The news this morning brings another horror stabbing story. What are we going to do? Most victims and perpetrators are young men; most stabbings are drug or alcohol related. I think that we need to turn this problem on its head by concentrating solely on how to keep our streets safe and then how to educate and intervene with the addiction problems. Lets first identify and tackle the real threats instead of (mataphorically speaking) throwing the whole problem at the wall hoping some of the mud will stick. I know that this is all very complex but I believe that it has to be addressed.
So, what doesn’t work? Stop and search is a complete waste of police resources and does nothing to keep our streets safe. Knives are freely available. They simply go and get another one.
Filling our prisons with “criminals”? who have committed petty crimes to feed their drug habit or whilst under the influence of alcohol doesn’t work either. They hit the streets again and the merry-go-round continues. But worse than that, they take up precious prison space that should be used for the real threats to society. The Canadian Foundation for Drug Policy states “….prisons are filled with drug "offenders", many with no other crime than simple possession of drugs for personal use. Scarce resources better spent on health, education and economic development are used on ever more expensive supply-reduction efforts. Sensible proposals to reduce drug-related crime, disease and death are abandoned in favour of proposals for "drug-free" societies, inhuman and unattainable though they may be”.
So, what do we do now? It is obviously complex and needs to be attacked on several fronts with joined up writing and there, in my humble opinion, lies the problem. The real experts in the field are not given credence because they don’t have “3rd tier learning”. I’m talking about the addicts and alcoholics who have successfully recovered and are willing to pass on the knowledge.
The Swiss philosopher Jeanne Hersch wrote. “Man has the right to make decisions. Drugs reduce this right of free choice. Drugs are the negation of human rights because they deny that permission to take them comes in the final analysis not from the doctor but from one’s own conscience. Because man can decide in a responsible manner, he has the duty to do so. Because he is capable of making decisions, he must do so. We cannot escape this obligation. This correlation between ability and duty to decide has existed since the day man was first created.”
Recovering addicts and alcoholics know this to be true. They also know how and when to intervene to help others by passing on their own experiences. This is not rocket science.
In the meantime how do we keep our streets safe? In our small market town there are a small percentage of nutters who could be considered dangerous and a menace to society, especially when they have been drinking and are known to the police. The rest of the drongoes are “wannabes”. So let's start with the nutters.
Make prison a harsher punishment and a deterrent to the real threats to society i.e. the small percent of really dangerous individuals, drug dealers and drug barons who, as I have already said, are well known to the police.
Remove drug abuse from the criminal justice system and treat it as a medical problem with registered addicts and, as used to be in the 1960’s, prescribed drugs, the same as someone suffering from Bipolar Disorder gets medication. But, you say, addiction is a self-inflicted condition. Is it though? Addiction is a little more complex than that. Why is it that I can drink without any ill effects, but some people can’t? Does that make me a better person then them? I don't think so. I don’t believe that anyone sets out to be an addict. I have a background knowledge in this because I know many, many people in 12 step programmes, including myself.
Make it more attractive for drug addicts to go to the medical people for clean, free supplies rather than resort to stealing etc. Without the addict stealing to feed the habit we immediately clean up our streets, Class A drugs cease to be a gold mine for criminals, police resources are freed up to be utilised more effectively and prisons would not be full of petty criminals. I know that this is an oversimplification, life is not black and white and there will always be drug related crimes, but I'm talking about improvements here, not total answers.
Currently resourses are being committed to ineffective policing and maintaining government agencies who demand the addict be drug free BEFORE they are able or willing to intervene and will drop the addict when they invariably test positive or miss an appointment. What a waste of money. Addicts need help spontaniously, not by appoitment. Addicts are not compliant individuals and will not respond to a regime. Rather than demand permanent absention from all addicts they should try to make inroads with the few willing and able to abstain immediately directing them to the free self help groups such as AA and NA for continued support. Also educate, keep track of and eventually offer the hand of help to the few that will eventually "get the message". In the meantim let's simply keep society safe.
I know that this is a contentious issue but don't get me wrong, I am NOT saying go easy on addicts. I AM saying let's make it a top priority to make our streets safe again.
And on a more personal note OG started chemo on Thursday and so far, so good. No unduly bad side effects. He has another session next Thursday and then a week off. If he can tolerate it this regime will continue for 12 weeks. Fingers and everything crossed.