Barry A. Hazle Jr. was in prison for drug possession until February of 2007 when he was paroled.
Part of his parole included mandatory attendance at a drug treatment program.
That program involved the 12-Step method used most commonly by Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous.
Hazle wanted no part of that, so he asked to be reassigned to a secular treatment program. Three days later, he “was called out of a program class and arrested for violating parole… He was sent back to prison for four months.”
He is now suing California corrections officials for forcing him to attend these religious meetings:
The 12-step program required “acknowledgment of the existence of a supernatural God, … deference to a monotheistic ‘higher power,’ and participation in prayer,” the suit alleges.
Hazle says he asked to be reassigned to a secular recovery program and finally delivered a written appeal to his parole officer, Mitch Crofoot. But, he says, Crofoot told him “all of the programs in Northern California are 12-step programs.”
Three days after Crofoot received the appeal, Hazle was called out of a program class and arrested for violating parole, the suit alleges. He was sent back to prison for four months.
He “was jailed for standing up for his constitutional rights, plain and simple,” said Hazle’s lawyer, John Heller, of San Francisco.
Hazle is right and this should be a quick victory. The 9th Circuit Court declared this last year:
“… requiring a parolee to attend religion-based treatment programs violates the First Amendment… While we in no way denigrate the fine work of (Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous), attendance in their programs may not be coerced by the state.”
There are many secular alternatives to the 12-Step Method that don’t require submission to a higher power. It’s surprising that California wouldn’t offer any other option.