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Missouri felon suffered PTSD before robbery

A man once considered a model ex-offender in the Kansas City, Missouri, area is back in jail after being convicted of a violent robbery. The man, who had established a non-profit organization to promote citizenship in the region, was convicted on felony charges after a June 2011 crime. He is now serving a 20-year sentence at the Crossroads Correctional Center in Cameron, Missouri, according to reports.

Even though the man had worked to stop the violence that plagues his community, he still returned to his old ways in a desperate cry for help, he says. The 43-year-old man admits that he has broken the relationships that promoted trust and civic-mindedness in his community. He says, however, that he has a good reason. He contends that he suffered serious post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms that were only exacerbated by the 2009 murder of his beloved son. That young man, age 17, died in a shooting near a local college campus.

Just one weekend before the latest incident that returned him to prison, the man got married. He reports that he suffered severe depression after that day because he and his son had pledged to be each other's best man. He says he was incapable of thinking clearly. The man was convicted of robbing a pizza shop in Blue Springs while armed with a BB gun. He would have made away with just $155, according to officers.

Reports show that the man's mental state had degraded. A psychiatrist explained that the man's stress levels effectively prohibited him from functioning. That was only worsened by the fact that he was denied treatment by a Veterans Affairs program specializing in PTSD. Life events - including substance abuse - left the man ravaged after just a few years outside prison walls. He was first released in 2007.

Those convicted on felony counts are still human beings, and they deserve to have their rights protected. This man was apparently so mentally ill that he could not stop himself from committing a crime. Cases such as this underscore the need for comprehensive legal reform to protect PTSD sufferers and other patients from being sent to prison. Instead, they should get the treatment they need.

Source: The Kansas City Star, "Once a model ex-offender, Nelson Hopkins Sr. explains what went wrong" Brian Burnes, Nov. 08, 2013

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