I Beg Your Pardon

This Thursday, June 7, 2018, in Newark there will be a short town hall meeting on Addiction and Recovery. It is at Newark high school from 6:30 – 8:30 PM. There will be a panel of speakers, folks actively involved with the everyday of the subject on behalf of some institution or organization meant to address the issue. Some attending will likewise be given the opportunity to speak, address the panel or ask questions. Serendipity would have it that the New York Times presents an inquiry which gets to the heart of the tragedy: She Went to Jail for a Drug Relapse. Tough Love or Too Harsh? (Jan Hoffman, 6-4-18). “Should an addict’s relapse be punished with a criminal sanction?” “In Commonwealth v. Julie Eldred, the [Massachusetts] justices, presiding over the state’s highest court, are wrestling with whether this condition of her probation amounts to cruel and unusual punishment for an offender with a substance use disorder. In reaching a decision, expected imminently, the justices must weigh competing scientific studies. Is addiction a brain disease that interferes with one’s capacity to abstain? Or a condition, rather than a disease, that is responsive to penalties and rewards?” Prior to a knee jerk response, Analysis bears in mind other aspects from the article: “Ms. Eldred’s lawyers rely on a 1962 United States Supreme Court case, Robinson v. California, which struck down a statute making it a crime for a person “to be addicted to the use of narcotics” — noting that while selling or possessing illegal drugs was against the law, the state could not punish people solely for the status of their illness.” “Law enforcement officials argue that the threat of jail protects not only offenders but society from potentially more drug-related crimes. Yet numerous addiction specialists say that the criminal justice system is the most blunt and clumsy of instruments for addressing a public health disaster.” “In a brief supporting the prosecution, psychiatrists, psychologists and legal scholars assert that the brain-disease model is contested. Changes in brain structure from drugs do not necessarily translate into an inability to resist them, they said. With carrot-stick prompts, many addicted people can choose to abstain. And, prosecutors said, two such prompts include an expunged record for completing probation or, for relapse, jail. A brief submitted by the National Association of Drug Court Professionals on behalf of 3,400 drug courts noted that the success of these programs depends on a judge being able to apply graduated sanctions, to propel a defendant through treatment.” On the town hall panel will be institutional health and addiction specialists (people paid to be there) as well as those employed by law enforcement and the courts (also paid to be there); the former experts on disease but not so with the law, the latter officers of the law but uncertain of pathology. Analysis is disinterested in the answer. Like it or not the court will decide. Whether that happens in Ohio is a completely other question. Analysis is interested in the disposition of those asking the questions. A disposition assuming the “inevitability” of the disease diagnosis doesn’t translate into inevitable material outcomes, only a rather insecure sense of self righteousness. Those embracing this “inevitability” need also consider embracing the mundane (and political) nitty-gritty of changing the law, and those employed or elected to interpret it. The law itself is no guarantor of security. And as we all know way too well, innocent folks have been convicted, even executed, by solemn, dutiful, and sober officers of the law.

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One Response to “I Beg Your Pardon”

  1. David Greene Says:

    Excellent and very concrete piece. Yay Stanley,

    David ________________________________

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