Services, not prison, the answer to getting at root causes of addiction problem – Arizona Capitol Times – Arizona News

Services, not prison, the answer to getting at root causes of addiction problem – Arizona Capitol Times – Arizona News

 

After spending 25 years in law enforcement as a sheriff’s deputy, a sergeant, and a federal security adviser, reading the new American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) report on Arizona drug sentences brought some painful memories back. Working in Gila County at the height of the crystal meth epidemic, I dealt daily with people committing crimes because of their addiction, putting officers and even their own mothers in danger. The report provides concrete evidence that cycling Arizonans through jails doesn’t stop them from using drugs. In order to make communities safer, we need to invest in programs that truly hold people accountable and tackle the root causes of their addiction.

Terry Blevins

Terry Blevins

I still remember one of my calls that impacted me most and really highlighted the problems with drug prohibition. I responded to a call from a mother whose son stole cash out of her wallet to buy crystal meth. I pulled into her trailer park to find a shirtless man I’ll call Mark, with visible ribs, crystal meth sores covering his chest and arms, wearing jean shorts that used to fit but were now held up by an awkwardly cinched belt. I asked Mark how he could steal from his own mother, and he broke down crying. Mark confessed that he’d done things he was terribly ashamed of to buy meth and that he had tried and failed to get into local treatment centers. He begged me to help him find a treatment bed, but I didn’t have any tools to help – I had no choice but to arrest him. This happened dozens of times throughout my career, and I wasn’t the only officer watching the revolving door turn. This new report shows almost half of all drug offenders in…

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