Archive for Sunday, January 1, 2006

Drug law wins positive reviews

Nonviolent offenders are now sentenced to treatment, not prison

January 1, 2006


Mary D. Reed, a methamphetamine-addicted mother of three children, didn't get off to a good start on probation.

Less than two weeks after being sentenced to probation and inpatient drug treatment, Reed was back in front of a local judge Wednesday to face an allegation she used methamphetamine and got kicked out of her treatment program when employees found drugs in her pocket.

In a previous era in Kansas, she might have been headed to prison by now. Instead, she's getting a second shot at treatment.

Reed's case illustrates how Senate Bill 123 - a 2003 law meant to keep nonviolent drug users out of prison - is working in Kansas. The law not only requires drug offenders to be sentenced to treatment, it also states judges can't revoke their probation and put them in prison unless they show a pattern of refusing to comply with treatment.

"This is your second opportunity you've received from the court, and you need to make the most of it," Judge Michael Malone told Reed on Wednesday in District Court.

Reed is one of 40 defendants in Douglas County who have fallen under the drug-treatment law, according to Ron Stegall, the county's chief executive probation officer. Of those people, only one has been sent to prison for failing treatment.

Stegall was opposed to the new law, which was aimed largely at freeing bed space in Kansas' prison system. He said it's too early to tell how the law is working, but he said he's heard positive feedback from other probation officers around the state.

"What I hear most people saying at this stage of the game is that it's working ... that people are being helped and that people are being successful. I'd just love to be proved wrong," he said. "To really see the long-term positive effects, the Legislature's going to have to go and fund this some more."

The biggest need for funding, Stegall said, is in the area of treatment. One issue is that beds at long-term drug-treatment centers aren't always readily available.

When Reed was kicked out of the Valeo treatment center in Topeka, her probation officer began trying to find space for her at a different agency, Women's Recovery Center. As of this week, she was still on a waiting list for a bed there.

Judge Malone ordered Reed to be held at the Douglas County Jail until a new bed became available.

Dist. Atty. Charles Branson said he thought the approach under the new law was better than sending drug users to prison.

"I believe we do a better service by trying to keep people out of the prison system, by trying to get them treatment that's effective," he said. "That only lasts as long as they're willing to participate in the treatment."


laughingatallofu 12 years, 4 months ago

This current method of handling the drug-addicted may not work all of the time, but it's a helluva lot more rational than the "lock them away and throw away the key" mentality. The "war on drugs" has never, and will bever be won by throwing people in prison.

Baille 12 years, 4 months ago

The vast majority of addicts are not dangerous. Prison has never been, is not now, and will never be a successful place for treatment of addiction - even if it were offered seriously which it is not. Most judges are conservative by nature, and Republican by choice.

Got anything else?

laughingatallofu 12 years, 4 months ago

Marion declares that "There is no "WAr ON Drugs".

OK Marion, I'll buy that--for the moment. Now, tell me why we're spending soo much money on interdiction and incarceration if the "enemy" is not drugs? Yet, both interdiction and incarceration, as methods of reducing drug use, have failed miserably. Parkay (above) seems to think that we ought to be waging a BIGGER war on drugs by "keep(ing) our streets safe from them" (them = the addicts or the politicians, I'm not sure ).

So what should we do? "Just Say 'NO'"? A FLOTUS (who also regularly consulted an astrologer) suggested that approach. So, suggest something else that will work, s'il vous plait?

BTW, we've lost more Americans to drunk drivers in 2005 than all of the Americans who have lost their lives in Iraq AND in the 9/11 attacks combined. Maybe we should incarcerate EVERYONE who is convicted of DUI as well. Sure, why not? Just lock 'em up and throw away the key! Besides, Prisons is gud fer the conomy.

Baille 12 years, 4 months ago

"Prisons is gud fer the conomy."

So is the so-called War on Drugs. Just follow the money and see which government agency and agents are getting paid at the end of the day. A decriminalization/treatment model makes a whole lot more sense if the aim is to reduce the amount of people using drugs and the amount of drugs people use. The projections I have seen strongly suggest it would be cheaper overall as well.

laughingatallofu 12 years, 4 months ago


I agree that prevention is better than treatment is better than punishment. Look at where our $$$ is being spent. Depressing, isn't it?

Establishing legal controls (That which is prohibited cannot be controlled!), the taxing of certain drugs, the reduction of penalities and complete legalisation of others (For those over 18 or 21!) and serious improvements in drug education will go a long way towards resolving the problem. <<<

I agree. However, I doubt that we will ever see the political will to move in such a direction in the forseeable future. It's much more politically expedient to build more prisons and lock people away than to effect any type of real reform. Hell, if people were "reformed" and stopped "breaking the law", how many criminal justice employees would be out of a job???

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