Letters for September 16, 2004

Why not find treatment that works?

Re “Behind the prop” by Stephen James (SN&R Cover, September 2):Good start, Mr. James. Yes, Proposition 36 is a dismal failure, and the well-meaning citizens have been duped, but I would like to see a follow-up story on the failure of drug and alcohol treatment.

Addiction treatment has a very low success rate at all levels, whether through the government-funded facility or the higher-priced places like the Betty Ford Center. With few exceptions, the standard treatment employs the 12-step process and therapy. Mr. James quoted a 10-percent success rate. Of course, with the better programs, the success rate does go up, but not nearly as much as it should.

Failure to stay clean and sober is blamed on the patient: “He wasn’t ready” or “She just hasn’t hit her bottom yet.” In the treatment of no other disease does the patient routinely get blamed when treatment fails. In this disease, the addict is put through the same treatment over and over again, wasting money and lowering the individuals’ self-esteem a little more with each failure.

It is time for the drug-and-alcohol-treatment community to wake up and smell the coffee. What they need is more research. They need to be honest with the citizens of this state and admit that this 12-step thing is not working well enough. No matter how much money is pumped into our present rehab facilities, we are not going to help enough, because we are in the “dark ages” of treatment.

Michele Hendricks
Penn Valley

Stakeholders prop up Prop 36’s tent

Re “Behind the prop” by Stephen James (SN&R Cover, September 2):

At the Drug Policy Alliance, we take our role as watchdog of Proposition 36 very seriously. We consider ourselves the defenders of the public’s intent, which was to divert nonviolent drug-possession offenders into drug treatment and away from cruel and costly incarceration.

We did not agree with the false accusations and innuendos made in the article proclaiming Proposition 36 as a failure. We have done our homework. In the last few months, we interviewed more than 70 individuals charged with implementing Proposition 36 in 11 counties. The consensus of probation officers, parole officers, judges, drug-treatment professionals and public defenders is that Proposition 36 will save lives and save taxpayer dollars by helping thousands end the cycle of addiction and arrest. Only prosecutors who miss the hammer of the slammer disagreed.

The only major concern that many stakeholders share, including Drug Policy Alliance, is that we need more money focused on treatment to ensure that severely addicted adults are provided the type of treatment they need.

Regarding your contention that African-Americans are being discriminated against under Proposition 36: It is not a function of the initiative and could be explained only by the practice of the office of District Attorney Jan Scully. Any time an adult is convicted of possession of a controlled substance for the first or second time, be it crack or powder cocaine, methamphetamine or heroin, he or she is to be offered diversion to drug treatment. If the district attorney’s office is colluding to overcharge African-American defendants, that is its sin—not ours and not the voters.

Even with all the mud your writer slung, any intelligent observer will realize that Proposition 36 beats the hell out of the alternative, which is leaving addicts to the streets, to the dealers and to the prison system.

Glenn Backes
director of health policy, Drug Policy Alliance

More Prop questions than answers

Re “Behind the prop” by Stephen James (SN&R Cover, September 2):

I was promised a peek into the circus tent of Proposition 36’s failures, but I kept noticing that all the questions that could be raised were carefully skirted by the artful way his logic was draped over the framework of adroitly selected facts. With so many places the camel of logical analysis could stick his nose in this tent, it will soon fall.

What proportion of the new and “terrible” crimes of Proposition 36 dropouts are just relapses, nonviolent property crimes or scams? Or probation/parole violations (which are about as easy to get as special attention from airport security)?

How many drug felonies are nonviolent? Where are the peer-reviewed data on particular drugs and the use of physical force? Are rap sheets really a valid measure of addiction? What does the full Proposition 36 treatment program offer, exactly? Are there enough good programs? Are there enough good substance-abuse therapists?

The same day this rant appeared, the cops at the Cops & Coffeeklatsch in Oak Park acknowledged that law enforcement cannot really affect the social forces behind drug use and prostitution; for real change, we must start thinking outside the box. Why do people do drugs? Why do we spend so much time, energy and tax money punishing other consenting adults for doing things we don’t approve of? Why are we putting up with a system based on bad science: bad statistics, bad psychology and bad medicine?

I think both Mr. James and SN&R should seek help for a common journalistic addiction—conspiring on yellow screeds to sell papers.

Muriel Strand

Stewart’s a name-caller …

Re “Victim recitation” by Jill Stewart (SN&R Capitol punishment, September 2):

Let’s start with the facts: Stewart asserts that anti-reformists are attempting to “implement lower public-school standards in math, science, reading and English.” Those standards are readily available online and have not been lowered in years.

Second, Stewart says the governor “has agreed to dumbed-down science books.” What she fails to point out is that the content of those science books was not changed, just the incomprehensible vocabulary. Kids can now actually understand the texts and grasp the important concepts.

Third, who are these people that Stewart alleges believe that school is for “insulating” kids from “such unpleasantness” as algebra? In fact, in the last several years, algebra has become a bigger focus because of the California High School Exit Exam. And the idea that math teachers are completely untrained in mathematics is laughable. At least in secondary education, all teachers must be “highly qualified,” which in most cases means that teachers have at least a bachelor’s degree in the subject, not to mention a teaching credential and several years of experience.

The whole article was full of name-calling and pejorative and emotionally charged language, but it was reprehensibly short on facts. Perhaps next time, Stewart could try to include what the actual issues are, like just what standards we’re discussing, what the changes to the science books were, and exactly what concessions [Assemblywoman Jackie] Goldberg is asking for in terms of mathematics.

I honestly don’t even know what side of the reform issue I’m on, because Stewart never tells her readers what the issues are. Come on, SN&R, I’ve been a loyal reader since I was in 10th grade, and this is one of the yellowest pieces of journalism I’ve seen.

Kara Synhorst

… and too accurate

Re “Victim recitation” by Jill Stewart (SN&R Capitol punishment, September 2):

I feel it is high time you dig up the courage to fire your writer, Jill Stewart. She has committed numerable sins. Her latest crime against humanity is this article.

After years of reading SN&R, I find it completely unacceptable for articles that are clear and to the point to be printed in your wonderful paper. Not only does she dare to write plainly and logically, but she has the audacity to offer names, dates and places—not some kind of politically bought-off tripe. She ought to be ashamed of herself.

Where is her loyalty to obfuscation and confusion? Where is her responsibility to color the truth with her opinion? Where is her social (politically correct) propaganda, in this age of “Democrats know best”? I am just sick of her.

Dennis G. Diede

For crying out loud, buy a stamp!

Re “Not-so-candid camera” (SN&R Guest comment, September 2):

I felt compelled to respond to the article in which the author relates her difficulty in mailing a “simple letter” after not being allowed into the post office because of security concerns about her camera cell phone.

Common sense can do much to lower the frustration felt by the author. Solution No. 1? Don’t go to the post office. It’s no secret that stamps are sold at grocery stores. Maybe SN&R should put out a special edition devoted to the various ways you can buy stamps: online, by phone, by mail, etc.

Here is the choice we face: Either find ways to live with the new requirements of homeland security (see stamp idea above), or reduce security and hope that 9/11 does happen again.

We are a nation of self-starters and resourceful people. Is it too much to ask to think ahead and buy a stamp, rather than complaining about the system?

Craig Scott
via e-mail


Re: “Global preservation” by Chrisanne Beckner (SN&R News, September 2)

Contrary to the story, the city of Sacramento has not yet officially awarded a contract to Globe Mills Investors, and it will not do so until the city and the developers come to terms on the overall financing of the project.