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Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) - Yates vs. New Hampshire - Yates Personal Story

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© Terence T. Gorski, 2001

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AA Court Decision
Yates v. The State of New Hampshire
Yates Personal Story

used with permission from the
Journal of Rational Recovery,
September-October, 1998, Volume 11, Issue 1

Background and summary of events.

1993 I was sentenced to a term of 5 to 10 years for retaining stolen property. The court recommended "Drug & Alcohol Treatment & Counseling." Once incarcerated, New Hampshire State Prison required me to do [the] "Educational Substance Abuse Program," which was based entirely upon [the] 12-step philosophy. The prison also recommended "self-help meetings," meaning AA & NA. From the beginning, I was deceived with the voluntary versus mandatory nature of 12-step programming.

1994 I discovered Rational Recovery and used Addictive Voice Recognition Technique (AVRT) to address my addictions, and I recovered from a 20-year battle with drugs ranging from alcohol to heroin. This was after many years of 12-step meetings and treatment programs.

1996 I attempted to present my recovery to prison officials, along with my exemplary behavioral record, citing Rational Recovery as the basis for my transformation into a recovered addict. I was informed that my "do nothing recovery" will not be recognized by prison officials, and that I "must" complete [the] 12-step programs before being considered for release.

I then contacted Jack & Lois Trimpey and explained my plight. They showed genuine concern and informed me that I was not alone in my battle, because thousands of other prisoners, as well as citizens in the "free world," were being denied privileges for not practicing the 12-step religion of Alcoholics Anonymous. I committed myself to fighting for my right to be free of forced 12-step religion, as well as to fight for [my right to use] Rational Recovery, which is the only means that has ever worked in ending my 20 year battle with addictions. With RR, it is obvious that I have no need for addiction treatment or recovery groups, because I am not addicted to any substance.

1997 After spending months familiarizing myself with every published court decision regarding forced 12-step programming, I filed for a well-deserved suspension of my sentence, citing legal decisions in support of my request. New Hampshire Superior Court Justice, Kathleen A. McGuire, Merrimack County, denied my request. She stated: "Regardless of the merits of [the] Rational Recovery program, [the] defendant must complete [the] Summit House [program] before the Court will consider any modification of defendant's sentence." (Summit House is a one-year 12-step indoctrination program, which prison systems specialist Daniel Lennon described as being based on the principles of AA.)

While these denials and rejections were being levied against me, I tried my best to assure my 9-year-old daughter (whom I love with all my heart) that I hadn't done anything wrong to interfere with my release. It rips my heart out when I'm absent from my family during holidays, birthdays, dance recitals, grade school graduations, plays, and all other days. My stand to defend my rights has been difficult, with heartache from knowing I am placing my values between myself and my family and friends. I began to wonder if I should give in to the prison's demands and submit to Alcoholics Anonymous.

1998 After almost 2 years of resisting the humble program of coercion, Alcoholics Anonymous, I was at wit's end. As a last resort I decided to put my remaining faith into the United States District Court of New Hampshire, by filing a civil rights complaint under Title 42 U.S.C. sec. 1983. The conflict accelerated.

To an extent which I'm sure I still don't fully comprehend, Jack and Lois Trimpey took up my cause and found time in their busy schedules to write to prison officials, government agencies, judges, and to the governor and attorney general of New Hampshire, all on my behalf. They also publicized my situation in The Journal of Rational Recovery. In addition, they accepted many expensive collect calls from me, the costs of sending certified mail and FedEx items to many parties, the cost of sending me RR literature, and the cost of telephoning New Hampshire officials, newspapers, and radio stations. Their energy and generosity [are] amazing.

As the preliminary matters of my civil suit materialized, prison officials began to apply pressure. My mail from RR and other supporters somehow "got lost," and my legal materials somehow "got misplaced." I was squeaky clean at all times, never breaking even the tiniest regulation of prison life.

Suddenly one day, as my case moved forward and more attention was focused on my complaint, I was taken in handcuffs to the maximum security unit, and then transferred to another facility. These events were fully reported in JRR, and even posted on the Internet. Before leaving the prison (and upon entering the new facility) I was warned not to assist anyone with their legal matters, or I'd be sent back to maximum security.

After hours of scrutinizing published legal decisions, I was convinced that the number one legal expert in the area of forced 12-step participation is an attorney from New York, Robert N. Isseks. I had fantasized about being represented by Mr. Isseks many times, so I was wonderfully surprised when I learned that Jack Trimpey was acquainted with him, and would attempt to have him represent me in federal court. To my astonishment, Mr. Isseks and his law Wrm agreed to come to New Hampshire and pursue my civil action against prison officials. The proverbial "light at the end of the tunnel" began to penetrate years of darkness.

On August 20th, 1998, at 9:30 am, I went in front of Judge McGuire once more, seeking a (well-deserved) sentence suspension. Denied! At 10:30 a.m., I went before the New Hampshire Parole Board. I explained to the parole board (as I had done for two years to other prison officials) that I have thoroughly addressed my previous issues with addiction using Rational Recovery, and that I do not need AA, nor will I attend AA. They made it clear that they knew that I refuse to practice any type of 12-step religion.

Finally, they granted me parole! As a part of my parole conditions, they edited the standard condition list (which has remained the same for many years) and inserted that I am to use Rational Recovery to continue my recovery, in lieu of AA & NA! To my knowledge, this was a first in New Hampshire.

After becoming eligible for early release, I was discriminated against by members of Alcoholics Anonymous in public employment. As a result of this prison administration's intransigence, I have lost valuable years that should have been spent building a new life. Therefore, I will continue to pursue my civil action, with the professional assistance of Attorney Isseks and Jack & Lois Trimpey, until those who have violated my Constitutional rights are punished, and prevented from ever forcing the religious 12-step program of Alcoholics Anonymous upon prison inmates.

I thank everyone who has supported me in this matter, particularly those who sent me letters and email through Rational Recovery. This experience has restored some of my faith in our country and its people. We have been losing many Constitutional rights with each passing year, and it's time to stand up for ourselves! My/Our/Your fight to be free of 12-step religion is far from being over. However, the Trimpeys, Mr. Isseks, and a few others have helped me to pry the door open, making the fight a little easier for others.


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