were very profitable to the Clinton Foundation. In the years before Hillary Clinton became secretary of state, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia contributed at least $10 million to the Clinton Foundation and just two months before the deal was finalized, Boeing — the defense contractor that manufactures one of the fighter jets the Saudis were especially keen to acquire, the F-15 – contributed $900,000 to the Clinton Foundation.

The country of Yemen,once friendly, to the USA, had been devastated by US drone and bombing attacks. Now Saudi Arabia, US surrogate, using US military equipment, like F-15 fighter jets and cluster bombs, is wrecking death to Yemeni peoples. As of August, 2016 the UN conservative estimates over 10,000 people of Yemen have been killed in civil war and millions displaced.

The people of Yemen, as people in our countries being devastated, know that is it is not just government leaders like Obama and Clinton but it is the American people who support these leaders that are responsible. When I was in Haiti in 2010, I was surprised that the Haitian people called President Clinton the ‘devil’. Those of us who elected Bill Clinton and President Obama must take some of the blame for these deaths. Those who vote for Hilary Clinton will need to take some of the blame for the bloodshed in Yemen and other countries. The blood is on our hands.


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White Privlege Awareness (WPA) - Thursday, October 06, 2016

When I was a seminarian in the 60′s studying at St Louis University I was blessed to live in a house in a low income African-American neighborhood close to the infamous Pruitt Igoe housing project. I traveled nearly daily between the white university and the black neighborhood. One day I was going to an artsy film in a white suburb with my white friends. As we approached the movie theater a strange feeling overcame me. It was a surreal feeling. At the time I did know what it was but now I understand. It was a feeling of white privilege. The contrast between where I lived and where I was got to me.

Much later our family lived in Madison, Wisconsin a fairly white middle class city, we became members of the St. Vincent de Paul Society at our Church. As members,our mission was to visit homes of people in need, treat them with dignity and try to help them, if we could, with a voucher for basics like food or clothing. Most of the people we visited were black. I remember working into apartments that had nothing but a T.V. Set. However, I felt comfortable with the people we visited and instantly made friends with the little children. It was like I was walking into another world where everyone was equal. After I left the home I would join the white world.

After I retired some 10 years or more ago I made some friends with people in the African-American community, sometimes driving friends to a doctor’s appointment, working in a community garden or meeting around a community issue. It was then I noticed what I now call white privilege. Many did not have computers at home, most did not have cars and the neighborhoods and in a segregated community that often did not have street signs on the corners’. I started to notice that at certain events, a la cart food day at the Milwaukee Zoo, at sports and music events at my grandchildren’s rural town and a play or musical events the overwhelming majority of people in attendance were white. There is a scattering of Blacks or Hispanics at these events but nowhere in proportion to their numbers. Economics as well as race were in play. Milwaukee is not only the most segregated city by race in the USA but it is the second poorest.

This year I attended a series of workshops sponsored by the African-American Holocaust center in Milwaukee and I found a tag for this feeling of living in two worlds: white privilege. Being aware of ‘white privilege’ has influenced my view of life and brought attention to the racism in myself and our city.
White Privilege in Milwaukee is a major reason, I believe, why Milwaukee is the Worst City for Black Americans. The latest crisis, toxic lead in the drinking water in 70,000 homes in mostly Black and Hispanic neighborhoods is the latest one ignored or downplayed by city officials. For example in the 95% Black zip code f 53206 19.9 of children, 6 years old or younger have dangerous levels of lead in their blood. The city has committed no money to date to replace the lead lateral water pipes that leach lead into the water yet is spending over $130 million of taxpayers money in just two developments serving the 95% white residents of downtown Milwaukee, a downtown streetcar and sports arena and entertainment district.

If a white privilege area of Milwaukee or suburb had 19.9% of its children 6 and under with dangerous toxic lead levels there is no doubt there would be urgency toward resolving the problem.

White privilege can be a blessing for whites but a curse for blacks. Be careful what you know. You cannot return to ‘normal’ once you are afflicted by White Privilege Awareness (WPA).


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Living with Rejection - Sunday, September 25, 2016

Today at Mass the Gospel reading was the parable about the rich man suffering in hell while the poor beggar is at peace in the bosom of Father Abraham. The priest asks each one of us to tell another person when the moment we first became aware of the fate of people facing poverty and rejection. As I was stories with another person, I suddenly became aware that the awareness of poor and marginalized, if we truly are followers of the Way of Jesus, stays with us always and the more aware we become the more rejection we suffer.

The other day I was reflecting on how I first became aware of “white privilege”. Today I realized that discrepancy of opportunities available to me and to others are still with me but have grown deeper as I have got to know people living in pain, rejection and poverty.

To be at peace with this awareness of rejection, poverty and suffering is difficult. We can put it aside, numb ourselves to these feelings or accept them as part of living a Christian life and find peace in being in solidarity with marginalized, poor and those in pain.

Making peace with rejection, poverty and suffering is not an easy task. But we must believe that picking up this cross will mean life everlasting. Living with Rejection can pay off.


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Kill or Be Killed: A reflection while waiting for a friend to be released from jail - Thursday, September 22, 2016

While waiting for a friend to be released from jail for a nonviolent action today, I write this reflection. More on the nonviolent action after he is released.

In September, 1968, the USA, to our knowledge, was bombing one country, Vietnam. Through the selective service system young men were being drafted into the military and being sent to Vietnam to “kill or be killed.” 20% of officers in the military were being trained in military training programs at many local colleges and universities.

In September, 2016, the USA is bombing nine countries and is contributing weapons and training to countries and rebel groups all over the world. The Selective service does not draft young men any longer. The military has adopted education as its recruiting tool. Young men and women of age 18–25, when part of their brain, the part that assets risk and consequences, is not fully developed, are being recruited by offers of jobs and education. Due to advanced technology of killing, less men and women are needed in military. Now 80% of military officers are being trained at fewer universities around the country.

All colleges and universities, except pacifist ones, are required by law to offer military recruiting training to any interested student in order to receive Federal grants of any type. However, only universities that are selected by the Department of Defense and volunteer to do so, have military training programs (ROTC, NROTC and AFROT) on campus. Military recruits from all other colleges and universities in the region are transported to these few universities that ‘host” these Departments of Defense (DoD) on campus. Schools that host the military are well compensated by the Department of Defense and credits earn in the Departments of Army, Navy/Marines or Air Force are transferred to home school of the recruit. For example, Marquette University host military training for 17 or so Colleges and Universities in Southeast Wisconsin. Now 80% plus of officers in military are trained in military programs at few local colleges and universities.

With the military training now focus on fewer schools the training has become more intense on training “to kill or be killed”. For example, after World War II it was discovered that only 25% of American Soldiers actually fire weapons at the enemy to kill. Though the study of brain science and using simulated technology game training (like killing video games pioneered by US military) the “shoot to kill” ratio is now over 95%. The consequence of this type of training, called in some military circles, as ‘reflexive killing’ has been devastating on young men and women recruited in Military. As CPT Pete Kilner, instructor at the U.S. Military Academy said to the Joint Services Conference on Professional Ethics in Washington, DC in January 2000: “Soldiers are conditioned to act without considering the moral repercussions of their actions; they are enabled to kill without making the conscious decision to do so. … Battles are won by killing the enemy, so military leaders should strive to produce the most efficient killers. The problem, however, is that soldiers who kill reflexively in combat will likely one day reconsider their actions reflectively. If they are unable to justify to themselves the fact that they killed another human being, they will likely—and understandably—suffer enormous guilt. This guilt manifests itself as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and it has damaged the lives of thousands of men who performed their duty in combat.” The suicide rate of veterans, about 22 per day, is tragic consequence of this type of “reflexive killing.”

In September, 1968, I participated in the “Milwaukee 14” nonviolent action, destroying 1A selective service draft records to stop “kill or be killed”. Today as Jesuit trained Catholic and Christian I again feel compelled to stop the new selective service system, military training (ROTC) at Marquette. No matter how much money, honor or glory Marquette receives from the US government to teach war and killing as Christians we must say No to Marquette hosting the Department of Defense on campus. St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus, a soldier who laid down his weapons to be a companion of Jesus, calls to us to reject riches, honor or glory and to be in solidarity with the poor and to practice the nonviolent love of Gospel, to love even our enemies. If Marquette will not stop teaching war and killing by no longer hosting the Department of Defense on campus we must do it with our nonviolent love and action.


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Nuclear Bomb Danger Increasing - Monday, August 08, 2016

New Nuclear Weapon
B61–12 Warhead

These days as we remember the USA nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki my thoughts go to how in the last seven years of the Presidency of Barack Obama the nuclear bomb scare has increased. President Obama, despite calling repeatedly for “a world without nuclear weapons,” has reduced the size of the nation’s atomic stockpile far less than did any of his three immediate predecessors, including both Presidents Bush. President Obama in his terms has overseen the building of three new nuclear bomb plants in the USA and the development of a new nuclear weapon, B61–12 warhead, consider the most dangerous weapon in the USA arsenal. Now the Obama administration is planning to spend more than $1 trillion over the next three decades to significantly upgrade its nuclear weapons capability.

The President in visiting Hiroshima not only refused to apologize on behalf of the USA for the nuclear destruction but show dishonor for the loss of so many lives by fortifying the nuclear weapon arsenal in the USA.

My heart aches for the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki but is most sad for the people of the USA who pay lip service to nuclear disarmament but support a president and congressional figures who make this world a more dangerous place with nuclear weapons. When will we ever learn?


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Please Do Not Drink the Water! - Saturday, June 25, 2016

Bob was coming into the house from working in the garden with his five year old granddaughter, Carolee.

In the kitchen Carolee said: “I am thirsty. Grandpa can I have a glass for water. “

Grandpa Bob “Certainly Carolee, I will get you a glass and fill it up with bottle water in our refrigerator.”

Carolee: No Grandpa, I just asked for a glass. Grandma put a stool by the Kitchen sink so I could help her do the dishes. I can get my own drink of water.”

Grandpa Bob says “Please do not drink the water” from the faucet. I have some cold water in the refrigerator.

Carolee: “What is wrong with the water in the sink?”

Grandpa Bob: “It might have some bad stuff in it.”

Carolee: “What bad stuff?

Grandpa: Bob “It is called lead.”

Carolee: “What is lead?”

Grandpa Bob: “Lead is a bad thing that can hurt young children like you.”

Carolee: “Do we have lead in our water at home?”

Grandpa: “No because you live a newer house that is not old like this one.”

Carolee: “All our water comes from the Lake with Lead?”

Grandpa: “Water coming from the Lake does not have lead. The lead comes in the in old homes like this as it passes through lead water pipes.

Carolee: “Does the Mayor know about this? My daddy says the Mayor is a good man and cares about children.”

Grandpa Bob: “Yes, the Mayor knows about the lead water pipes.”

Carolee: “What is he doing about this bad stuff in water?”

Grandpa: “The Mayor talks about it but I do not think he has a plan yet.”

Carolee: “Grandpa, What should Mayor and City do to get rid of lead water pipes?”

Grandpa: “The City needs to replace all lead water pipes in all the houses that has them. Now can I ask you not to drink the water in the sink but the water in the refrigerator?”


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Easier To Be Good - Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Today’s headline in the newspaper reads “Racial disparity in infant mortality rates widen.” The article goes on to point out that African American babies died at a rate that was 3.2 times that of White babies in 2015. The medical director and chief medical officer at the Milwaukee says preterm birth is responsible for about 60% of infant deaths. , said Geoffrey Swain, medical director and chief medical officer at the Milwaukee Health Department and a professor of family medicine at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. He goes on to say: “Stress experienced over the course of a mother’s life — chronic stress caused by such things as poverty, violence, racism, food insecurity, housing insecurity, undiagnosed health problems, pollution and unemployment — is a key cause of prematurity.”

It hit me that the main cause of high infant mortality of black babies is the same cause of many of Milwaukee’s problem with homicides, violence, poverty, high incarceration of black males, education and housing. While Milwaukee seeks quick fixes, like Pack N Plays for babies to sleep in to avoid death in co-sleeping with adult, the city avoids dealing with long term solutions, changing the environment the young mothers live in, creating a less stressful environment where things like food and housing insecurity, are not of great concern.

Recently, there have been a rash of youth carjacking cars. The City’s response is to increase policing and for Criminal Justice system to be tougher on these youth. Again the environment these youth live in, one of hopelessness, poverty, poor education, food and housing insecurity, lack of recreational activities, high unemployment is not considered.

Study after Study have demonstrated the way to lessen people incarcerated, homicide and crime rate as well as infant mortality rate is by dealing with the underlying causes, poverty, education, employment, lack of affordable housing, Yet we seek short term solutions, food pantries, more police, homeless shelters while avoiding the long term answers creating housing equality, restoring cuts in education, replacing lead lateral water pipes.

If all the money used for short term solutions, jailing persons with mental illnesses, providing Pack N Plays, extra policing, prisons was used to create an healthy and safer environment for all people the city would be a healthier, less stressful for children to be born and live it.
Peter Maurin, co-founder of the Catholic Worker says our job is to build a “society where it is easier for people to be good. Yes, the answer my friend is blowing in the wind. The infant mortality gap between black and white can be changed by creating an environment for black woman like that of white woman


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Taking Mental Out Of Mental Illness - Monday, June 06, 2016

Sign in Urgent Care Center

For years I have waged a personal campaign to not call people with mental illnesses ‘mentally ill’ as we would not call people with cancer ‘cancerous’. I was trying to say: “do not identify a person as an illness.” But now I realize that the real problem was not with labeling people as mentally ill but with the word ‘mental’ itself. How is a mental illness different from any physical illness? Mental implies that the illness is of the mind, whatever that means, but not of the body or brain, like Alzheimer’s or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

On a recent Sunday in Church the chairman of Milwaukee County Mental Health Committee prayed for people with mental illness and/or substance abuse issues. I realized that by calling the illness ‘mental’ we are putting it into the same category as alcoholism. A local church based community organization deals with mental illness in its Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse (AODA) Treatment committee. I understand that medical books treat mental illness in the same category as alcohol and drug abuse illnesses. I am not saying that drug and alcohol addictions are not physical and mental illnesses. They are, but mental illnesses are not ‘addictions’ and cannot be resolved with programs like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA).

My deceased son really could not identify with having a mental illness. I tried calling it a ‘brain illness but was contradicted by mental health workers. When we heard about PTSD he could really identify with this diagnosis. He even recalled a serious car accident in which he was involved with in college that was a turning point in his life.

Once at a NAMI meeting a doctor described mental illnesses as illnesses which people have genetic predispositions for, but which are usually set off by some traumatic event. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that can occur after a person has been through a traumatic event. These events can include: “Natural disasters, Car crashes, Sexual or physical assaults, Terrorist attacks or Combat during wartime”. Our son was very creative, a true artist, and he might have triggered his genetically predisposed brain illness from the car accident or by some other traumatic experiences.

My son self-medicated with alcohol. I remember a mental health ‘case worker’ telling me that people with mental illnesses are like alcoholics and needed to hit bottom before they could accept treatment. At the time I did not know much about the brain but I did not believe him. Once, after going through an alcohol treatment program and ready to deal with his brain illness, the mental health clinic insisted he go to another alcohol rehabilitation program. I was upset at the agency but my son went along with the agency’s recommendation. However, when not drinking and still not showing further results, he was put into another forced living situation — one not of his choosing. Later, after he went back to drinking and his roommate tried to hurt him, he was allowed to live with family. Eventually, when he did not have the ‘desirable outcomes’ for the agency and its funding, he was dropped, even though he had been with the agency for 15 years. Under a commitment order he was then sent to yet another agency where he became just a number with little or no personal, compassionate care. He remained there for less than a year when he committed suicide by taking an overdose of his prescription medicine with alcohol.

Public television had an excellent series on the brain a few years ago. When they got to ‘brain illnesses’, like schizophrenia and bipolar conditions, they talked about the physical impact of these illnesses in the brain. Two professionals on the show talked of how they had gotten control of their brain illnesses by the judicial use of medicine along with therapy. The host stated how therapeutic that combination was and all persons should have access to both, concurrently. However, a doctor on the show pointed out how this was nearly impossible for most persons because medical treatment was often handled by ‘mental health agencies’ giving out medicine; but, most insurance programs only allowed a brief doctor’s appointment every three months. Many agencies do not have professional therapists on staff; and a therapist one might have, is often not connected to the medical treatment that person is receiving. Mental Health agencies often separate physical medical treatment from therapy, even though the combination serves a person best. Therapy sessions are proven to cause positive physical changes in the brain but ‘case workers’ are not therapists or medical personnel.

A doctor once told me — if your son was suffering from a car accident or heart attack would you not take him to an emergency room of a hospital, with or without his consent; or to a clinic with only caseworkers to care for him. A person suffering a ‘mental illness’ should be treated the same way. Hospitals have slowly rid themselves of ‘psychiatric beds’ so they do not have to take in people suffering from mental health crises.

A friend of mine, a certified ‘peer specialist’ for persons with mental illnesses, also has a mental illness. I asked her what she called her illness. She told me she describes it as a ‘neurological condition or disorder’. She found that people looked at her with more understanding than if she called it a ‘mental illness’. I read recently how the National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI) was now calling these illnesses ‘mental health conditions’ since young adults have difficulty associating with the term ‘mental illness’.

If we call what we now call ‘mental illness’ a ‘neurological condition’ instead, it will also squarely put these illnesses under ‘medical health conditions’. If a person with a ‘neurological disorder’ crisis goes to the ER of a hospital that person will be treated as any other patient. If health clinics which we now call ‘mental health clinics’ were clinics for neurological disorders, these clinics would have medical doctors and therapists for treatment. Hospitals are required to treat people with brain illnesses and brain injuries. This switch from ‘mental illness’ to ‘brain illness’ might cut out some mental health organizations and their funding, as well as many ‘case and social workers’. But brain illnesses would then not be treated in the criminal justice system as they are now, when they are called mental illnesses. Also, treating a person with a health crisis as having a neurological condition would insure proper treatment at the first psychiatric episode and save in the long run money society spends on the revolving door of mental illness, especially in the criminal justice system. And, it would free up money for more doctors and more therapists to treat these disorders or conditions as they should be treated, as medical issues requiring medical and therapeutic components in a competent and compassionate manner.

At a recent visit to an Urgent Care Center I found this sign, to the left, on the wall: “IF YOU HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY OR ARE IN LABOR, YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO RECEIVE ……..An appropriate MEDICAL SCREENING EXAMINATION…. Necessary STABILIZING TREATMENT…..an appropriate TRANSFER to another facility…”

If this is accurate, all we need do is drop the ‘mental of mental illness’ and replace it with ‘neurological illness or disorder’ and we can finally treat persons with these medical conditions like they should be treated.


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Lead Poisoning In Homes With Children, LetterTo Common Council President - Sunday, May 29, 2016

Workers replace an old lead pipe
with a new safer copper pipe at a
home in Flint, Michigan, March 4, 2016.

Saturday morning I attended the Community Brainstorming Conference with Ms. Lucille Berrien, 88 year old civil rights leader in Milwaukee. The Community Brainstorming featured the city clerk for City Council and Mr. Ashanti Hamilton, the President of the City Council of Milwaukee. In the question and answer period I asked Mr. Hamilton what the City Council was doing about this serious health problem of lead in the water of 70,000 homes with lead lateral pipes in city of Milwaukee. He did not really answer the questions but made reference to a report saying lead levels of children in Milwaukee was lower in recent years. I came home and wrote this letter.

Dear Mr. Hamilton,
You made the statement this morning at the Community Brainstorming Conference (CBC) session that lead poisoning in Milwaukee children has decreased in recent years. Could you please send me a copy of this study? The Wisconsin Watch Report of Jan. 2016 states:

The percentage of lead-poisoned children among those tested in Wisconsin — 4.5 percent — is similar to the 4.9 percent of children diagnosed in 2015 in the Flint region, where state and federal officials have declared a state of emergency over the spike in lead in drinking water and children’s blood.

‘’In Milwaukee, the percentage is even higher: 8.6 percent of children tested in 2014 had blood lead levels above 5 micrograms per deciliter, the level at which children are known to suffer health problems, according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.
(See also Lead pipes, antiquated law threaten Wisconsin’s drinking water quality a Feb. 2016 report of Wisconsin Watch.org)’‘

You probably received these reports but ignored them. Please send me the report you referenced at CBC.

Also you made it sound like lead poisoning was discovered last January, when in fact the City of Milwaukee put a ban on replacing water mains in areas where the new main pipes would disrupt the lead lateral pipes. Many of us might have learned of danger of lead at that time but city officials have known about the dangers of lead pipes in children and infants since at least 2001, when Madison undertook a successful comprehensive plan to eradicate lead laterals in that city.

The dangers of lead poisoning in children has been well documented. Here is one report that is footnoted in a report that I wrote a while back about the intense danger to Milwaukee children from lead poisoning. Another recent report by a professor from Harvard, on the link between lead water pipes and homicide rates in cities, strengthens the case to rid our city, over 70,000 homes, mostly in North Central and South Central Milwaukee, from lead pipes.

Mayor Barrett and the Common Council have known about this lead poisoning for a long time and have not developed a strategic and comprehensive plan to deal with it. More talk and study while spending millions on a downtown streetcar and new sports arena is not the answer. I can give you specific examples where the Common Council has discussed the issue of lead laterals but failed to come up with a strategic plan to rid Milwaukee of Lead Lateral pipes.

The City of Milwaukee’s Water Department, Milwaukee Water Works, is very profitable. Since it is a non-profit it does not need to pay taxes but in lieu of taxes gives the City of Milwaukee a significant amount of money each year. The City of Waukesha is getting approval from the Great Lakes Compact to get water and return water from Great Lakes. They will be purchasing millions of dollars of water from Oak Creek since Milwaukee said no to City of Waukesha, even with the approval of 8 states and 2 Canadian provinces to the request. Our city water bills were raised to pay for new main water pipelines that are now on hold. With millions earned or being spent on downtown streetcars and sports arena it is not a matter of money while we have lead poisoning for our children. It is a matter of moral priority.

I live in one of 70, 000 homes with lead laterals. I had my water tested and found out it had a low level of lead for adults. But when I checked on safe levels of lead for children I found this: “EPA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) agree that there is no known safe level of lead in a child’s blood. Lead is harmful to health, especially for children.” (EPA reporton Lead in Drinking water)

I came this morning looking for understanding of this great moral and health issue in Milwaukee. Both my parents grew up in Milwaukee, as well as I, in older homes with lead pipes. Maybe I can blame lead in my brain for my disruptive behavior this morning; but I know better. The same old talk and study, running water or filters will not solve this problem. I came looking for a commitment from the Common Council President to develop a comprehensive plan to rid this plague from our children. I still have hope but a little less in the Common Council.

Bob Graf


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Lessons From the Sixties - Sunday, May 15, 2016

March on the Pentagon, 1967

An Easy Essay In spirit of Peter Maurin, co-founder of the Catholic Worker Movement

From the history of the 60′s
The “powers that be”
Leaned how to manipulate
People like you and me.
“Do not react to people seeking justice.”
“Placate them and if does not work
Attack the person not the message.”
“And if that does not work,
Completely ignore the person and message.”

We the people did not learn from the history of the sixties
We forgot that real social change
Comes from direct nonviolent action
Of the people for the people and by the people.

Now people think that signing a petition
Or voting for someone fixed by powers that be
Is doing something

We are a generation suffering from TMI, Too Much Information
And the gatekeepers are the “Powers that be”
They keep us busy and dizzy
With so much stuff
That we forget that unless we work together
We are just spinning our wheels,
Going in circles getting nowhere,
Just like the powers that be want us to be.

The search for truth has become
“That is your opinion and I have my opinion”.
“Do your thing and I will do mine.”
Diversity leads to more diversity not unity.
We are kept divided not united
And the ‘powers that be’
Laugh all the way to the bank.


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Forever Tulips - Thursday, May 12, 2016

In my perennial garden I can count of particular flowers coming at certain time of spring, summer or fall. As the daffodils fade the tulips are in full bloom. One of my neighbors across the street planted a whole bunch of tulip bulbs between sidewalk and street when our street was being reconstructed last fall. Now there is an abundance of tulips that will come back year after year. Tulips and other perennial flowers, with a little care come up every year.

A friend called the other day, someone I had not talked to or seen for a long time. Although she struggles personally and for social justice she always seems hopeful and optimistic. She is a forever tulip.

Today while taking a friend to see a doctor in a clinic I was this quote on the wall. “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1) This bible quote also reminds me of tulips. Faith like tulips is something we hope for and gives us a glimpse into the spiritual life as tulips give us a glimpse of the beauty of nature.

So once we plant tulips bulbs they bloom year after year, forever. Once we make a good friend the friend is a friend forever. Once our faith grows it is forever. Tulips, friends and faith are forever.


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Madness Or Model? - Monday, May 02, 2016

The Dade Correctional Institution’s
Transitional Care Unit,

This afternoon I attended a Community Justice Council Mental Health Committee Meeting. It was announced that a Judge from the Miami-Dade Criminal Health Project, a model program to keep persons with mental illnesses out of jail and prison was speaking in Milwaukee next month. I came home and read a New Yorker magazine article on Madness subtitled: “In Florida prisons, mentally ill inmates have been tortured, driven to suicide, and killed by guards.” The prison in the article is the Dade Correctional Institute in Dade County Florida. There is probably some logical explanation to this contradiction of how Dade is a model and madness but I will let you figure it out. It is the Featured Article of the month.


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Money or Baloney - Thursday, April 28, 2016

Yesterday I spent two hours at Milwaukee County Justice Council meeting hearing about a 2 million dollar grant to keep persons with mental illness out of jail. Today I went to a three and half hour meeting of the County Mental Board talking how to budget money for the County Mental Health system. The boards are not connected and the Director of Mental Health for the County was at neither one. Also there was no talk in the five and half hours of the two meetings about medical treatment of persons with mental illnesses. The Medical Board meeting today mentioned that no local hospital was willing to run a hospital for “persons danger to self and others” replacing the Mental Health Complex. However, it was mentioned that there were three outside for profit health organization interested in taking the money for a new limited private facility. I got creative in the session today and wrote the first essay. After I got home I wrote the other ones. Here they are. You might learn about the state of mental health treatment in Milwaukee County in these easy essays than I did in the two meetings.

Money or Baloney

Money or baloney
No matter what
The local hospitals say no
To medical treatment of ill
persons in a mental health crisis
But three outside for profit
Health businesses say yes
We will take your rejected sick
Feed them baloney
And make some money

Cancerous Persons?

We say people with mental illnesses
Are ill just like people with cancer.
Yet we call them ‘mentally ill”.
Are people with cancer ‘cancerous’?
Certainly not, we say
People with cancer are not their illness
And their illness should not identify them.
And we go on calling people mental illnesses ‘mentally ill.”

Board Talk and No Medical Treatment

At the Community Justice Council Board yesterday
The talk was about using a new million dollar grant
To reduce the number of persons with mental illnesses
Going to jail.
Criminal Justice imitative were explored
But no medical treatment for those ill and jailed.

At the County Mental Health Board meeting today,
(No connection with the Community Justice meeting)
The talk was about spending money
To privatize the county mental health system
Privatizing mental health treatment
But no medical treatment for the ill was discussed.

Sending Our Ill to jail

With all the money, and time spent
To study and PR the Mental Health System
And with all the endless talk,
Ill persons are being sent to jail
With mental illness as their ‘crime’.
Milwaukee, when we will Stop
Sending Our Ill to Jail.


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The New Jim Crow Lunch Counter; SVDP Thrift Store in the Suburbs - Monday, April 25, 2016

Rejection of Poor at SVDP store

When we visited the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, TN last year I was struck by the exhibits of African American civil rights resistance which started soon after the first slave ships arrived from Africa and mostly ended after the assassination of Martin Luther King.

Overt acts of racism are rare but discrimination against poor Blacks and Latinos/as continues in the New Jim Crow. A small group of us were picketing on the sidewalk in front of St. Vincent de Paul Thrift store on April 23, 2016 in the predominately white suburb of Greenfield.

The mission of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul is for lay volunteers to make person to person visits to people in need and help them gain basic needs like clothing, household items, stoves and refrigerators. The mission of a St. Vincent de Paul (SVDP) thrift store is to assist members of SVDP with vouchers to buy these basic items and to offer low income persons, like the segregated people in North Central Milwaukee, a place to shop for low cost items. However, the local staff and board in Milwaukee have spent, raised and loaned 10.5 million dollars from 2013–2015 with only $250, 000 going to serve the needs of the poor by members. A large sum of the 10.5 million had gone to purchase, renovate and operate a SVDP thrift store, not where people needed it but, in the far south middle class suburb of Greenfield. The picket was asking for the Staff and Board members in Milwaukee to“Show Us the Money’ that the Society rules claimed “belongs to the poor” but was not used for the poor.

At the Grand Opening of the new Greenfield store last summer we were made aware that there was No Room for Poor in the new store when we, after the grand opening ceremony, were made to leave the parking lot and store by the Greenfield police. After this picket last Saturday, three of us: Ms. Lucille Berrien, 88 year old civil rights activist, Pastor Shelia Williams from the central city and myself decided to check out the inside of the thrift store. We entered and were welcomed. Ms. Lucille exchanged her walker for a shopping cart to get around the store. Suddenly, the store manager appeared and came up to us and said we had to leave the store immediately. When we asked why she made reference to a sign on the door which said people who protest in the store or parking lot were not welcome. We pointed out that our Show Us the Money Picket was a legal one on the sidewalk not on the store property. Her response

Banning sign on SVDP Greenfield store

was to have an employee call the police who were in the parking lot. About four police came rushing in and said we had to leave and threatened us with arrest. When we asked the police what law we were violating they said ‘trespassing’, the owner of the store wanted us to leave. We pointed out that in the Society of St. Vincent de Paul “all money belongs to the poor” and the manager was not the owner. It did not matter and they started to push us out of the store. Not prepared to get arrested for attempting to shop in the store, we decided to leave. Outside the police said I could get my car and pull it up to the store since Ms. Lucille would not have to walk so far. When I pulled up with the car our friend Amada came walking into the store with her mother, Berta, her infant son and two other children. Berta, a Mexican-American knows Ms. Lucille from the civil rights movement. They embraced each other and the store manager told the police that they also were not allowed in the store. There was no good reason for this action and I, the only white person, started to again argue with the police who kept saying the owner wanted all of us removed from the property. I kept quoting the manual of the Society that “all money belonged to the poor” which was the purpose of our picket.

A small group of persons, mostly white suburbanites, have taken over the Milwaukee SVDP and are investing millions in this suburban store that, instead of making money for the poor, is wasting money belonging to the poor. Our group, called Power to the Poor, is a small group of Blacks, Hispanics and Whites trying to restore the Society to its true mission to serve persons in need. In the Jim Crow of the South some business decided not to serve blacks at lunch counters with whites. In the segregated south blacks sat in at the white lunch counters until they won their civil rights. In the New Jim Crow of the North, some middle class white persons have decided that they know what is best for the poor by creating a store for suburban whites. Last Saturday in segregated Milwaukee County a small group of Blacks and Hispanics try to enter a thrift store that took “money belonging to the poor” and used it to offer thrift items for middle class whites. We were denied but we have discovered the new lunch counter of the North. We will be back!


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White Millennials Will Get Grocery Store and Urban Blacks Will Not - Thursday, April 21, 2016

Today’s newpaper’s headline was about how downtown Milwaukee’s underused Grand Avenue Mall hopes to attract a grocery store. The new owners of the Mall reported this was the major request at a meeting with downtown residents, mostly ‘millennials’, young adults born from 1981 through 1996. I found this interesting since there is the “Public Market”, a major food destination downtown. Also I have come to understand that when the word ‘millennials’ is used to describe young adults living and working downtown it actually means white upper middle class young adults. Few, if any, low income Black and Hispanic young adults are considered ‘millennials’ and live downtown.

Downtown white ‘Millennials’ have cars to get out to grocery stores in the surrounding neighborhoods and soon will have their own trolley line to get around downtown from home to work to shop and to entertainment. Residents of North Central Milwaukee live in what is considered a ‘food desert’, a lack of major food stores and many do not have cars.

So the lesson to be learned seems to be that in Milwaukee if you are white, hungry and have money and transportation there will be many places to shop and eat. If you are black, hungry and have little money or transportation you will not have many places to shop and eat. White downtown ‘millennials’ will get their grocery store and urban blacks will not.


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Slavery and Killing at Catholic Universities for Money - Monday, April 18, 2016

The grave of Cornelius Hawkins, one
of 272 slaves sold by the Jesuits in
1838 to help keep what is now
Georgetown University afloat.

A New York Times Article how Jesuits at Georgetown University in Washington D.C. sold 272 Slaves for money to pay off Georgetown debts and keep it alive. In today’s culture selling slaves for money for to save a Catholic University seems unthinkable but in those days the Catholic Church allowed slavery and the Jesuits morally justified owning and profiting from slavery.

This story reminded me of our struggle here at the local Catholic University, Marquette, to “Be Faithful to the Gospel, and No Longer Host Departments of Military Science”, (ROTC). The Department of Defense contracts with Marquette University to host training of military offices. For example the Department of the Army openly admits that it teaches students at Georgetown and Marquette how to wage War and Killing, reflexive killing, killing without conscience.

Why does Marquette and Georgetown teach and justify war and killing, contrary to Gospel and Catholic moral values. An elderly Jesuit friend used to tell us it was for the money, the same reason Georgetown sold slaves. I was hesitant to believe this reason but why investigating the military at Marquette I discovered the contracts with the Department of Defense (DoD) does provides teachers and money to Marquette. A friend and myself one day after a protest found ourselves in conversation with the Provost of Marquette. We asked him if he would reveal the military contacts with Marquette. With a smile on his face he said “over my dead body.” Years later I met the provost, who had returned to teaching as a professor at the school, at the Marquette Library. I asked him if he could now tell us about the DoD contracts. He admitted that the military contacts were so secretive that even he, at Provost, does not remember seeing them.

Georgetown University in 1838 justified owning slaves and selling 272 slaves of all ages for money to help the it prosper and Marquette and Georgetown Universities contract with DoD for money to training young men and woman and how to wage war and kill without conscience. Slavery and killing without conscience are immoral but for money is justified.


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Wait a Minute! Bucks Arena, Good Deal or Bad Deal? - Friday, April 15, 2016

Artist rendering of new
Buck’s area. Reminds me of
a cutaway of lead pipe.

Wait a minute! Good Deal or Bad Deal for Bucks area.

Did you hear the good news that a 30 years lease for the Milwaukee Bucks basketball team area was signed?

Wait a minute! Who signed the lease for public with Buck owners?

The State Legislature gave Scot Neitzel, state Department of Administration secretary sole power to sign the agreement for public.

The Bucks owners, Wall Street investors, are spending 175 million on the new Buck’s arena.

Wait a minute! How much is the public spending on the arena?

The public, taxpayers, are spending $250 million dollars on area.

Wait a minute! What other expenses is public occurring?

The public will occur hundreds of million dollars on interest. The County sold the downtown land for a $1 and there are infrastructure cost.

The Bucks will pay 1 million dollars a year for rent.

Wait a minute! Who will control the revenue from the arena?

The Bucks will control all revenue from the arena, except for events operated by the district. The teams revenue will include the arena’s naming rights, hosting Marquette University basketball games, concerts and other events.

Along with the 524 million spent on the area the project $500 million in privately financed downtown commercial development, according the Bucks’

Wait a minute! Who will benefit from this investment?

It will be good for those visitors and those living in the newly developed downtown area. The Mayor says the city wants to attract the “Millennials”, that hot market of young adults.

Wait a minute! In all the new real estate development in downtown has there been any affordable housing for low income residents and are there any ‘black Millennials.

The development has been for the wealthy and black young adults, especially low income ones, are not in the Millennials group the Mayor and young adults are talking about.

Wait a minute! The Buck’s deal sounds like bad news to people.


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Stop Sending Our Ill To Jail - Tuesday, April 12, 2016

My son committed suicide in 2010. When my son was alive I became aware of how we stigmatize persons with mental health illnesses in Milwaukee and often send them to jail when they are sick. I decided to take a look at how we treat persons with brain illnesses, like schizophrenia or bi-polar disorder, today. Except for my son’s name, I have changed names to protect privacy but all the experiences below are true. The information about the present Milwaukee County mental health system comes from interviews with police and mental health professionals.

On a cold winter night in 1998 I was awakened by a phone call from Cathy, a friend of my son’s. My son, Peter, in a mental health crisis, was banging down the door of Cathy’s house. Cathy had helped Peter when he was struggling with his illness, but since my son stopped taking his medication, she had to back off. Cathy had called the police begging them to take Peter to the County Mental Health complex where he had been committed before. The police officer came and told her they could only arrest my son for disorderly conduct. She called me in the middle of the night so I could talk with the police officer about my son’s history of illness. I did, but he just repeated to me that he needed to arrest my son and put him in the county jail. I did not realize at the time that meant solitary confinement in a padded cell with nothing to do except get sicker. When I bailed out my son he was very angry and swore he would never go back to county jail. His greatest fear became being sent to jail again.

I became more aware of the horrendous situation of jailing persons with mental illness years later when, Sam, a friend of my son, who also had a mental illness diagnosis, called me crying to help him get out of these same isolation cells. Sam had been in a domestic quarrel with his girlfriend when someone had called the police. Since his girlfriend would not press charges the police put him in a holding cell at the police precinct until they claimed he broke something in his cell, arrested him on disorderly conduct charges and put him in the county jail isolation cell. It was a week after his arrest Sam, suffering a mental health crisis, that he was able to make this phone call to me.

During the years of 1995 – 2010 I watched as treatment at the County Mental Health Complex deteriorated due to cuts by three County Executives. This included among other things the loss of certification of the complex, reduction in staff and psychiatric beds, loss of the Froedtert\ Medical College unit and more. In fact, in one of my son’s commitments to the Mental Health Complex he was in the Froedtert\ Medical College unit. The doctor there really treated my son and us with respect. In our visit, when my son was leaving the complex, the doctor said that if Peter was ever brought there again she was going to try some new medicine that she thought would work. Peter was sent back there again but she and the Froedtert unit were gone and, as usual, there was no record of his past treatments.

The conditions at the Mental Health Complex due to lack of county funding and staffing have grown so bad that a few years ago the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel newspaper wrote a series on the dreadful conditions. Instead of improving the conditions the present County Executive has plans to close the Mental Health Complex and privatize services to persons in crisis with mental illnesses.

Now in 2016 the Milwaukee police are finally receiving Crisis Intervention Training (CIT), to learn how to better deal with persons in a mental health crisis. This training was started in 2006 but became mandatory for all police officers in 2015. Also, now there is a special unit in the County Jail and House of Corrections for a limited number of persons suffering serious mental health illnesses. There are 19 beds for the seriously ill in this unit and they are constantly full. The average stay in jail for a person with mental illness, for a variety of reasons, is about four times the length of others in jail. One or two persons ill persons a day are sent to the County jail from the County Mental Health Complex but is difficult, if not impossible, to send an ill person in county jail to the Mental Health Complex, even when a person judged to be dangerous to self and others is released by the courts. The county jail units are run by a private company whose role is to provide more humane jail conditions but not to run a treatment center.

No matter how well trained, police are limited as to where they can take a person in mental health crisis. If an ill person voluntarily seeks treatment, something rare with mental illnesses, and has not broken a law, the person can be taken by police to any hospital that has a psychiatric unit. But the large hospitals serving the city of Milwaukee such as Aurora Mt. Sanai, St. Luke’s, St. Joseph’s, and Fretter in Wauwatosa no longer have psychiatric units and thus the police cannot take an ill person to any of these facilities. There are only about 30 psychiatric beds in the two hospitals in the city of Milwaukee with psychiatric units. As distress, poverty, segregation, unemployment, violence, homicides and incarceration, all triggers for persons genetically predisposed to mental health illnesses increase in Milwaukee the numbers of beds for psychiatric treatment have decreased and thus more people are being jailed.

If a person suffering from a mental health crisis does not volunteer for treatment, he or she must be taken to the Mental Health Complex in Wauwatosa which has been reduced over the years to around 48 beds presently. If an ill person is judged not to meet the strict definition of Chapter 51 of the State “being a danger to self and others” he or she is released to the street or sent to County Jail if he or she has a ‘police hold’. If judged “danger to self or others” they can be committed to the complex or sent to other contracted facilities, like Rogers in Brown Deer or Aurora Psychiatric in Wauwatosa, depending on insurance and voluntary agreement. At these facilities the patient waits for a court hearing or is calmed down and released.

If a person in a mental health crisis commits a crime, like trespassing or disorderly
conduct he or she is taken to county jail or, if dangerous to self and others, a hold is placed on them at the Mental Health Complex.

Back in the 80’s there was a sudden increase in homelessness. Why the increase? Because there was a significant move during the eighties to deinstitutionalize persons with mental illnesses. It had become too easy to commit a person. The move at the time was toward community treatment. It sounded good but there was not enough money for community care and often persons with mental illnesses, like other illnesses, needed time in hospitals or treatment centers before returning to the community. I discovered that nearly fifty percent of homeless persons had mental health illnesses. Now Milwaukee County government is using community treatment to justify privatizing the handling of persons with brain illnesses. Would we take a person seriously ill with cancer to a community clinic rather than a hospital?

It has become harder and harder for families to get care for someone with a serious mental illness. In 1994, while we were living in Madison, our son Peter became seriously ill and refused treatment. We went to a psychiatrist to ask him what to do. He said that if it were his son with a mental health crisis he would seek to place his son in a hospital which in our case would mean a three party commitment. We did this and committed Peter for the first time at Mendota State Hospital. Shortly after Peter’s commitment expired he disappeared from Madison. Rumor had it that he had gone to New Orleans or Texas. We moved back to Milwaukee in 1995 and were glad when Peter was found in a mental health facility in Texas, where a kind public defender had arranged him to be placed from jail. We were able to move him back to Milwaukee.

From 1995 to his death in 2010 Peter was committed to the Milwaukee County Mental Health Complex by police, community agencies and my wife and I six times. Often I sat in the Mental Health Court waiting area with police and other family members of persons with brain diseases. I saw police and family members frustrated when someone from the complex would come out to tell them there had been a stipulation with the ill person who was then released. Once, when a very understanding police officer had taken Peter to the Mental Health Complex under an emergency detention, the secretary of the Milwaukee Corporation Counsel office called off the hearing and my son was released much to dismay of the Officer, the agency serving Peter at the time and us. Even when he was committed by court order the goal of treatment seemed to be to release Peter as soon as possible. The hospital staff, for the most part, was very understanding but they were understaffed and there was very little follow-up from previous commitments.

Once when the doctor said he had no response from a particular medicine I told him and the staff about the great skills my son possessed “cheeking” the medication. Peter done this at previous visits to the Complex but it had not been recorded. One of our greatest frustrations as family members was with the County Corporation Counsel office whose job was to pursue the case on behalf of County. I had become a skilled advocate and knew how to pressure the Corporation Counsel to do its job. Once when we were in the waiting room of the Corporation Council office I saw a mother and some family members waiting to pursue a commitment of a young man. In the little time we had together I tried to school them in how aggressive they would have to be to get their loved one help. However, I feared that their concern for this young man would be trumped by the Corporation Counsel’s goal to dismiss cases.

Friends of ours have a son, Adam, who was very ill but they were afraid to call the police since they feared he would be harmed by police or thrown in jail. After numerous trips to the Mental Health Complex they were able to get him there under an emergency detention. When they were waiting for the commitment hearing I tried to prepare them. However, he was sent to one of the subcontractors of the Mental Health Complex and was released with no stipulation before any hearing was held.

When I smashed my finger recently I drove myself to the ER of St. Joseph’s Hospital, the only hospital available in Milwaukee’s North Central neighborhood, the most segregated, distressed and impoverished area of Milwaukee. As I sat there waiting for medical attention I saw all kinds of persons including sick children with their mothers, elderly people in wheel chairs and persons who had suffered an accident like me. I thought if I were there for any medical emergency except mental illness I would be treated and hospitalized if necessary. However if I was ill with a mental illness, like schizophrenia, there would be no care for me in the hospital.

If a person suffers an emergency crisis like a heart attack, car accident, stroke or even being shot while committing a crime, police or emergency crews can take the person, voluntarily or not, to any ER, and he or she will be treated and remain in the hospital or treatment center until he or she could be released. There is one major exception to this system. Persons with mental illnesses and in medical crisis are not welcome at most hospitals. If they are low income persons they are likely to eventually end up in the County Jail, House of Corrections or State prisons. Jail and prisons have become our largest mental health facilities with over 35% of persons incarcerated having serious mental illnesses.

The mental health system in Milwaukee County has changed since 2010 but, sadly, we are still sending ill persons to jail and prison. Milwaukee, City and County, we can do better than this. We need to stop sending our ill to jail.


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kranthi — 02 February 2009, 00:53

Dear Bob
Your experiences in India during Pilgrimage of Peace , your photographs, your experimenting with Indian food cooking very interesting. Your growing green salads using organic manure in this summer is highly appreciated by me.


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