Serving the People of Hawaii Since 1960
Treatment vs Incarceration
Opportunity for Change - Motivator for Change
The Hawaii State Legislature is now considering Bills that would impact the recovery pathways of thousands of Hawaii Citizens.
I usually try to avoid dealing with specific issues within the community, choosing rather to simply advocate for legitimate, effective and responsive services for all of the people of Hawaii in need of drug treatment.
I feel compelled to comment on the current legislative activities due to the "special needs" of the criminal justice population.
There have been reports that a "treatment prison" is being considered. There have been additional reports of plans to simply increase the funding for existing programs.
These strategies, while underscoring the importance of addressing the problem of continuing addiction, fail to reflect an understanding of the difference between that which will work and that which is "hoped for".
If we want to have a genuine impact on substance related disorders, among those who have crossed the sociological line of committing crimes to support their addiction, then I think we'd better take a closer look.
Criminal activity to support addiction demonstrates an attitude toward rules and authority, and a commitment to continued drug use, that is not found in the general population. These folks are fundamentally more difficult to treat due to the complexity and virulence of their addictive disorders.
Within this population I believe that only solid drug treatment services, services which are directly responsive to the behavioral and developmental needs of the patient and of a sufficient intensity and duration to allow the critical internal and external work to be accomplished, will yield the "hoped for" results.
I also believe that holding these folks strictly accountable for their conduct is an essential element in their process of recovery.
In dealing with this population we have to consider the cost to the community of 1.) their criminal conduct 2.) the cost of apprehension 3.) pre-trial incarceration 4.) the provision of a public defender in most cases 5.) other court costs 6.) further incarceration 7.) probation and/or parole officers 8.) repeated failed attempts with low intensity "treatment" approaches and 9.) new criminal conduct with 10.) subsequent revocations and 11.) additional periods of incarceration.
It would seem that as costly a concern as the processing of our criminal justice drug referrals could stand a fresh look and possibly a more effective approach than has been used in the past.
For years I have worked with the Judiciary of the State of Hawaii and have developed a great deal of admiration and respect for the Probation Officers charged with guiding our convicted offenders into more productive approaches to living. Over the years I have also seen varying degrees of enlightenment and free thinking on the part of Judges within that same system.
I believe that the elements exist that would allow Hawaii to establish a recovery system that could become a model for the rest of the country.
It is important that these elements be pulled together in a way that serves the community at large, first ... and then the individual seeking recovery.
We must also set clear boundaries in terms of how these various elements will interact. The most basic boundary must be on the issue of the continued use of drugs and alcohol.
This simply cannot be permitted.
A urinalysis testing policy that mandates the "observed collection" of urine samples is vital to the integrity of any service expending public funds in addressing substance related issues.
Allowing drug addicts to fill the sample cup, in "private" to avoid offending their tender sensibilities, is a charade and could be viewed as a willful attempt to subvert the screening process, on the part of the agency charged with ensuring abstinence from drug use.
We cannot let the spin-drys, with their "normal" relapses, or the "fringe" ideology of the Harm Reductionists, those who advocate a guiltless continuation of addictive patterns, to guide our Criminal Justice System in fulfilling its' responsibility to safeguard the general public and to provide effective negative social feedback to those who would choose to violate our laws for their own narrow selfish purposes
The unreasonably high risk for loss, injury and death, suffered by responsible tax paying citizens, when criminal justice offenders are "mollycoddled" for ongoing drug usage, is clearly unfair. At some point it is to be expected that a degree of liability will attach, to the State, in connection with this "wrong headed, bleeding heart" attitude toward the conscious and defiant antisocial act of continued drug usage.
In establishing basic boundaries for individuals seeking recovery, through the criminal justice system, we must state, unequivocally, that a continuation of the convicted offender's pattern of the conscious and willful ingestion of controlled substances or alcohol, at any level, will result in immediate incarceration.
This period of incarceration should be in a minimum security setting, perhaps housed in a tented compound ... the more rustic and uncomfortable the better. It should be for a set period of time ... say 2 weeks.
The offending addicts should know that they will be incarcerated not on the second occasion of this usage ... not on the third, fourth or fifth occasion of such usage ... They must know that they will be incarcerated the first time ... and "every time" they make the conscious decision to ingest these substances.
We must make the period of incarceration swift and certain so that in the addict's mind incarceration becomes a part of the ingesting process. Along with the "high" they will know, with a certainty, that they will be "popped"! The seamless integration of this powerful disincentive will, over time, provide the addict with an additional factor to contemplate when "using" seems like an option.
Being in Jail Sucks! ... We should let it continue to be so.
The flaw in the argument for "prison treatment programs" is very simply identified and stated... Free choice cannot be exercised in the absence of Freedom.
Recovery is about the Freedom to make "new" choices. Recovery is about the choice, freely made, to not use ... and to work through the things life puts in front of you.
Recovery is about a person reaching a point of awareness and decision making that will exclude the continued usage of controlled substances or alcohol. This comes to the addict as difficult change comes to us all ... through pain, suffering and loss.
We can let this pain, suffering and loss be scattered and random and spread throughout the entire community, as is currently the case, or we can hold to a strict policy of abstinence ... focus the suffering solely on the recalcitrant addict ... and then let them decide, for themselves, when "Enough is Enough".
The innocent law abiding taxpayers of this community deserve this level of protection and the recovering person needs this level of unambiguous rejection of their continuing drug usage.
Our responsibility is to make sure that treatment programs, designed to deal with those that place the general public at the greatest risk, are of an intensity, duration, level of insight and demonstrated ability with this population to allow the critical work to be done.
Saying that "non-violent" offenders present less risk for the general public completely ignores the progressive nature of addiction and the characteristics of the predominant drug of choice at this time, crystal meth. When coupled with the provision of shallow treatment services and a lax attitude toward continuing usage, an environment is produced that presents a tremendous exposure for loss, injury and death on the part of innocent members of the community.
see: The Cost to Us All
We owe the criminal justice referral a solid and legitimate chance to recover if we are going to hold them responsible for failure. No more spin-drys and "normal" relapses.
We also owe them our willingness to be strong for them while they learn to be strong for themselves. "Straighten up" or "sit in a cage".
In the absence of the availability of legitimate treatment services this would be a cruel position to take.
I would submit that the community's past experiences with under-treatment, random and wanton violence, destruction and the suffering of innocents is infinitely more cruel and costly for us all.
So long as we tailor our response to continued drug use within this population, based upon the misleading counsel of the misguided self-soothers, those who want to "love" the addict back into the "fold", we will continue to structure programs that we "truly" believe in "with all our hearts" or that make us "feel good about ourselves" while failing to pierce the wall of distortion and delusion that separates us from the "using" drug addict .
My Uncle John used to say, "If you want to speak with someone from France ... You bes' speak French.
If we genuinely want to help these human beings find peace, we must employ methods that will be relevant to "their" experience ... a response that is "culturally sensitive" to the criminal subculture, to which they have turned to support their continuing addiction ... measures that will provide a sufficient impact to cut through the fog and crystallize, in "their" minds, the concept that doing drugs is a "bad" thing.
The way of the spindrys and the harm reductionists hasn't worked with this population and, in fact, the problem has gotten much worse.
The cost of continuing, or expanding, our current approach will be ongoing disruption and risk for loss, injury and death of innocents and the condemnation of the addict, who actually thinks he's getting away with something, to perpetual relapse and disconnection from the community.
For related information read: Drug Use, On the Taxpayer's Dime
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