I have worked in the criminal justice system since 1997, mostly as a public defender, I have also prosecuted, and I have even been a defendant.
I have 3 issues with your Cocaine Town article. The 1st issue is some notion that drug use among arrested men is in any way under reported. If anything, the opposite is true. There are certainly more functional users working office jobs, holding down professional careers, or living of their well heeled families that many people probably think.
The 2nd issue is treatment, which I take as court ordered addiction counseling with the threat of jail for relapse, is going to reduce crime. It is true that most of the people who do burglaries, rob people at gunpoint, and commit murder use drugs. It, however, is not the drugs that are at the heart of the problem. Drug use, profound drug use and drug sales, and the resulting crime are a symptom. I am not against treatment courts. In fact I think they're great for some people. The fact is that most of my clients can't do treatment court. They can't comprehend the program let alone show up. This leads into the 3rd issue.
Most of people arrested are at the bottom rung of the financial ladder and have been raised from that position as have their parents and grandparents. Your article makes short shrift of this. The most common traits amongst the real criminal element, as it is unfortunately, are an absence of education and an inability to function as an adult in society. My clients can't hold a job, can't raise children, and can't interact with the world in a way that most readers of your newspaper would attribute to anyone older than 13. By the time someone has done a 5th burglary (or 1st armed robbery) addiction counseling is a non-issue. Real treatment and a real solution to these problems happens much earlier and involves providing a quality education across the board, providing real health care including mental health care, and making DFCS into a true child protection agency. The playing field is not level. Using the criminal system to address the social problem that a rapper eloquently described perpetuates the problem. Check out rapper Alley Boy's new mixtape, the name mixes the n-word with Illuminati. The introduction pulls from Malcolm X. We've created a real underclass and labeling them felons for smoking crack perpetuates it. The notion that we should be better to each other and put our money where are all to eagerly condescending mouths are is not popular and won't win any elections. It's just easier to blame crack and say that people are making real decision about their lives and that it's all their fault. While the real blame is at our own selfish and self-serving feet, we nevertheless have the capacity and ability to solve the problem if we so choose. I hope we do. Your article, as the rappers say, just doesn't keep it sufficiently street for my taste. We all have a stake in what's in the street and we can do something for the streets if we choose.
Creative Loafing Atlanta
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