Court: Inmate’s Threat in Therapy Not Grounds for Discipline


Presumably, it’s a good thing when prison inmates are honest during psychiatric counseling. Opening up to a therapist is sort of the whole point of the exercise.

So imagine Thomas Archie’s surprise when his statement to a therapist landed him in disciplinary proceedings at the state prison where he was serving time.

A New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Third Department has now confirmed the obvious, ruling in a decision published July 31 that Archie can’t be disciplined for telling his therapist his innermost thoughts. Even if he sometimes “thought about choking an Office of Mental Health psychiatrist and wanted to wrap a wire around the neck of a physician who had treated him.”

That kind of talk may not be your typical therapist/patient banter, of course, but this is prison, and emotions run a little hot. And anyway, the therapist testified that “she was unable to determine if petitioner actually meant to harm the individuals in question or if he was speaking out of frustration.”

Either way, the court ruled, there was no evidence to support the contention that Archie was issuing an actual threat. And he had, after all, been encouraged to “express his feelings.”

Read the rest of the decision here.