Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Important treatment, progressive sanctions bill clears Senate, plus bad homeland security bill

Good News: SB 1909 (described earlier here and here) has passed the full Senate and is headed over to the House. The Texas Criminal Justice Coalition sent out an email alert commemorating the milestone and describing the version of the legislation that passed the Senate:

SB 1909 by Senators Ellis, Carona, Deuell, Whitmire, Hinojosa, Hegar, Van de Putte, West- relating to providing smart and tailored treatment for non-dangerous drug-possession offenders - has passed the Senate floor on its third reading!

While incarcerated, drug offenders often receive little or no treatment to address substance abuse problems. As a result, many frequently return to drug use upon release, contributing to the State's high recidivism rate and, in turn, prison overcrowding.

What does SB 1909 do?

  • Halts the wasteful expenditure of millions of dollars each year on the incarceration and re-incarceration of non-violent drug users whose addiction can be effectively addressed through judge-ordered, tailored treatment. See savings produced by this bill. Note: These diversion savings would be used to fund drug treatment, outpatient programs, and drug courts. See Rider 73, Title V.
  • Provides tools for judges to address offenders' substance abuse treatment needs while allowing them the discretion to send those who they feel are not treatable to prison or jail.
  • Provides offenders an incentive to successfully complete treatment by allowing them to apply for non-disclosure of their record once they successfully complete treatment. Note: law enforcement, prosecutors, judges, and certification boards would still have access to the record.
  • Allows judges to use progressive sanctions for probationers and parolees who they feel are amenable to treatment.
  • This bill would not apply to violent or sexual offenders.
In addition, the Senate also passed SB 11 by Carona, an overreaching homeland security bill whose companion HB 3642 was heard this week in House Defense Affairs (analyzed by Grits here). Let's hope the House will look on the unncessary expansions of secrecy and law enforcement power in the legislation with a more jaundiced eye than the Senate. UPDATE: See Houston Chronicle and Dallas News coverage of SB 11.


Anonymous said...

"...non-dangerous drug-possession offenders..."

We need to change some laws.

"Non-dangerous" people, seems to me, shouldn't be arrested and dragged through the "Justice" system machinery and being jailed, assessed endless fees, fined, denied education, punished, and marginalized the rest of their lives.

Aren't these "non-dangerous" people being abused by the system?

Aren't they taking up expensive space and time that would be better used to slow down or stop the effects and acts of the truly "dangerous"?

Anonymous said...

"...the discretion to send those who they feel are not treatable to prison or jail."

Not treatable? Forced "treatment" by the government? I know. They actually "own" us, and we are just cajoled into thinking we are independent and free individuals. Knowing it doesn't make me think it's right, though.

"Treatment" insinuates there's an illness. If their is an "illness", addiction, isn't it wrong to put them in cages just because they are deemed incurable?

Aren't the "treatment professionals" really just "treating" that person's free will? Getting rid of it? Making them step in line with the other staying in their line, clone worker bees to keep the corporate profit margin up where they want it?

All too much, this reminds me of the old Soviet Union "Re-education" camps.

And another alarming aspect of too many so called "treatments" just means that they are taking their drug of choice away from those people and replacing it with a "legal" pharmeceutically profitable drug. Something seems "off" about that.

I hope this is progress. I really do.

Anonymous said...

The science and profession of treatment for addiction has come a long way. It also has a very long way to go.

An important first step would be to make a clear distinction between criminal acts, the use of drugs and disease.

Money now used for incarceration is better re-directed toward research in the science of psychiatry. Successful treatments that don't rob people of their freedom are bound to follow.

Anonymous said...

Amen to treating persons who have drug addictions. They deserve medical care and are usually suffering from depression and generalized anxiety, which is a physical disease and not a mental problem.

They do not deserve to be locked up, they need treatment but our government has taken away too much money from the doctors and treatment facilites for them to give treatment to those who really need it. It is almost impossible to obtain treatment unless you have a very supportive family who can pay for the treatments.

Our whole country's view of drug adiction has been told over and over how bad a person is who has a drug habit and this is generally not true. Those who have drug habits need help and not incarceration and are not criminals. The US government just declared alcoholism, drug use as illnesses and now, Texas put forth the money to help and stop incarcerating those who want and need help. Men have a hard time saying they are depressed, it is not a macho thing to admit which is also a stigma. Diabetes is a disease which requires a special drug to treat and depression and anxiety are the same, an illness where the brain does not produce the chemicals needed to function properly. Wake up and listen to those who have the health knowledge and not the judges and DAs and lawyers who only are out to make themselves look tough and get re-elected. We have become a greedy nation and may the Lord forgive us for not helping our brothers and sisters who are crying out for help.