Monday, October 11, 2010

Drug Court -- a glimpse at the addiction to power

Last Thursday and Friday (Oct. 7-8), the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers hosted its Ninth Annual State Criminal Justice Network Conference at the American University Washington College of Law. Over one hundred advocates, service providers, lawyers, judges and scholars exchanged ideas about many key criminal justice issues. Much could be said of the many thoughtful programs, but I was struck most forcefully by comments about drug court on Friday morning.

I think that drug courts are a useful reform, and can manage treatment resources for drug addicted or alcoholic offenders to effectively treat them. But the few drug courts that I have visited -- with their focus on hard core addicts who are repeat serious offenders -- may not by typical. One drug court statistician pointed out that most drug court clients have little criminal history, that marijuana is the drug they most commonly have used, and that they have little need for treatment. And no matter what you say about drug courts, they are an intense use of scarce judicial resources and handle a tiny fraction of the many persons who commit crime and need substance abuse treatment. They can never be a solution because their scale will always be very small.

However, a question was posed to Judge Darryl Larson, Chair of the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission, who was passionately defending drug courts. He was asked, Does drug court use punishment to address the disease of addiction?

He responded by saying that addiction is a lie, the whole life of an addict is a lie, and that the addict must deal with reality. If I send someone to jail for two days, I did not intend it as a punishment. They need a swift and certain result.

Judge Larson had been a prosecutor of 17 years and a judge for 18 years.

As I heard him deny that sending a person to jail is a punishment, I realized that I was listening to someone who sounded like he is addicted to power and is in denial about how that power is used. As the person with power, he decides if your life is a lie, and he gets to create reality for you. (Isn't the creation of reality what God does?) Everyone else may call that "reality" punishment, but it is not punishment because he didn't intend it as punishment.

How else would a power addict describe use of his drug? If the judge is right about addiction, lying and denial, doesn't his refusal to acknowledge that his jailing a person is punishment amount to a naked denial?

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Anonymous said...

Yes, it is power, it is also an identity and in the case of addiction and mental health professionals it is an income.

When drug courts sentence offenders to treatment it can easily become a catch 22 trap. Compliance is now ordered and if there are infractions in compliance due to lack of money for treatment, transportation etc. there will be more dire legal consequence.

Your are correct and it must be constantly discussed. Marijuana offenders have little need for treatment. It will become a charade.

san diego bail bonds said...

Marijuana offenders aren't as nearly as big a concern as those who commit more serious crimes. More resources should be allocated to solving serious crimes than trying to treat marijuana addiction.

- Jacquline Roberts