I was moved by the article, “Scott should follow N.J. and treat drug-addicted offenders,” published in the Orlando Sentinel on 24 August, 2012. Guest columnist, Julie Ebenstein is on the same page as I am.
She wrote how Gov. Chris Christie of N.J. “became the latest leader to publicly recognize that simply warehousing nonviolent drug offenders is a costly mistake.” The moral implications are worse.
I’m the mother of a prescription drug addict who was introduced to the Oxy-beast after a serious car injury. Before that, my boy was never in trouble.
I didn’t know how bad my son’s back was. Unbeknownst to me, he consulted injury lawyers. They referred him to pain clinics who prescribed Oxy’s, and hell began.
I convinced my son to see a top orthopedic surgeon and was shocked when he announced “he had never seen such a bad back in such a young man.”
Two major operations ensued. Each time, before being discharged, OxyContin was prescribed.
OxyContin has “a different metabolic impact on the brain” – NPR News.
“As a result, prolonged use and abuse of oxycodone medications eventually change the brain in such a way that a user cannot quit on his or her own,” – Center for Substance Abuse Research.
Keeping non-violent drug offenders behind bars rather than getting them the cure they need is a sin to me. It costs $20,000 annually to support a prison inmate. Those dollars would be better used to fund rehabilitative programs.
Many people believe as I do.
Jeb Bush said: “Prisons … serve a critical role by incapacitating dangerous offenders and career criminals but are not the solution for every type of offender. In some instances they have the unintended consequence of hardening non-violent, low risk offenders.”
Former President Carter stated, “I caution against filling our prisons with young people who are no threat to society. Penalties against possession of a drug should not be more damaging to an individual than the use of the drug itself.”
On Oct. 2, 2011, the Tampa Bay Times wrote: “One of every 10 inmates in the Florida prison system is behind bars for using drugs and only a fraction get help for their addiction. The rest languish, get out, reoffend to support their drug habit and are locked up again.” That’s what happened with my son.
In 2011 he was given probation for doctor shopping. I live on a fixed income. When my boy couldn’t pass a random drug test, we turned to the public defender’s office.
I tried contacting a public defender to ask that he plead for residential drug rehab. When I asked him in court if I could speak, he said, “It will do no good. This judge will see your son violated probation and will give him a mandatory prison sentence, period.”
At the same time, I was also writing to politicians.
I received this from Gov. Scott’s Office of Citizen’s Services: “Thank you for contacting Governor Rick Scott regarding your son’s drug addiction and prison sentencing … The governor understands the pain a prisoner’s family and friends endure and asked me to respond on his behalf. Governor Scott supports Florida’s requirement that persons who are sentenced for felonies serve at least 85 percent of their prison sentence before release. The governor believes that this law has served as a deterrent over the years, as we are now seeing Florida’s crime rate at an all time low ...”
The Right on Crime Coalition cites a different Florida statistic: “Over the past 13 years, the proportion of prisoners who were incarcerated for committing non-violent crimes rose by 189 percent. By contrast, the proportion of inmates who committed violent crimes dropped by 28 percent.”
I don’t believe the governor understands my pain. My injured addict is in a prison camp tamping down asphalt, instead of getting the treatment needed to reverse the long-term metabolic effect Oxys have had on his brain.
I, like Julie Ebenstein, question why Governor Scott vetoed Bill HB-177. Bill HB-177 was designed to send non-violent drug offenders to rehab. It had almost unanimous support.
I also received this from Senator Bill Nelson: “Thank you for contacting me concerning federal sentencing guidelines. As you may know, the Supreme Court ruled in U.S. v. Booker in 2005 that federal mandatory sentencing guides were unconstitutional and that federal judges should treat the guidelines as advisory rather than mandatory. The court’s ruling gives federal judges discretion on how to sentence offenders ...”
If I’d known about U.S. versus Booker before court, I could have countered the PD when he said my son would receive a “mandatory sentence.”
While Governor Christie has adjusted the sails of prison reform, our governor has missed the boat.
Great Scott, on the subject of over-criminalization, I think not.