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Off to war?

What is our position in Libya? And where is the money coming from to finance our involvement in this non-war?

How about taking the 50 million dollars it costs the United States each day to be in Libya and redirect it to our wars at home? The war on poverty. The war on environmental pollution. The war on crime, and the untold collateral consequences to communities.

What about more aggressive investment in our crumbling infrastructure? Our educational institutions? The homeless?

If we are going to spend money we don’t have, at least spend it where we get the greatest return. In my opinion, investing in our country can never be a mistake. I recall the late 60′s-early 70′s when there were many community-based  corrections programs that worked tirelessly to rehabilitate felons. 

These programs helped make the transition from prison to community easier. It was done through therapy, education and employment. But then the focus shifted from rehabilitation to retribution or, as one judge affectionately referred to it, “just desserts.”

As an ex-felon who had many tours of Minnesota’s juvenile and adult “correctional” institutions, and benefited from participating in a  community-based program that resulted in a pardon and eventually becoming a criminal defense attorney, I hope that we, as a society, can find our way.

Dire economic conditions awaken Ohio Govenor to reality of non-violent offenders

Ohio Gov. Kasich, in an effort to grapple with Ohio’s economy, recently stated  during an interview his plan to release some non-violent offenders early from their prison sentence.

While there may be much to criticize in Kasich’s plan, his early release of non-violent felons is premised on two well-founded observations. First, most non-violent felons are housed with, and exposed to, extemely violent felons. Consequently, these non-violent felons return to society more bitter and frustrated than they were when entering prison.

Secondly, the cost of custodial containment in prison is significantly more expensive than confinement in a community-based program.

In addressing Ohio’s economic plight, Gov. Kasich’s early release of non-violent felons may have a salutory effect on Ohio: early reintegration of some of its citizens who have the opportunity to contribute to the economy and save Ohio.

Jobs for Ex-Offenders

There has been much discussion recently about Chicago Mayor Daley aggressively reaching out to unemployed felons. Wow!

It is indisbutable that most felons return to prison due to an inability to find stable, respectable work. This problem is only compounded by the irrefutable studies confirming what most reasonably intelligent people know: the vast majority of felons return to society.

It is not that Mayor Daley was the most enlightened public servant to recognize this phenomenon. Rather, he simply acknowledged the obvious. Felons, as all of us, are part of the essential fabric of society and recognize their concomitant responsibility to family and community.

And many of them, when given the opportunity, have become rehabilitated and are successful, contributing citizens.  They inspire the rest of us.

Charlie Sheen: Zone defense

As Charlie Sheen’s awkward and bizarre rantings are in full bloom-courtesy of the ever accommodating media-I’m left with the nagging issue of whether he is or is not in the midst of a psychotic breakdown fueled by drug abuse.

I don’t know if he is abusing drugs, but I recognize his behavior. No, I’m not a psychiatrist or a drug abuse interventionist. I am a criminal defense attorney who, as a teenager, wasted my years abusing most drugs-from herbs to chemicals and shoot -dope-punctuated by stints in juvenile and adult “correctional” facilities.

As I struggled to free myself from the shackles of chemical dependency, eventually completing a prison sentence followed by a govenor’s pardon and law school, I remember three incidents that I cannot forget. The first occurred while in prison at St.Cloud Reformatory for Men in St.Cloud, Mn. A person I’ll call Lenny approached my cell one day.  I’d known Lenny on the streets and we’d gotten high a few times together.

I’d noticed in the joint that Lenny was starting to act bizarre so I avoided him. One day I could not. As he approached my cell,  he looked up and down the galley and then said, “Hey, you got any speed?” I told him I didn’t do drugs anymore. He then said, “You ain’t got to do any or have any. Jus’ lemme touch your hand. I can get high from that!”

I simply dismissed Lenny as crazy and let it go.  Until it happened again. This time it occurred while I was attending the University of Minnesota working on my B.A. in political science. I had come out of prison through a community-based therapy program to attend college. While there I ran into an old partner who I had run with in the streets and had been locked down with  in the joint. Larry was going to the U of M as well, but now when I saw him his personality had changed dramatically. It was a warm summer day and Larry stood off the sidewalk, on the grass. He was wearing a judo uniform and his hair and beard were flowing down his shoulders.

When he saw me looking at him,  he asked how I was doing. “Fine,” I replied. He then asked if I wanted some energy to help me study.  I said no, believing he was referring to dope. He wasn’t. Instead, when I rejected the offer, he stated that he wanted me to reach to the sky with him and we could absorb the sun’s energy together.

The last encounter occurred when I bumped  into an old friend.  Michael had moved out of state, but now he was back. When I saw him, and after superficial talk,  he said to me, “Barry, you ever feel like you’re standing over there when you’re really standing over here?” He then  accused me of standing on his feet.  I abruptly ended the conversation and left Michael standing by himself.

All three persons  shared two traits. They all had been long-term drug abusers.  And  they tenaciously clung to their Zone where they had developed and nutured their alter ego-the hip, slick-talking , easy-go-lucky player living on the edge, while their loved ones died a little each day as they watched  him/her descend  into chaos and personal torment.

Intervention may or may not work. Charlie Sheen needs to get out of this Zone to survive. Hopefully, someone other than the media can reach him and he can wake up from what appears to be a drug-induced state.

Until someone connects  with Charlie Sheen, all one can do is wish him and his family well.

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