A young person died yesterday in Aroostook County. Not the first and I assure you not the last. As a parent who has lost a child, my heart dropped to me feet on hearing this. Every time it’s the same thing. Wherever someone dies due to addiction, there is a parent whose world is crushed, who begins the “life after.” Every day in our country 130 Americans die from drug related causes. That is 130 too many. That is 130 families dealing with immeasurable grief every single day.
I started these writings because I saw the issue in my home town, in my neighborhood and in my own family. I dove into the U.S. criminal justice system because it affected me personally. But the deeper I dig, the more furious I become. These are the things that outrage me now that I am paying attention.
In the 70’s we started this war on drugs under the premise that the best thing to do was lock up addicts and throw away the key.
In the 80’s the Reagan Administration instituted mandatory minimum sentencing for drug offenders. While simultaneously supporting the Contras in Central America in a war against the Nicaraguan government and an attempt to overthrow that government. The CIA flew weapons the the Contras and they in turn flew drugs into the U.S.
It’s been 50 years since this war started and now what we have is this:
- People on the streets, homeless, addicted and forgotten by society. Even in our tiny neighborhoods and ones just like it all over our country. People laugh, judge, and condemn these suffering people.
- There are no mental health resources to help addicts and if you’re lucky enough to want to get clean and sober before you die, you’re put on a waiting list. And yet we have no empathy. We place great empathy on those who might be on a list for a transplant, but not for a huge portion of society suffering addiction.
- There are currently 94,000 people in federal prison on some type of drug charge. Most sentenced under mandatory minimums of five or ten years, and sometimes more.
- Imprisoning the addicted costs our county $3.2 billion per year and that doesn’t account for all of those locked in state and county jails. Imagine what kind of help we could offer people with 3.2 billion.
- Most people arrested on federal drug charges are slapped with conspiracy charges which hold them accountable for all of the drugs that any associate of theirs had or sold. Thus triggering the maximum mandatory sentence.
- When contacting most legislators they say they agree and that something needs to be addressed, “Thank you,” click. That’s it. Nothing is changed.
My heart breaks for all of the families who will lose someone they love today. Rest assured that I am passionate about this fight. I am passionate about the person standing downtown with nothing to eat. Even if that means simply stopping my car and handing them a burger. I am passionate about the impact addiction has had on our country, our state, our community and perhaps even your house.
The laws are wrong and I will continue either until my last breath or something changes not only in our community but in our country.