Thursday, September 15, 2005


Well, I helped a frightened child today, and that should feel good. Albeit, not an entirely conventional frightend child, and not in an entirely conventional way.

Here's what happened. I turned up to Mauro (accompanied for the first time by Dr Zhu, who improves by small degrees) to heal the sick. It's weird medicine, almost the opposite of emergency medicine - occasional twinges in the belly for the last four years, concerns about miniscule pimples, worries that one ear sticks out more than the other. They do this for reasons of boredom rather than hypochondria - on the outside these kids never ever ever go to doctors.

Anyway, today was the usual round of freezing warts off and gazing at utterly normal looking knees, when the nurse brought in the last guy, Christopher Slocum.

Christopher was suffering some of the symptoms of depression, some of an anxiety disorder, and some psychotic-like symptoms, which had developed since he was transferred from Glasson (the prison for short term incarceration of boys and any incarcerated girls - Mauro is longer term prison for boys). Christopher slept poorly. He woke tired. He was losing weight. He had constant nausea, sweats and palpitations, he feared being in crowds or exposed spaces. He believed people were talking about him, and that strangers were congregating together in a conspiracy to do him harm.

Specifically, he explained, he felt that people wished to do him harm because of the bounty on his head, put there by Amos Clarke, the one hundred and thirty kilo big guy I told you about in June. The five hundred dollar bounty, to "stab him or to cut him up". Because the guy Christopher allegedly shot - the one who was allegedly in the Royal recovering from an alleged large number of shotgun pellets being removed from his alleged chest - the guy Chris shot is Amos's uncle. The big (in Mauro terms) bounty five people had told him about on his first day, and one had already tried to collect.

Five hundred dollars, I suspect, is a lot of money to a fifteen year old in prison.

I felt that a diagnosis of depression and anxiety with paranoid features would be premature in this case, and we agreed that anti-depressants were unlikely to be successful in this case. Chris would have to move.

There is a right way to do this kind of stuff and a wrong way. The conventional way is to tell the staff. This would achieve nothing. They already know, they have put in place the appropriate protocols to protect Christopher, which is basically one on one supervision and exclusion from all group activities. That's going to irk a bit after five years. And no-one here is one hundred percent convinced it will work. Chris certainly isn't.

The other option, the one I took, was to write a letter to the manager, explaining that Chris's health was being compromised by his transfer to Mauro, and advising that he be shipped back to Glasson, the shorter term facility where he was previously being held. This is apparently safer - potential assassins are only in there for a few days at a time, apparently, so by the time they work out who he is and how to do something, they're either back on the streets or back at Mauro.

I wrote a pretty good letter - and after all, a knife wound is an acute medical condition - and the chances are he will get transferred, hopefully soon. It gives management an out, too, they can say that it's that piss-weak doctor's opinion that Chris be returned to sender, rather than admitting they are pretty much unable to guarantee his safety.

Anyway, frightened fifteen year old child helped. I don't know what will happen in the long term, sooner or later something will give. Presumably Chris shot Amos's uncle for some sincere reason, some grevious injury that could not be repayed any other way. It's all so sensible and obvious and necessary and stupid.

Thing is, if Amos gets Chris, he'll just be shifting the bounty onto his own broad shoulders, and he's young enough not to think that matters. So it will go on. It will continue, like it does, until a sufficient number are killed off, a smaller and more amateurish version of what happened in Melbourne, kids playing grownups.

And Amos's family, and Christophers, will continue to send their young sons to the city's finest forensic preperatory schools.

Anyway, thanks for listening.

Next post, religion in the sexual assault class.



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