Monday, March 27, 2006
One Client's Story, in brief
Here it is...
"When the woman who witnessed her step-daughter be struck and killed by the drunk driver read her letter to the court at the man's sentencing, she seemed like a typical mom, her life seemingly together until the day she witnessed the tragedy. She choked back tears and had no idea that Mother Against Drunk Driving would eventually publish her letter in their magazine.
What the readers of the MADD newsletter didn't know when they read this woman's letter was about a year before she wrote it, she was laying on the floor of the jail, quivering from heroine withdrawal as her public defender, me, tried to interview her.
The woman who wrote the letter, who witnessed the drunk driving accident was on probation for theft when she wrote it, and she also plead guilty to drugged driving since, when the police picked her up, she was strung out.
What transformed the woman from quivering on the jail floor to writing articles in MADD's newsletter? One lucky break.
I was talking to a woman who told me she was five years sober from crack addiction and that she conducted AA/NA meetings at the jail. Offhandedly I asked her to look in on my client, Teresa, adding that she was probably a lost cause, but that she wasn't always this way.
The woman I talked to met Teresa in jail and even picked Teresa up on her release date,taking her straight to an AA meeting and agreeing to act as her sponsor, to help her get back on her feet.
When I saw Teresa in court, months after this, the change was amazing. She looked like a different person and even the hardened judge was shocked at teh transformation.
So, how do we duplicate this story and turn a junkie into a productive citizen, who writes letters that MADD publishes in its newsletter? I'm not sure but I know building on AA/NA, on free sponsorship, on drug courts and on people who give a shit about other people are a good start. Short term incarceration is often a good start too, especially if incentives to avoid more jail in the future are incorporated.
One of my clients told me that when they asked her to "just stop using" without offering her treatment was like telling me to "just stop breathing." "After all." she said, "it's something I don't know how to do without."
Jailing addicts and small dealers for decades makes about as much sense."
You can probably see why I didn't include the part about her being back in prison, eh?
Ag Dept.: "Test for Mad Cow, Go to Jail"
Let me get this straight. Your government, funded by your money, threatens to prosecute a meatpacker that wants to ensure it isn't selling mad cow infested beef?
Currently, according to the article, mad cow testing in the U.S. is controlled by the department, which tests about 1 percent of the 35 million cattle slaughtered each year and that level is slated for reduction.
As the article continued, "Department officials say they oppose 100 percent testing because it does not ensure food safety. The disease is difficult to detect in younger animals, which are the source of most beef. Larger meatpackers worry that insistence from Japanese buyers would force them to do testing and that a suspect result might scare consumers away from eating beef."
Testing would cost "about $20 per animal", and yet, despite the fact that the third case of mad cow disease in the U.S. was discovered last week in Alabama, "larger meatpackers worry that insistence from Japanese buyers would force them to do testing and that a suspect result might scare consumers away from eating beef."
In short, we test one of every 100 cows, we threaten companies who want to do more testing than this with criminal prosecution, and we worry about the effect of a "suspect" test on "large meatpackers."
So who's the Ag Department concerned about, large meatpackers or consumers? When you threaten to criminally prosecute a meatpacker that wants to follow consumer demands, it's hard to claim you're pro-consumer.
It sounds to me like when Mike Johanns had to choose between protecting consumers or protecting meatpackers against possible "suspect" tests, he chose the meatpackers. Risking the spread of mad cow disease to stave off a possible scare that hurts meatpackers is bad public policy.
Maybe I won't stop and pickup that hamburger on the way home...