One of the greatest constitutional rights in this country is the right to free speech. That being said, along with that right, with any rights, come responsibilities as well.
The author, Judge John A. Bozza, has a negative view of drug courts. He had the same negative view in a 2008 article he wrote titled "A Crisis Waiting to Happen: What's Wrong with Pennsylvania Public Health Law." Some people focus on the negative, the problem, the "what's wrong." It seems Judge Bozza does not find any value in drug courts or mental health courts or the like.
Judge Bozza mentioned in his article that, "assuming these initiatives offer some advantages in managing criminal offenders ..." It is not the role of drug courts or mental health courts to "manage criminal offenders." It is to offer them help, treatment and support into a healthier more productive way of life.
MAYBE HE SHOULD talk to some of the people whose lives have been changed for the better because of these programs. That would be his responsibility that affords him his right to free speech.
I happen to be the mother of a recent graduate from our Augusta Judicial Circuit's drug court program. My son was one of the first ones to be picked for the program in 2008. So our program here is still very new and, yes, there are some things that are not perfect, as in all programs, offices, companies, government bodies, etc.
I will refer to parts of the Recovery Bill of Rights, which can be found at www.facesandvoicesofrecovery.org:
- We have the right to be viewed as capable of changing, growing and becoming positively connected to our community, no matter what we did in the past because of our addiction.
- We have the right -- as do our families and friends -- to know about the many pathways to recovery, the nature of addiction and the barriers to long-term recovery, all conveyed in ways that we can understand.
- We have the right to be considered as more than a statistic, stereotype, risk score, diagnosis, label or pathology unit, free from the social stigma that characterizes us as weak or morally flawed. If we relapse and begin treatment again, we should be treated with dignity and respect that welcomes our continued efforts to achieve long-term recovery.
- We have the right to be represented by informed policymakers who remove barriers to educational, housing and employment opportunities once we are no longer misusing alcohol or other drugs and are on the road to recovery.
- We have the right to treatment and recovery support in the criminal justice system and to regain our place and rights in society once we have served our sentences.
- We have the right to speak out publicly about our recovery to let others know that long-term recovery from addiction is a reality.
THE DRUG COURT program saved my son's life. It was the vehicle that finally drove him to the place of accepting what his life was going to be like if he didn't embrace the resources made available to him through this program to allow him to overcome his drug and alcohol addiction.
Drug court programs work. Do they work for everybody? No. Unfortunately, there is no one program that does work for everybody. Most alcoholics and addicts are just that -- alcoholics and addicts. Take away the addiction factor and they do not participate in criminal activity. Drug courts save taxpayers money because the taxpayers are not paying for offenders to be incarcerated.
It has been my experience that communities are willing to embrace responsibilities related to treatment and recovery, as there are many Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous and faith-based support meetings available in all communities. However, there needs to be higher levels of care available as well, and this is where it seems the lawmakers are failing the public.
ALCOHOLISM AND drug addiction has been an issue for decades, and lawmakers have refused to address it and to pass laws that promote treatment and recovery -- and now the issue has become an epidemic, and everyone wants to point fingers toward who should be responsible.
We all are responsible. We all are accountable.
I would invite Judge Bozza to spend some time in a drug court program for any length of time to see the struggles that need to be improved upon -- but more importantly to see the victories by the participants, the time spent by the staff, lawyers and prosecutors working with these people and encouraging them to succeed.
It shows the genuine caring for other human beings who are struggling, without focusing on a fiscal "bottom line," but where the focus is on a life.
(The writer, a Grovetown resident, is a certified addiction recovery empowerment specialist through the Georgia Council on Substance Abuse, and is the director of the Celebrate Recovery ministry at West Town Community Church in Evans.)