The Hospital Always Wins


Back in 2004, staff producer Laura Starecheski visited a state mental hospital in Queens, New York, called Creedmoor. She stumbled on to a mystery there that would take almost ten years to unravel. In this special hour, we bring you just this one story: an artist stuck in the catch-22 of a lifetime.

Short Podcast Extras:
Dear Voices


Produced by Laura Starecheski. Edited by Deborah George and Taki Telonidis. Scoring and sound design by Brendan Baker. Research and production help from Kelsey Padgett. Intern crew: Chris Gauthier, Liz Mak and Alyssa Pagano.

Special Thanks

Special thanks to Kathryn Bettis, Emily Botein, Anayansi Diaz-Cortes, Stephen Erickson, Jones Franzel, Samara Freemark, Sabine Heinlein, Sally Herships, Sana Krasikov, Janos Marton and the Living Museum, Alexa Miller, Lulu Miller, Lu Olkowski, Megan Reed, Pablo Rivera, Elise Rucker, Julie Salamon, Jessica Wareheim, Gregory Warner and Lucy Winer.


Episode Music

Artist Track
Bonobo Shadowtricks
So Percussion June
Claudia Quintet Minor Nelson
Issa Ibrahim Hot for Charlotte
Sun Ra Bassism
Town and Country That Old Feeling
Claudia Quintet For You
Claudia Quintet Shower Music
Town and Country Hindeburg
Method Man Bring the Pain
Theme to The Price is Right
Town and Country That Old Feeling
So Percussion July
Floex Podzemi
Town and Country Aubergine
Claudia Quintet For You (looped)
Claudia Quintet Minor Nelson
Mice Parade Phasen Weise
Mark Hollis Watershed
Floex Samorost Intro
So Percussion February
So Percussion March
Town and Country That Old Feeling
So Percussion March
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  • wowemily

    This website doesn’t seem to work. Am I supposed to hit the play buttons because I did that, and nothin’ happened. I like the design though. It seems almost like visiting a radio station and sitting for a story, but nothing played.

    • admin

      Thanks for the comment! We have noticed an issue with the audio player and the Firefox browser lately—we’d recommend trying another browser and everything should behave normally!

    • SOTRU

      Thanks for the comment! We have noticed an issue with the audio player and the Firefox browser lately—we’d recommend trying another browser and everything should behave normally!

      • wowemily

        The right files appear now. When I first came to the site, only the dark gray play files were available. I assumed those were the story, but I think they must be songs. Those still don’t play, but now the Soundcloud files are visible, and they play, so I can hear the story. I like the white layout, but perhaps a tiny bit more distinction between the elements (or perhaps tighter groupings) would lead the eye a little better.

        • WannaBe’s

          wowemily youre a geek week nerd terd bird

        • WannaBe’s

          why you got a avatar of Martika for you dudeboy????????????????/

  • Mike

    Wow, what an amazing story! This really highlights the dark side of state run mental facilities. Good for Issa that he is finally back in control of his life.

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  • Simple

    Marijuana causes psychosis, it’s high time we all accept that. He doesn’t need the hospital or the medication anymore, the drug-induced psychosis was over 6 months after the last time he used THC. Same thing happened to the lady who ran her car into the capital, she smoked some weed and turned psychotic. Reefer madness wasn’t propaganda, it was fact. Don’t bother telling me Marijuana can only cause psychosis with those who are predisposed before you try this yourself: Smoke weed everyday for 5-6 months, you’ll end up in the ward too.

    • Simple

      Just wanted to add, same thing happened to James Holmes, he’s a proven stoner.

    • me, myself and I

      he had another episode of paranoid schizophrenia while he was in the hospital and not smoking marijuana. And tens of studies demonstrate that most people who smoke marijuana daily don’t have psychotic episodes. These studies are readily available.

    • Bradford

      2 words best describe your post. DELUSIONAL. PROPAGANDA. Considering there are literally 10’s of MILLIONS of Americans who use cannabis on a daily, or regular basis, *if* it “caused psychosis”, then there’d be a whole lot more “psychosis” than there is. And remember, there is STILL NO chemical or blood, or laboratory test for this vague and nebulous “psychosis”. Yur a doofus.

  • wowemily

    I am only halfway through this, but I’m not sure what the big Catch-22 is. This guy committed a heinous crime. Does he seem to speak in a normal and friendly way? Yes. Is his story sad? Yes. Should he ever be let out of the hospital? Heck no. He has a serious mental disorder that fuels a murderous rage inside him. That means he is dangerous. The first painting he made opened up his body to reveal his sternum–the same part of his mother’s body that he crushed. That seems pretty crazy.
    And the doctor who said he shouldn’t be punished for leaving the grounds … what the heck was he talking about? All institutions have rules–prisons, hospitals, etc. You break the rules, there has to be a punishment or what is the purpose of the rules. I am shocked that he was able to leave the grounds. This guys is dangerous, and we simply don’t understand the science of the brain well enough to change that.
    He can’t handle the outside world. I am not sure why the energy of this piece is suggesting otherwise.

  • me, myself and I

    Just heard this story on the internet. Very good. The website is grand. thanks to the reporters, producers and all involved.

  • Jane

    I liked the episode, although I would caution against romanticizing mad genius and the role of mental hospitals in imprisoning mentally ill people a la One Flew Over the Coo coo’s Nest. Most mental hospitals do not function this way. If Issa had been hospitalized prior to killing his mother, the hospital might have released him after several weeks with a strict medication regiment and outpatient followup. It is very rare that mentally ill people are imprisoned in long term care for enormous chunks of time against their will, and this essentially gets at a much larger problem in this country. Nobody wants to talk about mental health. Mental healthcare should be embraced, not vilified. Issa’s story is a very sad one, made sadder by the fact that he did not have access to mental healthcare until after the worst had already happened. I think an interesting alternative approach to this story would have been to focus on how he slipped through the mental health system cracks thus allowing the tragedy of his mother’s death in the first place and the squashing (albeit temporarily) of his promising artistic career.

    • Shyla

      Jane, you are incorrect!!! You know nothing of what you speak. You do not know your past or present history. If this program could not enlighten or educate you, there is no hope. You have the problem. 🙁

  • Emmaus

    This has happened too too much for members of the deaf community. Denied communication, they get drugs,and the catch-22 revolves. Brandon VT

  • mialobel

    Compelling, challenging, and beautifully produced. The time (10 years!) you put into the reporting makes this especially impressive. Congrats on an excellent story!

  • Berta

    Powerful story. Laura showed humanity and tenacity. Thank you.

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  • Karen Duffy

    I was incredibly moved by this story. Its authenticity and the thoroughness was exceptional. The reporter did an excellent job of including all viewpoints. I work in this field and work with people once they leave such places as Creedmore and return to the community. This was a reminder to me of all that these folks have been through and the obstacles they face rejoining society. Thank you for such outstanding reporting!

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  • EdwardBranca

    When I was hospitalized at New York State’s Rockland Psychiatric Center in 2012 and 2013, I witnessed both physical and verbal abuse of patients by caregivers whose job title was “Therapy Aides,(TAs).. I, for example, saw TAs. push elderly patients into furniture. Patients property was often stolen. When supervisors tried to fire a TA., the TA. would run to the union (Civil Service Employee’s Association). The union would hire the TA. an attorney, and the abusive TA. would, almost always, keep his/her job. When one especially nasty TA. assaulted me and I complained, all his co-workers, including my psychiatrist, said that the TA. didn’t hit me, or that his hitting me wasn’t important. The psychiatrist said that I only imagined that I had been assaulted. Besides assaulting me, this TA. made anti-Semitic remarks. He was, in my opinion, a black racist. Another TA. taunted me verbally by constantly telling me that I was powerless. Being at Rockland Psychiatric Center made me worse, not better.

  • Usama Munir

    I am a psychiatry registrar in Australia and I am sorry for the mistakes we some time make due to our wrong judgement. I dont think many people do it due to any bad motives but due to our human nature that every one makes a mistake. I hope when I will be a psychiatrist, my mistakes will be minimal with very little implications for the patients or me 🙁

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