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Home > New York City, Social commentary > Joyce Brown – Billie Bogs and NYC’s Forgotten Involuntary Confinement Program

Joyce Brown – Billie Bogs and NYC’s Forgotten Involuntary Confinement Program

Joyce Brown was a New York City resident and homeless woman who was involuntarily hospitalized in NYC in 1987.

On October 28, 1987, Ms. Brown was transported to Bellevue Hospital as the first patient under Project HELP, a city program spearheaded by Mayor Ed Koch, a program aimed at the hospitalization of the homeless. She had been living on the streets in Manhattan and often used the fake name “Billie Bogs” to avoid being found by her family.

On December 18, the Appellate Division of State Supreme Court in Manhattan upheld her involuntary commitment.  However, the judge that wrote the dissenting argument claimed that there was not enough evidence to support the notion that she was a danger to herself.1

Dr. Francine Cournos, an assistant professor of psychiatry  Columbia University, stated that although she thought treatment would be helpful, it was not advised treatment be given against her will. On January 15, 1988, a judge ruled that Joyce Brown could be not involuntary medicated.2

The appeal to confine Joyce Brown was eventually successful, with help from lawyers from NYCLU, whom she had called herself for legal support. Acting State Supreme Court Justice Robert Lippmann determined that she was competent enough to not be a danger to herself or others. She was released after nearly three months of involuntary commitment.3

She went on to seek gainful employment and many have written published articles about her civil rights case and involuntary medication and commitment.

1. Kirk Johnson. The New York Times. Court Backs Treatment of Woman Held Under Koch Homeless Plan. Published: December 19, 1987.

2. Josh Barbanel. The New York Times. Joyce Brown Obtains a Ban On Medicine. Published: January 16, 1988.

3. Jeanie Kasindorf. New York Magazine. The Real Story of Billie Bogs.Published: May 2, 1988.

Related reading:

Treatment Advocacy Center: Involuntary Hospitalization in the Modern Era: Is “Dangerousness” Ambiguous or Obsolete?

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