Posts Tagged ‘prison’

I have experienced something today that I’m not altogether sure how to articulate, largely because I have yet to fully wade through & identify all that I’m feeling as a direct result of this news and the implications it carries with it. I can identify one thing I’m not feeling, however: anger. For the first time in nearly three years, I don’t have this overwhelming, smothering cloud of rage and indignance surrounding my conscious mind. I had forgotten what this feels like.
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Well here I am in the parking lot at counseling a little early again with a few thoughts to express here real quick. With the holidays being here, it’s been pretty crazy. I’m becoming more and more involved in my inmate wife support groups and am even an administrator on one! That’s pretty cool but the thing that strikes me the most is just generally how much better I have been feeling since making connections with more folks in the same boat as me. I feel more optimistic than ever before and also significantly less isolated which is a pretty huge deal for me. I’m officially a member of TIFA (Texas Inmate Fsmilies Association) and through them I have been able to send some Christmas cards to inmates who have no one and that has made me feel really good too. I helped coordinate a Christmas card exchange between the wives and girlfriends in one of my groups and am just feeling incredibly in the holiday spirit because of the sense of community and belonging I feel. Some of the wonderful ladies praise me for my support and I’m grateful for the accolades but keep telling them that I am the one who is blessed by having found them and the opportunity to know them! As a survivor, it gets pretty lonely in my little world and I feel so much more liberated than I have felt in a long time.

I’ll be attending TIFA’s monthly meeting this evening and will have the opportunity to meet some of these women in the flesh as well as share some more holiday cheer with Texas inmates via our Christmas card initiative. I’m so excited I can hardly stand it!

I guess to summarize, I am feeling more than fortunate this season, despite our present predicament with him being gone and my ongoing hunt for new icing arrangements. I feel more equipped to handle the normal curveballs of life and that is a sensation that money simply cannot buy.

So thank you, everyone. Old friends and new, and even those of you I have not yet had the pleasure of meeting: thank you for being you and for making this world a better place simply by being. I am grateful beyond words for you and consider you to be a blessing of the truest and purest kind.

A very Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to each and every one of you. May this season bring as much fortune and blessings as it has brought me!

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This is another paper I wrote for my English composition class. I share now because the topic of recidivism and addiction came up today. This paper was also written in MLA format.

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A disease, according to Merriam-Webster, is defined as “an illness that affects a person, animal, or plant; a condition that prevents the body or mind from working normally” (p1). Additionally, addiction, as defined by the National Institute on Drug Abuse is “a chronic, relapsing brain disease that is characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences.” (“The Essence of Drug Addiction.” p7). The link between the two words is plain to see. Yet America, as a nation, does not treat addiction as a disease. Instead, it is punished, swiftly and indiscriminately, as a crime. The symptoms of the disease are simply suppressed by the system. Drug offences alone were accountable for over half of the population in federal prisons in this country in 2013, per the U.S. Department of Justice Statistics Bulletin (15). For the sake of perspective, the Federal Correctional system housed 193,775 prisoners, serving sentences longer than one year, and 98,200 of those were for drug convictions alone. (16).

How does that look at the state level? According to the same source, of the 1,314,900 inmates sentenced at the state level in 2013, only 16% of those were sentenced for drug convictions. (Table 13, page 15.) The stark contrast here has to do with some states softening the penalties for low-level drug offenses, while others are somewhat more lenient with regards to parole violations (i.e. they do not necessarily get sent straight back to prison upon their first violation, depending on the nature of it.) Nevertheless, it is incredibly alarming as to why there is such a massive difference between the federal correctional system and the state systems within the same country. How can this be explained?

The nature of drug crimes insofar as convictions are concerned, can be broken down into subcategories: possession, delivery/trafficking and manufacturing. Each carries varying degrees of severity, depending on the specific details of each case. What the typical census fails to consider is the drug related element of non-drug convictions. As mentioned earlier, addiction describes compulsive need for a substance. Alan I. Leshner, Ph.D., the Director of the National Institute of Drug Abuse within the National Institute of Health describes it perfectly:

“Drug craving and the other compulsive behaviors are the essence of addiction. They are extremely difficult to control, much more difficult than any physical dependence. They are the principal target symptoms for most drug treatment programs. For an addict, there is no motivation more powerful than a drug craving. As the movie “Trainspotting” showed us so well, the addict’s entire life becomes centered on getting and using the drug. Virtually nothing seems to outweigh drug craving as a motivator. People have committed all kinds of crimes and even abandoned their children just to get drugs.” (“The Essence of Drug Addiction.” p8.)

The science behind this has been performed. It is a widely accepted fact that addiction is a disease. Upon further consideration, it is clear to see that if America as a country was more widely inclined to address the illness itself, rather than the current method of staunching the symptoms, there is a very real and attainable possibility that crime of all kinds will decrease.

America is certainly on the trailing edge of implementing these findings. The Netherlands, for example, has systems in place where soft drugs such as marijuana are accessible in a safe, legal environment, where the users of such substances (young or infrequent especially) are not necessarily exposed to the harder, more volatile drugs, such as heroin and cocaine. Furthermore, in various European countries, there are safe rooms in place where addicts of hard drugs are free to go and use their drugs in peace, with medical supervision and clean needles. (“Denmark’s ‘Fix Rooms’ Give Drug Users a Safe Haven. P6.” This carries multiple social benefits: these addicts are not littering public streets with refuse and dirty needles, and the Netherlands has all but eliminated HIV transmission through drug injection while also boasting the lowest rate of problem drug use in all of Europe. (“…Look to the Dutch. P11.) There is more to it still: the coffee shops where the marijuana can be purchased, generate a staggering amount of revenue annually while the citizens are not strapped with criminal records for non-violent, minor drug offences, since fewer arrests are made. . (“…Look to the Dutch. P4.) The end result is a much cleaner, much more prosperous society. Some believe more lenient law enforcement would lead to an increase in drug use. For the Netherlands, this was not the case. . (“…Look to the Dutch. P5.)

Ultimately, the mentality behind policy in the Netherlands is that different substances carry different risks, the contrary of America’s stance, wherein all drugs are equally as hazardous and criminal. The pros most certainly outweigh the cons, and there are so many examples made overseas that America should follow. More leniency with low level offences has the potential to reduce recidivism, in that minor offenders would not be subject to felonies that make it exponentially more difficult to attain gainful employment, which contributes in and of itself to the alarming prison overcrowding issue in the United States. If we were to delve further into the issue, and take steps to identify those in the ranks of America’s incarcerated, who are addicted to hard drugs, such as methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin and all the incarnations thereof, and take steps to treat their conditions as the disease it is, crime rates would drop exponentially. The addict mind drives otherwise good and decent people to alarming lengths to feed their addiction. Breaking and entering, theft, robbery, grand theft, and even some of the more violent crimes, are examples of some of the radical lengths an addict will go to in order to pacify his or her demons.

Imagine then if, as a society, we took steps to exorcise those particular demons. What, then, is left? The human condition dictates that there will always be some crime. The alarming numbers of men and women that fill both state and federal penitentiaries would dramatically decrease if, as a people, we took one of the more common variables off the table. Progress is progress. Consider as well, how many families living below the poverty line might have a fighting chance if their finances were not dictated by the need for a fix. Though times are still hard, in light of the recession, the black mark of a felony conviction on the background of non-violent men and women make it that much more difficult to find gainful employment. It is a vicious cycle: addiction, crime, incarceration, release without treatment for the disease, struggle to reintegrate back into the free world, inability to find work, relapse under stress or necessity of subsidizing income, crime, incarceration. This is the reality for an unacceptably large number of Americans.

The system is broken, but it is not beyond repair. The United States of America should follow the lead of more progressive countries like The Netherlands and treat the disease. Without the disease rampant and out of control, the symptoms will become irrelevant. Treat the disease; stop suppressing the symptoms.

Works Cited:

Carson, E. Ann, Ph.D. “Prisoners in 2013.” U.S. Department of Justice – Bureau of Justice Statistics Bulletin. Sept. 2014. Web PDF. 12 Oct. 2014.

Leshner, Alan I. Ph.D. “The Essence of Addiction.” National Institute on Drug Abuse. March, 2001. Web. 12 Oct. 2014.

Malinowska-Sempruch, Kasia. “For Safe and Effective Drug Policy, Look to the Dutch.” Global Drug Policy Program. Open Society Foundations. July 16, 2013. Web.

Merriam-Webster. An Encyclopedia Britannica Company. Web. 12 Oct 2014.

Overgaard, Sidsel. “Denmark’s ‘Fix Rooms’ Give Drug Users A Safe Haven.” Parrallels: Many Stories, One World. 16 Dec 2013. Web. 12 Oct. 2014.