May 9, 2023

ALBANY, NY: The Mental Health Empowerment Project (MHEP) joins advocates demanding #JusticeForJordanNeely.

Tragically, Jordan met his judge, jury and executioner on May 1, 2023. Jordan was tried, convicted and sentenced to death in a subway car-turned Kangaroo Court. Pleading for food and water was a capital crime. A former Marine presided over Jordan’s “trial.” The Marine found that Jordan was beyond redemption – unworthy of life, liberty or freedom. And that same Marine – a government-trained killing machine – used his lethal battlefield skills on domestic soil, against a fellow American. The Marine put his arm around Jordan’s neck, mercilessly choking the life out of him.

The killing of Jordan Neely quickly garnered national media coverage. The coverage took a familiar approach. Demonize Jordan. Celebrate the Marine. They painted Jordan as a violent, mentally ill career criminal. Their messaging framed the Marine’s vile, repugnant actions as honorable and acceptable. Afterall, the media said, “Jordan made people feel uncomfortable.” Their messaging implied that if you encounter a Jordan, you, too, can uphold honor and public decency like that Marine. 

That narrative is dangerous. It normalizes state-sanctioned and vigilante violence against people deemed “unsightly” (i.e. not cis-gender, able-bodied white men). It reinforces the capitalist notion that people like Jordan are “takers” – burdens who are better off dead. It perpetuates the debunked myth that violence and mental health are linked. Drawing these deadly comparisons only encourages more violence against Poor, Disabled, Trans and Black, Indigenous, People of Color.

The murder of Jordan Neely is traceable to catastrophic policy choices including the war on drugs, mass incarceration, limiting the availability of home and community-based services (HCBS) and states refusing to enroll more people in Medicaid. 

The vigilante and police killings of Poor, Disabled, Trans and Black Indigenous People of Color will continue until the violent perpetrators are held accountable. We cannot begin to dismantle barriers, address systemic needs and develop new policies until we acknowledge and understand the structural oppression that permeates the delivery system. Without that reckoning, public administrators cannot authentically center the experiences of people like Jordan in designing service systems.