A Turbulent Mind

September 4, 2018
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On a recent morning, Andrew Goldstein emerged from his cell in D Gallery, waddling on the balls of his feet, clutching the banister as he made his way down four flights with a few dozen other men categorized as SMI-V—“seriously mentally ill, violent.” Escorted by a correction officer and a few of us prisoners from the general population assigned as facilitators, the men passed through a metal detector, along a canopied path—some bobbing for discarded cigarette butts—into a factory-style building, and up three flights to a floor of bright-white rooms. We would spend most of the morning and afternoon there in a computer lab doing cognitive programs or participating in group sessions: managing psychosis, life skills, recovery and reintegration, preparing to navigate the challenges of prison and, eventually, New York.

This story was produced in partnership with New York Magazine.

It’s not easy being an overweight, balding, Jewish schizophrenic living among the SMI-Vs of the New York prison system. During his 19 years, 16 of them in the state’s flagship prison mental ward at the Sullivan Correctional Facility, and most recently in Sing Sing, Andrew has been teased and bullied by the high-functioning mental cases. Everyone inside seems to know at least the tabloid outlines of his crime. In January 1999, suffering from schizophrenia and given to explosive violence when off his medication, Andrew, then 29, pushed a 32-year-old receptionist into the path of an oncoming N train at the 23rd Street subway station.

After two trials and a plea bargain, Andrew was sentenced to 23 years in prison. With time off for good behavior, he is scheduled for release on Sept. 14.

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