Doctors and Policemen

Doctors and Policemen December 5, 2014

From now on whenever I do or say something awful to somebody I’m gonna tell them, “But it’s a form of therapy!”

Story #1, from last year: “To Stay Out of Jail, Must Nonviolent Offenders Submit to Medical Diagnoses?”

Last week, those favoring reductions in prison populations and their associated costs applauded Attorney General Eric Holder’s announcement that he’s seeking an end to mandatory minimum sentencing for nonviolent drug offenders. For administration critics who feel drug war reforms have been too long in coming, the news was a welcome sign that real ground is being gained during Obama’s presidency. Inside the administration, there’s clearly a sense of accomplishment. “It’s a really important shift,” says Raphael Lamaitre, Communications Director for the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP). “Substance abuse touches everybody, it’s the great equalizer. For years we’ve had too many people in prison and we haven’t been looking at why they’re there.”

But as the excitement over the mandatory minimum announcement cools, some public health and drug policy professionals are finding devils in the details of Holder’s statement. Specifically, critics are troubled by the latter parts of Holder’s address that highlight the requirement of mandatory court stipulated drug treatment as a requirement for nonviolent drug offenders to stay out of jail. Laura Thomas, deputy director for the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) in California, says, “It’s always good to have someone like Eric Holder talking about the counterproductive harms of over incarceration, that’s really fantastic. But there is a concern that putting people into coerced drug treatment is not a health based approach, it’s a criminal justice approach.”

more–I see no way using medical treatment as punishment could ever go wrong.

And your recent tale:

…For years, New Beginnings founder and CEO Tom Atchison has sent his unpaid homeless labor crews to Tampa Bay Rays, Lightning and Bucs games, the Daytona 500 and the Florida State Fair. For their shelter, he’s had homeless people work in construction, landscaping, telemarketing, moving, painting, even grant-writing.

Atchison calls it “work therapy.” Homeless advocates and labor lawyers call it exploitative, and possibly illegal. It is the latest questionable way Atchison has used homeless people, and public money, a Tampa Bay Times investigation has found. …

Atchison has worked homeless residents in an array of jobs to bring money to New Beginnings. He’s sent them to do construction, mow lawns, paint houses, move furniture. He started telemarketing and landscaping companies staffed by New Beginnings residents.

Around his church he’s had them answer phones, write grants and play alongside him in the church’s band. (Atchison plays trombone.)

“When they come in the program — this sounds a bit bad — they become our property to help us help them become new people,” said Anthony Raburn, a minister who works with Atchison. “There are expenses that go along with that.”

lots more (via Maia Szalavitz)

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