Punishment doesn't work for people who are sufferring
from addiction and mental health problems. Those who continue to
use this well intentioned but misguided solution are guilty of
practicing Get Tough - Be Dumb politics by using punishment
approaches that don't work. Examples of the the horrendous
failures of the Get Tough Be Dumb punishment-oriented polices to
non-violent alcohol and drug offenders are not hard to find.
Hopefully awareness of these failures in public policy will prompt our political
leadership to consider an approach that works - a Public
Health Addiction Policy.
Punishment Does Not Work
For People With Addiction & Mental Health Problems
The Story of Dennis Sevon
Below is a story of a man named
Dennis T. Sevon who was arrested for burglary in Spring Hill, Florida <Read
Story>. Sevon has a long history of alcohol-related non-violent crimes which
date back to 1990 . The courts tried just about every form of
punishment ranging from probation, to home detention, to
imprisonment. They tried just about everything except the one
thing that would have worked, referring Mr. Devon for treatment for his
Even at this late stage in Mr. Sevon's alcoholism, the odds are at
least fifty-fifty that he could come become a sober and employed citizen
after receiving about $10,000 worth of treatment over a period of two
years. The state has already spent over $75,000 punishing the man
and it hasn't worked. Maybe our get tough policy should
also get smart and start trying something that works.
The Story of the Galloway Brothers
Below is also a story about the the Galloway Brothers. <Read
Story> Brothers Paul D. Galloway, 18 and Matthew A.
Galloway, 16, were arrested Sept. 5, 2002. A mother had
called 911 when she saw the two boys talking on a telephone that her son
had passed to them outside of his bedroom window. One of the boys
was holding a gun. When the police arrived the boys were found
hiding in the bushes and were arrested without incident.
The police found two guns nearby which the Galloway brothers told the
police they had stolen from an unoccupied home near by. They were
calling another friend they knew to see if they could trade the weapons
for drugs. When deputies checked the house where the pistols had
been stolen, the owner wasn't home and wasn't aware that he had been
For this fiasco, Paul Galloway faces a mandatory minimum prison
sentence of 10 years under Florida's "10 - 20 -Life policy" if
convicted. This would cost the state over $250,000, destroy any
chance of Paul Galloway having the life of a productive citizen, and
probably create an angry and bitter criminal recidivist with an
untreated drug problem.
The public defender wants an alternative sentence involving drug
treatment which would cost the state about $10,000 over two years and
have a seventy percent chance of returning Galloway to the community as
a productive citizen.
The decision is currently in the hands of Judge Tombrink. Let's
hope he makes the right and the sensible decision.
Matthew Galloway was arrested on charges of armed residential
burglary and grand theft. He was lodged in the juvenile detention
facility in Ocala, pending juvenile court action. The juvenile
court will face a similar decision - punishment (get tough be dumb) or
court supervised treatment (get tough be smart).
Public Health Addiction Policy
Our nation, states, and counties are condemned to spend billions of
dollars on futilely trying to punish addicted and mentally ill
people. Its a failed strategy that has not, cannot, and will not
work. But we keep trying in the vain belief that getting tough on
people with addiction and mental illness will somehow solve a difficult
health care policy.
The solution is clear and proven - adopt a Public
Health Addiction Policy that coordinates treatment of addicted
and mentally ill people with the criminal justice program through drug
and mental health courts.