NEWS: The Voices Drove Him to Prison. The Prison Drove Him to Suicide.

By JB Nicholas. Excerpted from The Daily Beast.

benvanzandtBenjamin Van Zandt’s hellish odyssey through New York’s criminal justice system began when the voices inside his head compelled him to light a neighbor’s house on fire.

While the occupants of the house were away, and no one was hurt, the 17-year-old schizophrenic and psychotic depressive was prosecuted as an adult and sentenced to a maximum of 12 years in adult prison. There he was raped, extorted, forced to mule drugs, sent to solitary confinement, and deprived of the medication required to keep him stable, sane, and alive—all this according to his mother and father, who regularly visited him, prison records, and court filings obtained by The Daily Beast.

Benjamin’s journey ended, four years later, at New York’s Fishkill Correctional Facility, when he killed himself after the prison’s “beat-up squad” of guards tortured a mentally ill prisoner in front of him, leaving Ben to fear for his own life. Fishkill’s beat-up squads are accused of killing at least one inmate, whose death is being investigated by Preet Bharara, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York.

But no one has been held remotely responsible for the death of Benjamin Van Zandt—until now.

Read the full article at The Daily Beast.


  1. Piera Quinci says:

    It is unconscionable what goes on in these prisons.
    For our mentally ill patients there is very little help out there. If you have the misfortune to be born with a mental illness, you are doomed to a life of suffering and injustices. My son is biopolar and the last 20 years have been torture for him and me, his mother. He too was put in solitary confinement. It is a disgrace that no help is out there. The politicians have healthy children and they have no clue on the epidemic of mental health crisis that is out there. They see a bum on the street, I see a human being that has lost his/her way. They have sung so low that they don’t know how to help themselves anymore.


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