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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

This dude knows what he's talking about

Check it out:

Gen. Barry McCaffrey: Breaking Our Addiction to Prison

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Here's the thing: I've been to prison. OK, I've not actually been locked up but I have been to visit someone at one prison, and picked someone up when they were released from another. I have also been a visitor more times than I can count at Cook County Jail, and have been inside parts of the jail and the boot camp. Talk about a field trip! This was for a class in my Master's program entitled "Social Services in Corrections". So these experiences qualify me as ... well, someone who has seen a little bit of the corrections system. I use the term "corrections" loosely.

Having spent some time working with juvenile "delinquents" who often turned into adult "criminals" I can tell you that almost all the youth I worked with had substance abuse problems. This was not a coincidence since I was a substance abuse counselor, but the facts are the facts. As the article says, most people convicted of crime have substance abuse problems. (They are also likely to have mental health issues, which often goes hand in hand with addiction.) And then there is alcohol! Alcohol is one of the most dangerous substances there is. I have known many people (including myself) who have committed insane or criminal behavior while under the influence.

There are comments about the article that complain that drug courts are not a solution because they don't address the root of the problem. That's true. The best solution for all of it is prevention. The short version of which would be, I suppose, making sure that everyone has enough of everything they need. Yet even if that were possible I don't know if it would prevent addition; a very definition of addiction is that enough is never enough.


There are a lot of advocates of legalizing drugs who think that it would prevent the crime problem. I just don't know about that. I am not opposed to the idea -- but it would take a huge amount of change in our bureaucratic system. Who would sell the stuff? Who would set the price? Would it be regulated on a state or federal level? You get the idea.

The second issue I have is: what happens if they can't afford all the drugs they need or want? Wouldn't there still be crime in order to obtain cash? This could be true even with a "harmless" substance such as marijuana, and can be true for those who don't have money for their cigarettes and alcohol. There are many less than legal ways to make money other than drug dealing. Criminals can be very innovative.




Finally, the use of substances can change a person's behavior. Someone using crack, for example, may behave violently even if that person were using legal crack. And I won't even mention the damage that drug use can cause to human relationships!

Drug courts are an after-the-fact solution, but they are a step up from simply locking people up who have little hope of a future. At least they provide an opportunity to be accountable, to learn about recovery, and to be introduced to a different way of life.

While I agree with the General, I think he left out the most important point. And that is: the majority of all criminals get OUT of prison eventually. Therefore, they are being released back into mainstream society with no skills, no recovery, no rehabilitation, and little or no support. OK, I think he did actually make this point. Still, it can't hurt to restate the obvious.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

I found a bunny rabbit

I found this little guy in front of my building!



Here he is about 2 weeks later - a bit healthier & fattened up.


About 2 years later