How Drug Court is Helping to Save a Generation

Em Carpenter

Em was one of those argumentative children who was sarcastically encouraged to become a lawyer, so she did. She is a proud life-long West Virginian, and, paradoxically, a liberal. In addition to writing about society, politics and culture, she enjoys cooking, podcasts, reading, and pretending to be a runner. She will correct your grammar. You can find her on Twitter.

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91 Responses

  1. Mike Dwyer says:

    Kudos to the localities smart enough to put programs like this in place. Anyone who has gone on a diet and found themselves eating junk food in a weak moment should be sympathetic to addiction and the bad decisions it will cause. We have got to be smarter about the way we approach this epidemic.

    With regards to opioids specifically: The science of pain management is very complicated. I haven’t seen the numbers but I have to believe that back problems have contributed to a high number of opioid addictions, because I know so many people who have this issue. I suffered with this for over 20 years and when my pain was at its worst my desperation for relief was nearly all-consuming. I tried many, many things with limited success. Prescription medicine, CBD, yoga, exercise, physical therapy, losing weight, etc. What finally helped me was seeing a neurologist, having an MRI done and finding out that I had osteoarthritis in my spine. I now take one pill a day and it has improved my quality of life tremendously. Still not perfect, but a vast improvement.

    Because of my long experience with chronic pain, knowing the effects of opioids, and understanding how easily I could have slipped into addiction…I am extremely sympathetic to dealing with addicts humanely and compassionately.Report

  2. Sam Wilkinson says:

    Drug courts are an attempt to introduce a rock-bottom into an addicted person’s life. We want it to be easier to get them to stop; we want them to see in their lives what we see in their lives. We want them to make the decisions that we would make. We see addiction as voluntary, and changeable, and so we look at things like drug court as a fast-tracking mechanism to get people on the road to being who we want them to be.

    If it works for some people, great. But the gaping maw of legal sanction is still hiding out immediately behind that court. We still think we can intimidate human beings into making decisions that we want them to make. We still fundamentally misunderstand addiction itself, and we still pretend like there are easier fixes out there.

    To put that another way: we would never subject diabetics to diabetics court.Report

    • Em Carpenter in reply to Sam Wilkinson says:

      The thing is, Sam, (in most cases) the person has committed a crime and admitted to it. The crime is not usually drug possession, though it can be. It’s usually theft of some sort, with an actual victim, and justice demands the defendant face the consequences. That will be the usual fines/probation/imprisobment, if there is no drug court. This way, at least they have a shot at some help and an expungement or lesser record.
      And it’s voluntary. The person is free to move forward through the traditional justice system, if he or she prefers.
      The other option is what? Not prosecute any crimes committed by addicts?Report

      • Sam Wilkinson in reply to Em Carpenter says:

        @em-carpenter If you’re asking me to sketch out what changes might happen in West Virginia that would potentially achieve lasting results, I would offer all of the following:

        1. Legalize possession, use, production, and sale across the board.
        2. Tax sales, with the raised money being dedicated to substantive addiction treatment opportunities throughout the state, including harm reduction, rehab, and treatment programs.
        3. Prosecute crimes committed by drug users the same way that crimes committed by alcohol drinkers are prosecuted.

        Everything else this state has tried has been both a spectacular and a total failure. Even if the above was only attempted with something as harmless as marijuana, it would be a substantive step forward as compared against the retrograde absurdity being currently attempted (Danny Jones’ opposition to needle exchanges, for example) throughout the state. Drug Court is fine, as far as it goes, but it simply does not go far enough, because it misunderstands the problem itself.Report

        • Em Carpenter in reply to Sam Wilkinson says:

          I wanted to double check before I answered, but alcohol abuse would qualify a person for drug court. It is substance abuse.
          However- DUIs are not eligible (at least in Kanawha Co drug court) because it has been deemed a “violent crime”.Report

        • Phaedros in reply to Sam Wilkinson says:

          The most recent theory of addiction (to which I subscribe) suggests that addiction is primarily the result of lack of capacity to develop new coping skills, and secondarily by social magnetism, i.e., that it makes the user or dealer feel like they are *SOMEBODY*, and that somebody has a comfortably-defined place in the world.

          While I can agree to the legalization of restricted possession, sales, and use, the more I think about it, the more I come to the conclusion that an integral part of that strategy is to ensure that government is the sole supplier.

          From the results of Switzerland and Portugal, the average heroin addict will continue to use for three years, when given all the heroin they could possibly want.

          I haven’t really thought the matter through enough to have a ready list of suggested reforms, but I thank you for this food for thought.Report

  3. Doctor Jay says:

    I’m quite impressed with the program. Thanks for sharing.

    I’m quite impressed with how the program is similar to the methods presented in the best book I ever read on child discipline.

    Which is to say, light but consistent consequences which progress.Report

    • Sam Wilkinson in reply to Doctor Jay says:

      @doctor-jay Do you drink alcohol?Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Sam Wilkinson says:

        Or has cats! Petting a cat gives endorphins and the Boston Globe reported that cat owners enjoy a 30% reduction in heart attack risk.

        If they could bottle something that reduced heart attack risk and gave you as many endorphins as holding a purring cat, the FDA would make it schedule 1 overnight! Or, wait. What are opiates? Schedule 2, maybe.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Sam Wilkinson says:

        Wait, in thinking about this some more, I’m not sure why Dr. Jay’s personal habits are relevant.Report

        • Sam Wilkinson in reply to Jaybird says:

          @jaybird It would be interesting to know if he is open to the same sort of “light but consistent consequences” for his own life, or are such things reserved merely for other people whose habits enjoy less cultural cache.Report

          • @sam-wilkinson

            I agree with Jaybird. Doctor Jay’s personal habits are not part of this discussion. You could have asked the same question in a much more generic way. Something like, “Do you think people that drink alcohol should also be subject to criminal courts?”

            As Em pointed out, the reason for the courts is usually because someone committed some other crime related to their drug addiction. So this would be like someone appearing before a court because they got a DUI and the court looking at it as an addiction issue and not just a criminal one. I’m struggling to figure out why you have a problem with this. If it was strictly just forcing addicts into courtrooms, I would agree with you, but that’s not what this seems to be.Report

          • Jaybird in reply to Sam Wilkinson says:

            So let’s assume that his answer is “yes, I drink kombucha.”

            Then what?

            Let’s assume that his answer is “yes, I drink wine with dinner occasionally.”

            Then what?

            Let’s assume that his answer is “No, I’d never touch the demon alcohol.”

            Then what?

            Is there an answer where you have to take his argument seriously?

            If there is, asking him questions like “do you drink alcohol?” seem to be ways to avoid taking his argument seriously. “Oh, good. You enjoy beer when you watch baseball. Now I don’t have to deal with your argument at all!”Report

            • Sam Wilkinson in reply to Jaybird says:

              @jaybird I think that when we have a commenter comparing addicts to children, while advocating for “light but consistent consequences” for those individuals, it is interesting to get a better understanding of where exactly they are coming from. For example, it is interesting if they allow themselves the occasional mind-altering substance every once, and it is further interesting to get a better understanding of why it is that their own behavior deserves a pass, but this other person’s doesn’t.Report

              • @sam-wilkinson

                As you well know, it was recently decided that the site frowns on digging into someone’s personal opinions, motivations or behaviors as a point of analysis for those opinions.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Sam Wilkinson says:

                This still reads to me like you’re trying to argue against him personally rather than his argument.

                Is it because his argument is so obviously good that the best way to deal with it is to hammer out that he got drunk once in college and now we don’t have to wrestle with his argument at all?

                (Because, presumably, getting drunk once in college has a 1:1 mapping with opiate addiction.)

                For the record, I think that it’d be better to argue against his position by saying “Yeah, because the drug war has worked really well so far” rather than by asking him if he’s ever had a mimosa.Report

              • Sam Wilkinson in reply to Jaybird says:

                @jaybird Do I think that his argument is so obviously good? No, I don’t think comparing addicts to children is obviously good (for two separate reasons: that addicts aren’t children, and that children aren’t addicts), nor do I think advocating for “light but consistent consequences” for other people is good, particularly if the individual himself is engaged in exactly the same behavior. Hence, my question about alcohol.

                For the record, I didn’t ask if @doctor-jay had gotten drunk once in college, or if he has ever had “a” mimosa. I asked if drinks alcohol, as there are a surprising number of people who, for some reason, see consuming alcohol as being wildly different than consuming lots of other things. So I figured it would make good sense to try to set a baseline for the conversation. Are we talking about somebody who allows himself considerably more leeway than he allows other people, or are we talking about something else.

                It sure is neat to encounter, “It doesn’t matter what people do, only what they say!” in the wild.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Sam Wilkinson says:

                It sure is neat to encounter, “It doesn’t matter what people do, only what they say!” in the wild.

                It depends on whether you see having a beer on the weekends as the equivalent of being addicted to heroin.

                Believe it or not, there are quite a few people who see these things as different enough that asking Dr. Jay if he drinks alcohol as irrelevant to how opiate addicts ought to be treated as a matter of public policy.Report

              • Sam Wilkinson in reply to Jaybird says:

                @jaybird We do not know if the answer is “have a beer on the weekends” and we are not discussing explicitly heroin, although I suppose if we wanted to create as little gray area as possible between two things, we might choose a single beer versus a heroin addiction, as most people are going to assume great big chasms of difference between those two things.

                As for what you find relevant or irrelevant, why is that my concern? @doctor-jay is welcome to ignore the question if he wants to. But I find it ludicrous to suggest that those advocating for consequences for other people’s (voluntarily?) made decisions should not be equally accountable for their own.

                (This fight is now several years in the making, and I always have fallen on the side opposite of the debate club cops.)Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Sam Wilkinson says:

                But I find it ludicrous to suggest that those advocating for consequences for other people’s (voluntarily?) made decisions should not be equally accountable for their own.

                Because he’s not answering the question, you’re stuck being unable to deal with his issue.

                If you just assumed that he’s teetotal, would you then be able to deal with his argument?Report

              • Sam Wilkinson in reply to Jaybird says:

                @jaybird His argument that addicts need to be treated like children? Sure, we can deal with that – it’s condescending nonsense that is only visited against addicted peoples because we like to tell ourselves that quitting is an easily achievable thing that that those same people are simply refusing to do, and so we then tell ourselves that if we must take responsibility for their decisions, by whipping them just a little bit as we would a child, then we can do that because it will ultimately be for their benefit – but I am much more interested in what the rules are within this world where “light and consistent consequences” are mandated for some decisions but not others, no matter how alike those two decisions might happen to be.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Sam Wilkinson says:

                Well, do we have a card of what answers will result in us addressing his argument?

                I’m assuming “I sometimes have a mimosa at Mother’s Day brunch” is not sufficient for us to dismiss his argument but “I have trouble with alcohol and I get drunk 4-5 times a week” is sufficient for us to do so.

                Is there a line we can draw or is this a situation where there might not be a bright line but we know it when we see it?

                I get drunk about once a week (Friday nights, usually), if it matters.

                Does this make it so that you don’t have to deal with my arguments about whether he should have to answer the question?

                If so, I apologize. I should have brought this up before I questioned whether we needed to get his answer before we address his arguments.Report

              • Sam Wilkinson in reply to Jaybird says:

                @jaybird Well, I think the next question is whether you’re advocating “light and consistent consequences” for consumers of the wrong things.

                And again, he’s welcome to answer, or not answer, whatever he wants. That’s the nature of the comment section. He’s not on trial.Report

          • This is actually part of a bigger phenomena that I’ve seen for years, though to be honest I am not sure if it highlights a difference between Liberals and Conservatives, or simply OT/LoOG Liberals and OT/LoOG conservatives.

            It was an especially hotly debated topic back in the days when SSM was being strongly debated. Asking why a conservative commenter’s marriage should be allowed to continue, but Jason’s and Bogiboe’s should be not recognized or dissolved and outright made illegal was seen as very important and necessary by liberals here, and as totally out-of-bounds and a sign on intellectual dishonesty by the conservatives.

            But in general, this “what I personally do/don’t do is/isn’t material to what others do/don’t do” is a really long standing debate here, and it pretty much always follows political stripe.

            If that same dynamic exists outside of this site as well, there’s probably something important buried in this disagreement that speaks to the differences between the two groups and how they might better understand one another.Report

            • Sam Wilkinson in reply to Tod Kelly says:

              @tod-kelly Seems to me that the issue is, and it has always been, that conservatism wants strident consequences for other people. It is easier to advocate for such things if you do not have to account for your own behavior.

              It’s also amusing that you mention JK here, as his formulation of what arguments were allowed – “Pretend that you have found every single argument you encountered chiseled on a stone tablet, on a desert island, with no idea who put it there…” – always drove me crazy, and lead to numerous ugly debates between the two of us, as I see no reason to ignore outright hypocrisy, and I certainly see no reason to afford outright hypocrites the gift of voluntary ignorance.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Sam Wilkinson says:

                In the days of segregation, there were a lot of people arrested for sitting on the front of the bus. It wasn’t until Rosa Parks got arrested for it that the issue made it to national news. What was wrong with the people before Ms. Parks? Well, this one might have been a single mother. That one might have previously been arrested for drunk and disorderly.

                With Rosa Parks, they *FINALLY* had the perfect person to arrest and argue against the “sit in the back of the bus” laws with.

                Because having a single mother be arrested for it would result in people talking about the evils of premarital sex.

                Personally, I’d rather we assume that we could discuss what Dr. Jay is saying without having him have to prove that he’s someone of sufficient moral fiber first.

                But I suppose we’re stuck in a situation where we can’t discuss what he said until he submits a verbal pee test…Report

              • Sam Wilkinson in reply to Jaybird says:

                @jaybird You think that drinkers lack sufficient moral fiber?Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Sam Wilkinson says:

                “Moral fiber” is one of those things that is tough to pinpoint.

                How’s this? I’d say that, assuming moral fiber exists, drinking is one of those things that some people can do without it affecting their moral fiber overly much and some other people cannot do without it affecting their moral fiber negatively. These latter people are probably better off not drinking.Report

              • Sam Wilkinson in reply to Jaybird says:

                @jaybird So, in fact, alcohol is like all other things, in that it can be good, or bad, or indifferent.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Sam Wilkinson says:

                So why does it matter if someone drinks if they see opiate addiction as bad? Like, an unadulterated bad?Report

              • Sam Wilkinson in reply to Jaybird says:

                @jaybird Because allowing yourself access to mind altering substances that can destroy your life while criminalizing other people doing exactly the same thing strikes me as, at best, a double standard that society allows itself on a remarkably frequent basis.Report

              • Mike Dwyer in reply to Sam Wilkinson says:

                The OP was about a more recovery focus and addiction sensitive court system. While not perfect, it seems to be a step in the right direction. Not a single person in this comment thread is arguing that penalty should be more harsh or that this program is a waste of time. The author of the post also goes to great lengths to explain that the defendants are usually only in the court system because of another crime that may stem from their drug addiction.

                Despite all of this, Sam is going after several different people because he claims their endorsement of this program equates to hypocrisy, especially if they themselves use alcohol. I will never understand this particular brand of self righteous outrage, and despite the agreement of his patron upthread, when you have this many different voices all scratching their heads at his comments, it appears the common denominator is not their lack of compassion.


              • @tod-kelly @sam-wilkinson

                Just to be clear – both of you are suggesting here that it’s okay to question someone’s person habits as a way of trying to understand their opinion on a public topic? Am I understanding that correctly?Report

              • Sam Wilkinson in reply to Sam Wilkinson says:

                @andrew-donaldson Is this comment meant for this thread?Report

              • yes I’ll move it my faultReport

              • @andrew-donaldson

                I think you made this comment on the wrong post?Report

              • I did, I removed it, my fault on that, thanks for the catchReport

            • Will Truman in reply to Tod Kelly says:

              I can understand someone asking people who favor coming down hard on people who do illegal drugs have themselves done illegal drugs.

              Asking why this drug should be legal and that drug shouldn’t can also be valuable.

              This isn’t really either of those things, though. This is taking someone who supports changing the way that already-illegal substances are adjudicated and suggesting that their motives ought to be questioned if they drink alcohol. Not banning more substances. Not escalating punishment.

              Just having an opinion on how we go about it.

              Where does that get us, exactly?Report

              • @will-truman If you can lay out the differences between alcohol and other drugs, such that the use of one is acceptable and the use of others requires light but consistent consequences (and without arguing, “Well, I like the one but not the other..”), I’ll happily withdraw the objection.Report

              • One is legal and the other is illegal. Should the latter be legal? Should everything? Maybe! Maybe there should be no laws whatsoever against any substances because some of us drink.

                But that wasn’t even what Jay was talking about. Jay was talking about what we should do with those substances that are illegal. he prefers a light-and-consistent approach over what we’re doing now.

                I don’t think pot should be illegal. I think if pot is going to be illegal, I am very interested in discussing how we best enforce those laws. Whether I drink or not (I don’t) doesn’t matter. At all.Report

              • @will-truman All due respect, but I disagree that it doesn’t matter whether you drink or not. I’m frankly much more interested in your defense of the current regime than I am in the defenses mustered by people who allow themselves the use of mind-altering substances but not disallow it for other people, but actively advocate for there to be consequences for those individuals.

                “But the ones they use are illegal and the one I use is legal!” is a nonsense argument. Overdoses accounted for over 64,000 deaths in 2016. Alcohol-related deaths accounted for over 88,000. I’m supposed to take seriously people who argue that a continued war on whatever drugs is good and necessary and right, while at the same time listening to them excuse away any attempt to regulate their own vices? That strikes me as a great big hypocrisy that isn’t worth ignoring whenever arguments about usage are being made.Report

              • He didn’t defend the current regime. He advocated changing it to make punishments for drug-related offenses less severe. And beyond that, the subject at hand isn’t even people convicted of doing drugs but crimes they commit under the influence of drugs.

                So, let’s say I drink. What is the acceptable range of opinions I can have about a guy who breaks into my car and steals my car stereo to buy drugs, without being a hypocrite and a bad person?Report

              • @will-truman You’re welcome to think whatever you’d like. I can’t stop you from thinking, nor having opinions, nor anything else, frankly. But if you argue, “My stereo was stolen, it is drugs that are the problem, and everybody who uses drugs, except alcohol which I consume and which is fine, needs to face the long arm of the state!” then I think that’s worth getting further into, to figure out why the issue is drug-specific, rather than, let’s say, general human desire (in this case for money).Report

              • That’s not the position Doctor Jay was taking. That’s not the subject of this post. As Em points out, it’s not what the drug courts he is endorsing are there for.Report

              • Em Carpenter in reply to Sam Wilkinson says:

                In the context of drug court, for the most part, it is not the drug use being criminalized. It is some other crime, which the defendant (usually) acknowledges stems from substance abuse. Burglarizing, stealing etc to fund the habit. Drug court gives the benefit of the doubt that, but for their substance abuse disorder, they likely wouldn’t have committed the crime. And that includes alcohol- it’s just that alcohol is cheap and people don’t usually have to steal to pay for it. But I have seen defendants charged with child neglect and destruction of property that stemmed from drinking- they are examples of people for whom “drug court” might be appropriate, depending on the severity of the crime.Report

              • This is indeed a really important point. It tackles issues that would be an issue even with decriminalization.Report

              • Phaedros in reply to Em Carpenter says:

                FWIW, from the dated data I have seen, prostitution is the crime addicts are most often arrested for, followed by theft, shoplifting, and other property crimes.Report

          • Not especially. “Light but consistent consequences” has been a refrain for Mark Kleiman, a longtime advocate for criminal justice reform, legalization of some drugs, and taking a harder line on alcohol. Chemical dependency and criminal justice issues are his life’s work. I have some general concerns about how this works with due process, but it’s not something that can easily dismissed by attacking proponents.Report

            • Em Carpenter in reply to Will Truman says:

              Oooh let’s discuss the due process concerns!
              You start.Report

              • I must sheepishly confess that I need to learn more. I guess I just have the sense that “consistent” is hard to pull off without taking some short cuts. It’s not enough to get me to oppose the concept, but stops me short of embracing it.Report

              • pillsy in reply to Will Truman says:

                Our whole justice system seems pretty oriented around applying severe consequences unreliably.

                In principle (some sort of principle) a false positive isn’t such a big deal if the costs associated with it are low.Report

              • Will Truman in reply to pillsy says:

                In theory I agree (and it echoes my thoughts on the Title IX stuff). In practice, I am skittish on the fast track in this case in part because I don’t trust that the punishments will remain light and it sets a criminal justice precedent that I am concerned about.Report

              • Em Carpenter in reply to Will Truman says:

                Drug court is completely voluntary and most of the time is part of an agreement wherein the defendant pleads guilty. The judge defers entry of the plea pending completion of drug court.
                No one will be made via sanction to spend more time in jail than they would under traditional adjudication, and it is a last resort sanction following many violations of the program.
                I don’t think there are due process issues because nobody is getting charged with a new crime solely because of a drug court violation, it’s a voluntary program they are free to withdraw from at any time, and the policies and procedures are fully explained to the defendant by their attorney, the judge, and the program counselor.Report

              • Em Carpenter in reply to Em Carpenter says:

                My experience is limited to the programs local to me.
                But the ramifications of failing out of drug court is that you are in no worse a position than you would have been if you’d never agreed to go in the first place.Report

              • This does help with my concerns. Thank you.Report

              • Phaedros in reply to Em Carpenter says:

                The judge defers entry of the plea pending completion of drug court.

                That’s the main problem I see.
                Being eligible for deferment prior to a formal plea would be a great place to start with the due process concerns, IMHO.
                This would preserve the right to a (supposedly) fair trial where the intervention fails.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to Doctor Jay says:

      I don’t think that the problem is due to our lack of mastery of applying consequences. “We just need to do the drug war thing, only smarter” strikes me as unlikely to result in us doing the drug war thing, only smarter.

      I’d rather make weed legal everywhere.

      Here’s something from NPR, for example, arguing that opioid use is lower in states that legalized medicinal.

      I mean, if the goal is to avoid opiate use in the first place.Report

      • Sam Wilkinson in reply to Jaybird says:

        @jaybird Legalizing marijuana would, at the bare minimum, provide three obvious and immediate benefits in places like West Virginia:

        1. It would allow for additional tax revenue to be raised, which could go toward rehab programs of all sorts or other needs as identified.

        2. It would allow police agencies to refocus their efforts against actual, substantive threats to society.

        3. It would create jobs, both in production and in sales.

        Which is why West Virginia will never legalize marijuana.Report

        • Jaybird in reply to Sam Wilkinson says:

          So if we agree that WV will never do this (I think it might if the right cards are played… Additional tax revenue is the opiate of government), we’re left with what WV might do instead.

          Is “light but consistent consequences which progress” something that we could see legislators being willing to vote for?

          If so, we’re going to need arguments against “light but consistent consequences which progress”.Report

          • Sam Wilkinson in reply to Jaybird says:

            @jaybird I think it is hugely important to advocate for radical new solutions to the problem, rather than simply halving our current approach. Maybe halving is as good as we can hope for – it probably is, knowing West Virginia’s commitment to shooting itself in the foot with a machine gun – and so maybe we take the “okay” over the “nothing at all” but we’ve already seen regression here in the state, with tough of crime talk leaking back into the conversation, because god forbid those advocated just admit that everything they have done and tried has failed entirely.Report

            • Jaybird in reply to Sam Wilkinson says:

              It’s the old “should” vs. “pragmatics”.

              If you believe very strongly in “should”, it’s very difficult to have to hear someone else say “No, that won’t work.”

              Maybe even to the point where you start questioning their motives.Report

              • Sam Wilkinson in reply to Jaybird says:

                @jaybird Motives should always be questioned, especially when suffering is being proposed for a third party. We should never assume the goodwill and decency of those advocating for misery.Report

              • Pinky in reply to Sam Wilkinson says:

                And if I believe your campaign against the police to be harmful to high-crime neighborhoods, I don’t have to give you the benefit of the doubt?Report

              • Mike Dwyer in reply to Pinky says:


                You’ll also notice that misery is in the eye of the beholder, but Sam has appointed himself the arbiter of that.Report

              • Pinky in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

                Shut up, you paedo. (Sorry, I was just making an assumption about your character because you were trying to cause Sam suffering.)Report

              • Sam Wilkinson in reply to Pinky says:

                @pinky You certainly never have before.Report

              • Pinky in reply to Sam Wilkinson says:

                I don’t think I’ve ever failed to give you the benefit of the doubt.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Sam Wilkinson says:

                Does this apply to the stuff that people who agree with you as well?

                I mean, if someone agreed with you in this thread, would you require them to talk about whether they drink alcohol or is it only the opposition that need to fill out the required forms?Report

              • Sam Wilkinson in reply to Jaybird says:

                @jaybird Nobody is required to fill out anything. But asking people to account for whether they’re allowing themselves more leeway than they’re allowing others is important.

                You yourself get drunk once a week, and yet seem to balk at other people doing the same thing with other substances. What’s the difference?Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Sam Wilkinson says:

                You yourself get drunk once a week, and yet seem to balk at other people doing the same thing with other substances. What’s the difference?

                That’s not the opiate epidemic. That’s best analogized to the person who uses prescribed opiates in accordance with doctors’ orders.Report

              • Sam Wilkinson in reply to Jaybird says:

                @jaybird What does “That’s not the opiate epidemic.” mean here?Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Sam Wilkinson says:

                You know the “opiate crisis” the post is talking about?

                That. (I regret saying “opiate epidemic” rather than “opiate crisis”.)Report

              • Sam Wilkinson in reply to Jaybird says:

                @jaybird I’m asking if you’re differentiating between the two things based upon nothing more than substance? My contention is that the two behaviors are the same thing. You seem to be differentiating between getting F’ed up on alcohol versus getting F’ed up on pills (or, presumably, lots of other things). I’m trying to get at the difference between the two.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Sam Wilkinson says:

                You seem to be differentiating between getting F’ed up on alcohol versus getting F’ed up on pills (or, presumably, lots of other things). I’m trying to get at the difference between the two.

                Let me quote your original question, Sam (I’m cutting and pasting this):

                Do you drink alcohol?


              • Mike Dwyer in reply to Sam Wilkinson says:

                “Motives should always be questioned…”


              • Em Carpenter in reply to Sam Wilkinson says:

                What suffering is being proposed? They’re already in the system because they’ve committed a crime. Take away the drug court- they’re still in the system with no help offered, only traditional punishment.Report

              • @em-carpenter You wrote that the failure to maintain sobriety can lead to jail time. Is that not a consequence?Report

              • Em Carpenter in reply to Sam Wilkinson says:

                It’s a consequence of the crime they committed. Nobody goes to drug court who has not said their crime was a result of their drug use.
                It’s a last resort before dropping them from the program to face traditional adjudication.
                And it’s not a full sentence- it’s maybe a weekend.
                I’m confused. Do you think addicts don’t commit crimes because of their addiction?
                If they do, would you prefer they are marched through the punitive justice system which offers no help?Report

              • So to give an example.

                John steals Michael’s car stereo. They look at the case and determine that John has a drug problem and if he stopped taking drugs he wouldn’t do things like steal car stereos. So they tell John “Let’s make a deal. Stop taking drugs and you will avoid this theft charge and the jail time that goes with it.”

                One month later, John tests positive for drugs, and he goes to jail.

                I guess you could look at this as John going to jail for doing drugs, but from a legal standpoint it’s about that car stereo. And the alternative to this arrangement is most likely John going straight to jail to begin with.Report

              • Em Carpenter in reply to Will Truman says:

                Simplified, but true. Though in reality it goes more like this:
                John is arrested for stealing a car stereo. John says yeah I did it, what kind of deal can i get?
                His lawyer discerns that John has a drug problem and stole the stereo to sell it to get money to buy drugs.
                John’s lawyer tells him about drug court including all the rules and asks if he would like to apply. He says yes.
                Lawyer contacts prosecutor to see if they’re willing to make a deal that will let John try drug court. John is a first time offender so the prosecutor says ok, agrees to sign off on John’s drug court application, with the underlying deal that, if accepted to the program, John will plead guilty, but the plea will be held in abeyance. If he completes drug court the charge will be dismissed.
                John is accepted and the drug court team meets with him to go over the rules. He meets with a treatment specialist who does an assessment to determine needs, including whether medical detox is needed. The team puts together a plan which includes GED classes and twice weekly meetings with an abuse counselor. He must check in daily with an assigned probation officer. He will be drug screened three times a week. His first test is positive. That’s a “freebie”; it’s a baseline.
                John does ok for a few weeks. Then he misses a check in. He gets a verbal warning.
                Then the next week he fails a drug screen. He has a sit down with the team and goes before the judge for his periodic review. He gets a lecture and a written warning.
                A month later he misses two check ins and is positive again. This time he gets extra community service hours, more counseling, and a warning that further failed screenings may mean a weekend in jail.

                You get the idea.
                Had John been an opiate addict he may have also been referred for medication assisted treatment. They do all they can within their limited means. Ultimately, it’s up to John. If he fails, that guilty plea is entered and he faces sentencing. It may seem like a lot for someone who “just” stole a stereo, but the hope is that he never progresses to worse. Report

              • @em-carpenter Theft is theft is almost always theft, and particularly when it involves (relatively) luxury items. We can imagine exceptions, perhaps, for needed things: food, water, medicine, etc. But a car stereo? What’s the difference between when a sober thief or an addicted thief does it? Both are after the thing.

                Punishing somebody for relapse though? That’s the part I am extremely uncomfortable with. Sobriety is hard. I have very little confidence in a sobriety achieved via threat.Report

              • Em Carpenter in reply to Sam Wilkinson says:

                But it’s not “via threat”. The threat of jail is there anyway because they’re facing sentencing. The only threat is facing that which they would have faced anyway.
                And you really don’t believe there are addicts who would otherwise be law abiding who steal to support their addiction?
                You would prefer they be presented with no alternative option but felony conviction and all that brings?
                I’ve had clients go through drug court and graduate. I’ve seen it work.
                I don’t get your reluctance to admit something is better than nothing.Report

              • pillsy in reply to Sam Wilkinson says:

                The justice system exists, in large measure, to get people to not do crimes. If providing an alternative way of handling addicted thieves means they do fewer crimes, that’s really all the difference that’s necessary.Report

          • pillsy in reply to Jaybird says:

            Additional tax revenue is the opiate of government

            Which is exactly the problem. If only it were the canabinoid agonist of government, we’d be in business, and so would West Virginian dispensaries.Report

        • Anne in reply to Sam Wilkinson says:

          I wouldn’t say WV won’t ever decriminalize/legalize marijuana Oklahoma now has medical mj and the OKC police chief is recommending no jail time and smaller fines for possession (under 3 ounces) and busts for paraphernalia. Which I thought would never happen

          • Michael Cain in reply to Anne says:

            I suspect that the OKC chief is simply bowing to the inevitable. With medical in place by initiative, and based on recent experience elsewhere, (a) there will be a lot more people who can possess small amounts legally (here in Colorado, “I know a guy” whispered at gatherings was replaced with “I know a doc”), (b) which makes enforcement much more of a hassle and subject to error, and (c) recreational by initiative follows medical by initiative after 10-15 years.

            Well, and he’s probably looking to keep his officers out of trouble. An irritable officer who doesn’t think as far as “Maybe this person has this marijuana completely legally” is going to create problems.Report

      • Phaedros in reply to Jaybird says:

        I’d rather make weed legal everywhere.

        I’d rather you just STFU and pass me the bong.

        I mean . . . ermmm . . . I agree (sharp inhalation).Report

  4. Oscar Gordon says:

    It’s good to see a program trying to tackle the issue in a humane way. Not perfect, but better than the current process, and maybe a step toward, ‘let’s stop treating drug use/possession itself as a crime’.Report

    • Phaedros in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

      The truly bad thing about it is the drug trafficking.
      Those same shifting international lanes of contraband are used for human trafficking and arms trafficking.
      When drug trafficking becomes a non-concern, international trafficking in arms and human cargo becomes situated much more precariously.Report

  5. Chip Daniels says:

    Addiction frustrates our desire for justice because it isn’t bad behavior like stealing or assault, that is receptive to coercive boundaries.
    It frustrates our desire for healing because it isn’t an illness that invades a person unwillingly like measles, and isn’t receptive to outside cure.

    It is both behavior and illness all wrapped up in one, where the addict simultaneously is, and is not, in control of the process.

    It also frustrates our desire for simple and cost-free solutions. In most cases, addiction and recover is a lifelong process, with struggles, relapses, and multiple recoveries along the way.

    Add to this, the fact that addicts aren’t some isolated group floating independently of the larger society, but are parents, children, workers and neighbors who are interconnected to all of us. Often the unspoken desire in policy is to somehow push the problem away, sweep the addicts to some other backyard, somewhere out of sight where we can ignore it and pretend it doesn’t exist.

    I guess my only suggestion is that we stop thinking in terms of making it go away, and stop dreaming of a world where addiction and dysfunction are nonexistent.
    We can’t give up, but we can’t win either.

    We can only struggle against it, and improve the situation where we can.Report