Slammer Time

Below-average Joes: Paul Rubin's story is hard to believe. No, I guess it really isn't, in that Steve Cervantes died while in Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio's custody ("Assisted Suicide," June 2). What else is new, right?

What I liked about the story is that it portrayed not the plight of some exotic individual, but that of a common man with common problems. Cervantes was a guy who self-medicated to overcome depression, and eventually fell into trouble with the law as a result. If he had stopped his drug abuse, he would have gone underwater emotionally. He did anyway, only it took a lot longer than it would have without the cocaine, etc.

I only wish he could have gotten the benefit of legal drugs for depression. All this possibly could have been avoided. But then he was a poor guy who didn't have the wherewithal to pay for mental-health treatment; your story said neither he nor his girlfriend could afford medical insurance.

So he needed legitimate care, plus a few breaks in life. That guy just couldn't catch a break!

But your story was mostly on the misdeeds of jailhouse psychiatrist (and I use that term loosely) Joe Franzetti. Sounded like that guy was either too busy with outside activities or just plain inept when it came to, at least, Cervantes' mental health. It just goes to show you that people are regarded as animals once they get inside the criminal justice system in this county.

Rubin's story demonstrated that Phoenix is not only close to the Third World down in Mexico, it's part of a Third World whose dictators include two below-average Joes -- Arpaio and Franzetti.
Carlos Guevara, Tucson

Nice work if you can get it: I wouldn't want Paul Rubin on my tail. He's truly a journalist who "comforts the afflicted and afflicts the comfortable," as the saying goes. Your story on Dr. Joe Franzetti's maltreatment of Steve Cervantes is a good example of that.

While poor Cervantes is rotting in a cemetery near Chicago, Franzetti is enjoying his comfortable life in Paradise Valley, and a fancy new job. The county was paying Franzetti six figures to do his job at the jail. Why didn't he just do it? Was that a lot to ask?

Most people will react to Cervantes' story with a big "who cares?!" Just another dumb Mexican biting the dust. And this one an emotionally disturbed druggy, to boot. I just found the whole story sad for everybody involved.
Tony Rios, Phoenix

Your bedside manner is a bit lacking: Is it a New Times cover story these days that a crazy Mexican hangs himself in jail? I'd venture that not many of your readers give a damn.

What I'm wondering about is why we taxpayers are paying jail psychiatrists like Joe Franzetti all that money to care for three-time losers like Steve Cervantes! When he killed himself, he saved us a lot of money on courts and lawyers.
A.E. Carlton, Prescott

Kindred spirits: In reading your article regarding the suicide in the Maricopa County jail system, I felt compelled to write to you about my son, Daniel Purpura, who also committed suicide under the psychiatric care of a county psychiatrist.

In my son's case, the psychiatrist had taken him off suicide watch only three days after he'd tried to kill himself. My son finally succeeded with his second attempt on November 25, 2000.

Allow me to tell you a little bit about Daniel. He was a loving and caring person. He was always there to help in any way he could. His only problem was that he suffered from depression. The only reason he was in jail was that he wanted police officers to shoot him. He was way too sensitive for this world.

I wish Sheriff Joe Arpaio and the psychiatric department at the Maricopa County jail were as sensitive as my son. I left Phoenix four years ago, and I pray that the people of Arizona can in some way do something to make your jail system more sensitive and humane to the mentally ill.

Maybe one way is to vote Sheriff Joe Arpaio out and look into fixing Correctional Health Services.
Constance Grande, Williamson, New York

Right to death: Well, all I can say is adios to the silly bastard who hanged himself. Society should make it as easy as possible for people to check out, if they wish.

It's ridiculous that a psychiatrist can't just give such people a painless shot of something so the check-out doesn't have to be ugly.

You shouldn't be blaming the doc, either. We live in fucked-up times, and I'd bet a lot of people who've bumped themselves off never saw a shrink once. I know lots of people who should be dead, but their punishment is to live another 20 years on the mean streets of Phoenix. Haven't you noticed such people talking to themselves in the library or sleeping under bushes in 90-degree heat?

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.