Sunday, December 5, 2010

Unrest of Jail vs. Protective Custody

In the not too long ago we saw jail as protective custody. It was a respite from the madness of having an addict in our life. We took the time to recharge our batteries in preparation for his release and a resumption of the madness that had invaded our life.

Today we suffer the effects of having a loved on in jail that we wish to be around. That is quite a change. To compound the effects of this time our "enlightened" system in Leavenworth County allows visits ONLY Monday thru Thursday, 1pm to 4:30pm, no weekend or holiday visits. Who in their infinite wisdom designs a system like this? Plus like every system I am aware of there are only collect calls and they are $10 for 10 minutes.

I've never really given much thought to the US penal system; its mission and its methods. What is the balance between punishment and rehabilitation? What should it be? Should the mentally ill be as part of the general population? (there was an article in the KC Star today about that) How or should we help the addicted in jail, take the time and put forth the effort during this time clean to introduce them to recovery options and life? Or is it lock'em up throw away the key? Can we really afford that attitude? To many questions by one not familiar with the system and few answers.

9 comments:

BMelonsLemonade said...

When I landed in jail five years ago, I was appalled at the lack of help for addicts. Especially when you look at the number of addicts in jail. Jail was a wake up call for me, and I wanted to start getting things back on track, but it was almost impossible to start that process from behind bars. I inquired about programs available...well, you had to be there for several months to get into a program. And I inquired about an NA flyers I had seen posted. We could attend these meeting twice a month, every other week...and you had to be there at least two months to even sign up. That is ridiculous. 90 meetings in 90 days...my ass if you are jail! And that is where it could have been a valuable use of my time. I inquired about treatment programs available after my release, but I would not be in long enough to qualify for anything. I was there for 30 days. And what really gets me is the attitude of many of the addicts in there. Many of them are still in the using mentality, even after 6 months...and how could they not be when they just got into a program, and the programs are crap anyway. Drug talk runs rampid in jail, using stories all day long. And watching Intervention was a big deal to all the addicts, as they sat glued to the television, drooling for the first 30 minutes when you see the people using. I lost count of the number of girls who said they were going to have a bag of dope waiting for them when they get out. I personally think addicts would be better served by not spending a couple of months in jail, but instead spending a little more time in a treatment facility. We are vunerable and impressionable when we get put in jail...and that is a great time to put these recovery ideas in our heads. I also think that the issue with the mentally ill in jails is very sad. Our system of care for the mentally ill has suffered major cutbacks for many many years (way before the recession!), and the results have been disasterous. As a result of insufficient resources for the mentally ill, we have had instances like the Virginia Tech shootings...and there are many, many mentally ill people in jail. In jail, most of the metally ill do not get the help they need to be functioning members of society. Neither do addicts. I think the system needs to be re-evaluated...looking at violent and non violent crimes differently. It makes me sick that a man who beat a woman within inches of her time can get less time than someone who was in possession of drugs. When I went to jail in New Orleans, I awaited my bond judgement for possession of methadone, and also a needle. A man before me had been caught for the third time selling crack to an undercover who had also witnessed him selling to a minor. He recieved a lower bail than I did. The system is undoubtedly flawed.

But then...you have that murderer in jail who was posting pictures on Facebook from an illegal mobile phone smoking weed and licking an illegal shank. It is situations like that making it really hard for those like Alex and myself in jail...

Hang in there!

Barbara said...

Ron, I wish I was not familiar with our "justice" system but I know it from two perspectives: the rare program that really wants to help addicts and the typical treatment of addicts as criminals.

My son lucked out BIG TIME and got into a program that has given him an opportunity and the tools he needs to find sobriety.

My other son has been sent down the typical route of prison/jail time over and over and over for minor drug offenses. He continues to use heroin in prison, he has to try just as hard in there to stay clean as he does out here and recently took very drastic measures to insure that he would not be tempted to use or get into further debt for buying heroin in prison. He had to be asked for protective custody which has made him a "marked man" in the eyes of the other prisoners and he may not even be safe when he gets out if they find out where he lives. Life-term inmates will kill you for a $500 debt, that's all there is to it. He felt his life was at risk and now will spend the rest of his life looking over his shoulder.

He's in there with murderers! Rapists! Etc.! What is the point of putting a nice kid with a drug problem in the same place as a convicted murderer with a life term?

Is this fair? No, I think it just perpetuates the problem and turns addicts into criminals because that's how they come to see themselves after long term sentences again and again (He has spent more time behind bars than out in the last five years!)

Whoever made up those visiting hours at your place is cruel. We have visiting all day Friday - Sunday from 8 -6 at the county jail and every other weekend for a full day (full contact visit) at the prisons.

Phones calls are pre-paid and I'd say average about a dollar a minute through global tel link.

I am so sorry he has to be in there for so long. Its not fair. I am hoping time goes by fast for him and that he can stay positive and use his time as productively as possible.

Kristi (Jake's Mom) said...

When my son was in county at the beginning of this year he immediately put in an application for trustee which would give him 2 for 1 on his time there...it took a few weeks but he finally got it. Then applied for road crew which would give him 3 for 1, he finally got that after some time also. He ended up getting out in 2 1/2 months on what would have been a 5 month sentence. I'm wondering, does it work like this in the county that Alex is in? Would these be options for Alex to reduce the actual time he would end up serving? We're in Texas and I know that all the counties around us work pretty much the same way, it's just that a county like Dallas, which is the largest, while operating pretty much the same, it takes much longer to get these jail jobs because there are so many people incarcerated; therefore the waiting list is long. Praying the time goes quickly for Alex!!

Mariah's Mom said...

Bottom line: This is part of the journey for Alex...he will make it through if he is ready to be clean. Like it or not, fair or not, this is where Alex has found himself in his journey. He will emerge from this hole he has dug for himself...this is simply a part of the journey home. Take it or leave it.

Syd said...

I have no experience with jail or prison. I wish the best for Alex. It sounds as if he is willing. That willingness will be even more important in the lock up situation that he is in.

clean and crazy said...

ron email me his information and i can get him some recovery material sent to him. i can put him on my newsletter list and i have some recovery guys that could be pen pals. six months goes by fast, if you can help him by strengthening his recovery support system while inside he has a better chance of staying clean when he gets out.

Dad 4 Truth said...

There are states who are making changes in the way they handle non violent offenders. New York and New Jersey reduced their prison population 20% by diverting non-violent misdemeanors to treatment programs. It's possible for Kansas to do the same.

If you want change then you have to start with your state representatives. What you are likely to find is that your elected officials never hear from parents who have something positive to share. The great majority of their calls are complaints about the jail or how unfair the DUI laws are etc. If they were to get even a few calls each month this open the possibility for change and good kids like Alex would be given an alternative to a lengthy jail sentence. The problem is that "parents" and their extended family members won't take the time to call or will think it won't make a difference anyway.

Erin said...

Dad 4 Truth -- that's not exactly the whole story here in New York. Unfortunately the only misdemeanor drug charges are usually related to pot. All the other drugs are felony charges, you could have one hit of acid, one oxycotin, and be charged with a felony. Four years ago my son was charged with a felony for possessing one hit of acid and was taken immediately to jail. I wish that things would change but actually here in New York the DWI and drug penalties keep getting stricter and stricter.

See below from a criminal lawyer's site here in upstate New York.

If the addict and the seller get caught at the same time both of them now face the same charge, usually Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance in the Third Degree, a class B non-violent felony.

Assuming neither one has ANY criminal history, and assuming both are over 18 years old, both face a MANDATORY MINIMUM of 1-3 years in prison if convicted.

That means that if convicted, the judge could not give one day less than 1-3 years in prison, no matter what. No probation. No time served. No community service. No drug program. Just 1-3 years in jail.

Both face a potential maximum of 8 1/3 to 25 years in prison.

And if either one has a previous felony conviction within the last ten years, he faces a MANDATORY MINIMUM of 4 1/2 - 9 years in prison and a maximum of 12 1/2 to 25.

And remember, that in most cases we are talking about the sale of as little as ONE VIAL of crack cocaine. In one case Mr. Murray took to trial in Queens, his client faced 12 1/2 to 25 years for allegedly selling ONE-TEN-THOUSANDTHS OF AN OUNCE of heroin.

Dad 4 Truth said...

I should have indicated in my last post that the information I posted came form an article in the USA Today (12/03/10). The individual the article quoted from was Vanita Gupta, deputy legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union. and the stats were fromm 1999 through 2009.

She wnet on to indicate that South Carilina, in June, ended mandatory minimum sentences for first-time simple narcotics possesing, and expanded the use of probation, house arrest and work release programs. The motivation here is that this will reduce the need to build and operate new prison space over the next five years, saving up to $175 million in construction costsd and more than $66 million in operating expenses. This same motivation would work for all states, I would think.