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Posted on September 17 at 4:35 p.m.
We first met Clare when she and her sisters were just little girls, new to Santa Barbara. We remember her as a bright spark, sensitive, funny, and fearless about saying what she really thought. Fearless too about defending any deserving underdog in need. The world could use more impassioned people like Clare. Our hearts go out to Julie, Lynn, Mary and Roger. Love,Linda, Allan, Nicky and Josh Stewart-Oaten
On Obituary for Clare Georgina Nisbet
Posted on April 7 at 4:53 p.m.
The intersection where mental illness and the legal system collide is a treacherous place. In 1994, when I first became aware of my (then) twenty-seven year old son's serious psychiatric problems, I tried to find help for him. But several agencies in Humboldt County (including the local Veteran's Affairs office and the Department of Mental Health) told me that they could help only if he met the standards of the so-called 51-50 law. He had to be either: a threat to himself, a threat to others or gravely disabled. It was clear to me that he met all three of these requirements. He was angry and delusional and he owned an arsenal of guns. The weapons were of considerable interest to the local police chief. But even his hands were tied by the law. One month later my son murdered my cousin. Even though expert witnesses for both the prosecution and the defense agreed that he was mentally ill, he was given a 29-to-life prison sentence. Prior to the murder, he had never committed any crime in his life. He had served with honor for nearly nine years in the Navy Submarine Service. It took the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitations (CDCR) nearly a year to recognize and begin to address his mental illness. From the beginning, I have been a fierce advocate for my son, but he has been at the mercy of a failed system. Prison medical care is deplorable and "rehabilitation" is a myth. Properly medicated my son is charming and bright. Without it, he becomes delusional, hears menacing voices and cannot distinguish friend from foe. Over the years, he's attempted suicide several times. He's been beaten by other inmates and sadly, he's learned to respond with violence. At times he has chosen to stop taking his psych meds himself. Sometimes, the prison staff "forgets" to give them to him. (I suspect there may be a black market within the system for these "forgotten" drugs). And other times some new doctor decides to tinker a little. Every time my son is moved from one prison to another--which is the norm--his medication becomes an iffy proposition. After a recent string of serious suicide attempts, he's been put on mandatory medication for one year. This gives me some breathing room, but I know there will be many battles. My son has a long sentence and prison is not conducive to mental health.