Look in the mirror of our justice system | Marion County Record

Look in the mirror of our justice system


Dawn Herbel

Brenda Phillips

Take a long hard look at the faces on the right. When you close your eyes and imagine what people imprisoned on suspicion of drug crimes look like, it’s not the faces that come to mind, but they are among the first three that appear on a list of people. currently incarcerated from Marion County. drug suspects.

The two women come from different social strata. One of them operated a series of businesses in downtown Marion, including nothing less stuffy and established than a tax preparation business. The other lives in a house less than 900 square feet, valued at just $16,200, on which property taxes have not been paid for four years, but where drug arrests have occurred far more often than tax payments, even before she bought the house.

Regardless of their differences, the two women, aged 60 and 64, share a tragic trait. They are not sitting in a retirement community or a center for the elderly, but in prison cells normally occupied by much younger inmates, usually men.

Clearly, our justice and social support system has been much less successful in defending our community against the plague of methamphetamines than Ukrainian citizens have been able to defend themselves against Russian military aggression.

Both may seem like hopeless battles, but unlike Ukrainians, we sometimes act like we’ve given up.

No one can cure an addict, of course, unless the addict himself wants to be cured, but we can and must eliminate as many temptations as possible and focus more on tough love than on the favorable round of negotiations. of repeated and broken pleas. probations.

Watch the story of one of the current inmates. Charged with drug possession 14 months ago, she ended up on probation. Methamphetamine was reportedly found in her home six months later, but she was not charged at the time due to health issues. She was then charged a month later and another batch of drug charges. Revocation of probation was requested. Instead, all of the charges were consolidated into one case last fall and negotiated down to a single offense, for which she was once again put on probation.

Insanity, as Albert Einstein said, is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results. This assumes, of course, that the outcomes sought by the justice system are the prevention of crime and the saving of lives, and not simply the removal of red tape from the offices of lawyers and judges.

Allowing long histories of tax delinquency, especially on substandard properties, is yet another way we as a society seem to give up. This plays out not only in one of these cases, but also in another, with the additional peculiarity that the property is not really suitable for human habitation and is always inhabited by people with a history of accusation of drug use.

As the Town of Marion finally seemed ready to act last month, this week the town administrator removed from the town council’s agenda a report indicating whether residents had left the premises within 14 days, as they were ordered to do.

Ask any neighbor whose gas has been siphoned or catalytic converter stolen. Ask the 76-year-old Hillsboro woman whose sleep was interrupted at 3 a.m. by a possibly drugged stranger who wanted water and a change of clothes. They will tell you that fixing the drug problem is much more urgent than rushing to endorse another dollar store.

Seizing distressed assets quickly and emphasizing tough love rather than paperwork-sparing plea negotiations would be a good first step.

We don’t want to demand more incarceration for people whose primary crime is an addictive mental health issue. Imprisoning drug addicts simply teaches them new, less legal ways to pay for their addiction. However, forced detoxification and counseling at the first signs of trouble, then unpleasant restrictions on their activities to encourage those who refuse help to accept it, would be a better first step.

Otherwise, our community is on the verge of becoming little more than the kind of drug dens that 19th century literature talks about. We have a Dickensian problem, and the only solution is to bring it out into the open, where we can all help solve it.

— ERIC MEYER