Saturday, April 05, 2008

Amarillo re-entry site rejected: If not in an industrial area, where could you place these facilities?

TDCJ is finding it more difficult than you might imagine to give away money. First NIMBYism killed a new treatment center in Austin (supposedly they're looking for a new location), and now another much-needed program has been delayed up in the Golden Spread. Jobsanger rightly condemns the city of Amarillo's rejection of a counseling and treatment facility in a light-industrial zoned area, declaring that the city commission:
let a small group of citizens scare them into doing a rather stupid thing last Tuesday.

The Aware Program, headed by Allen Graves, is a non-profit organization that does a lot of good in the Amarillo area. They do HIV counseling and testing, drug and alcohol counseling, operate a small food bank, run a GED program, and have a program to help juvenile offenders. They offer these services free of charge.

I know Allen and his excellent staff because they work with some of my clients. They are dedicated and competent people, who are willing to work long hours and go the extra mile to make sure their job is done right.

The program was trying to establish a live-in program which would house parolees and probationers who were being released from drug treatment (both prison and community-based programs). They would offer drug, emotional and job counseling to the clients and provide round-the-clock supervision.

The program is badly needed in the Amarillo area, which has very little in the way of aftercare programs. They had been promised a substantial grant from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (around $400,000), and all they needed was the approval of the city commission.

The situation seemed simple to those of us who understood the situation. These clients are going to come back to this area. They could come back under supervision and receive counseling and help, or they could be dumped back on our streets. The choice was a no-brainer.

But a small group of citizens thought they had a third choice. ... Rejecting the rehab program doesn't mean the clients won't come back here. They are from this area, and they're coming back whether the citizens and the city commission like it or not. Only now, they're going to come back without treatment, without counseling, without job training, and without supervision.

It doesn't take a genius to see that this makes our city a more dangerous place, not a less dangerous one.
Though the rejected treatment center in Austin was in a neighborhood near downtown, the Amarillo site was not, making it think it may be impossible to site new facilities in many communities if the Legislature doesn't act to break the NIMBYism logjam. A commenter at Jobsanger added that from the press coverage and debate over the facility, he was under the "impression it was in the middle of a neighborhood. Now that I went to and actually looked, other than outside the city limits, there's probably not any place any more appropriate."

When someone from Amarillo gets out of prison, they're not going to go somewhere else because the city won't let them have services. They're still going to go home. They'll just be more likely to get into trouble again, and wind up back in the criminal justice system. There's little sense to this decision, and a lot of harm caused.

Via Cat's Meow. See also coverage from the Amarillo Globe News and the Panhandle Truth Squad.


Anonymous said...

What amazes me across the country, a developer can come in to an area, spread some $ and be greeted with open arms. This is whether they destroy a local community, have negative environmental impact or harm a local economy. If Walmart was opening Halfway Houses, it wouldn't be a problem.

Anonymous said...

I had the opportunity to work in the legal field for several years. Not only do we not send addicts for treatment, rather than prison, when they get out we offer little help with regard to their addiction.

We instead place them on community supervision of some type, insist that they report, find a place to live, a job, make restitution payments - fines- fees - etc. When there are few businesses that will actually hire someone with a prior felony conviction. Many have their probation revoked for "not reporting". I agree that they should be overseen, but who wants to go tell someone weekly, "no I don't have a job", or "no I can't find a place to live", and then be told that if they don't comply they will be revoked. That'll be $200.00 please.

We set them up for failure every day.

It would be a great thing if more churches became involved in assisting the addicts with their recovery, but addiction isn't pretty. It's not like finding a cute little kid foster care. It's not like helping a family with groceries. Not that these aren't much needed programs, but the facts are that we don't want to get our hands "dirty". And we certainly don't want to stick our necks out for anything that isn't a "sure thing". And sobriety, for an addict isn't always a "sure thing".

If you minister to the needs of the addict (counseling, job placement assistance, etc.) many of the other problems like not enough foster care and repeat offenders would start taking care of themselves.

It's terribly sad to me, that the government wants to give the money away and we are so worried about having "addicts" in our midst that we don't want the money and we certainly don't want to help them.

By the way, of those who voted, how many of you go home and have a couple of "cold ones" to unwind after a long day? How many of you have "drinks" with dinner and friends? Oh, I guess that's ok since your not using an illegal drug. It only becomes a problem if your picked up for drinking and driving.

We decide the degree of the "sin" - and I guess drug addiction is one of those that must be unforgiveable.