Saturday, April 25, 2009

Proposition 36, Drug Court, Drug Diversion & Incarceration

The Substance Abuse and Crime Prevention Act, also known as Proposition 36, was passed by 61% of California voters on November 7, 2000.

This vote permanently changed state law to allow first- and second-time nonviolent, simple drug possession offenders the opportunity to receive substance abuse treatment instead of incarceration.

Proposition 36 went into effect on July 1, 2001, with $120 million for treatment services allocated annually for five years.

Proposition 36 allows for an alternative to incarceration by allowing a convicted drug offender to participate in rehabilitation program(s).

I believe that the offender is more challenged to provide themselves with their drug of self-perceived necessity than they would be if they were incarcerated due to the intense availability of drugs in our jails and prisons.

However, what warrants investigation into this hypothesis, is it’s actualized seriousness and cause for alarm, that our incarceration system is as crude as the cave man days for certain demographics of the incarcerated general population.

A spot light on this issue has a high probability of affecting positive change within Stanislaus County’s drug problem.

Right from the outset, this positive change would promote dialogue and spark many in the communities to contemplate our drug problem and it’s possible solutions. The collective consciousness of our communities would take the path of least resistance and naturally move closer to positive solutions which it would otherwise not have.

Certainly Proposition 36 is extremely effective for the drug addicted population that has been granted the opportunity of it’s services by the courts.

Good idea. NOT!! Because, you see, rather than calling it accountability - let’s call it accountabilities.

Let’s not count it as one accountability as most opponents of Proposition 36 would prefer you to believe, but rather several accountabilities.

1. The accountability of the offender.

2. The accountability of the treatment program(s).

3. The accountability of the courts.

4. The accountability of friends and family.

5. The accountability of the community.

Am I boring you? Are you tiring of this litany?

No? Maybe it’s starting to impact you that like a thief in the night, there is a part of the Proposition 36 cyclic process now, within our localized society that is missing an important step rendering the process incomplete. Always started, yet seldom finished, making for a low success rate, leaving drug addicts for the most part, on their own to re-offend for multiple, yet accountable reasons.

Thereby going through the process multiple times without recovery.

If applied with more discretion, the Proposition 36 cycle would have a better chance of completing itself with a desirable result – a recovered drug addict.

With the five things that I mentioned above onus is taken by a small percentage of anyone in the community. Kind of like the life boats vs. passenger “classes” of the Titanic tragedy, the largest percentage will be left to fall through the gaping hole of the most necessary piece of the entire cycle. That is accountability. Particularly when only one of the several things I mentioned are considered necessary to be accountable by the very process and attitude of the surrounding community – the drug offender him or herself. Just one of the five. Even that would be ineffective and in my opinion, as I see this cycle start only to continually start and re-start again with most of those that I am in constant contact with. For them, Proposition 36 is nothing more than a treadmill of limbo for the greater part of our drug addicted population.

One life event at a time. One process at a time. For Proposition 36 offenders this one process is all they are exposed to perpetually. Because of its public perception of effectiveness and accountability to the courts, there is no need to try anything further to assist in the individuals recovery from drug addiction. No accountability, no follow up. Limited if any outreach is the reality of this “good idea”.

Another similar program, not as extensively used since the advent of Proposition 36 is the California Drug Diversion program.

This program was sponsored by, among others, then-State Senator George Deukmejian, in order to provide a mechanism for diverting first-offenders from the criminal justice system.

Under P.C. 1000, individuals charged with various drug possession offenses could have all criminal charges against them dismissed, provided they agreed to participate in a drug education and/or treatment program.

Supported by liberals and conservatives alike, the drug diversion bill was signed into law by Governor Ronald Reagan in 1972.

Decades ago, I myself was blessed with this program as an alternative to incarceration. It worked for me, though I was one of three of a larger group of thirty individuals that even graduated under the threat of long – term incarceration.

I was the only one that got a gold star on my certificate of completion because I attended each and every one of the meetings.

I loved it. Over the six meetings, of which one only needed to attend four for qualification of the program’s fulfillment, all that was required was that each attendant listened to a lecture about a different classification of drugs each time.

I was absolutely thrilled to death to actually be asked by the program’s instructor to orate the final sixth lecture on the drug classification of hallucinogenic (marijuana, peyote, LSD and a host of other compounds that I added to the syllabus for the lecture on my own accord.)

In addition to the gold star on my certificate, all charges against me were dropped and the record of the arrest was sealed. I don’t ever have to inform anyone of the arrest or anything. It is just like it never happened. Well, until now.

All those that did not graduate were incarcerated, most for several years.

There was no drug testing involved throughout the entire process.

One guy was facing 30 years for possession of heroin for sale. Which could have meant that he just happened to have a very large quantity at the time for personal use.

He was so addicted and wrapped up in that addiction that he couldn’t even attend four out of the six lectures which were necessary to graduate the Drug Diversion program. He couldn’t save himself from spending the rest of his life in prison.

For me, my arrest and pending potential doom of incarceration were enough for me to quit drugs forever. Of course I was the only one not addicted to anything besides tobacco, but my drugs were of choice, not of self perceived necessity like heroin or meth addiction, like everyone but me that filled this particular Drug Diversion program.

Proposition 36 would have been just as affective for me, but not for the others. They would just continue to use drugs indefinitely including the other two graduates who did in fact continue to use drugs, even though in this particular instance, they were let go of their charges of drug offenses because they were able to attend four of the six session of the Drug Diversion program.

I was the only one that graduated out of the Drug Diversion program drug free. No more than a mere 3 percent success rate.

My experiences from that point on, throughout this present day has taught me that both Proposition 36 and Drug Diversion, as well as long term incarceration are ineffective in solving our drug problem.

Remember that man I told you about? Don’t think for one minute that if he is still serving and still alive, that he is not still shooting up heroin every day. Because, I can guarantee you he is, unless by some miracle he has been fortunate enough to either successfully complete a drug treatment program or was in the greater percentile to graduate from the Stanislaus County Drug Court.

For this poor soul, Drug Diversion was so much more devastating to this man’s life than Proposition 36 would ever have been. Though, of course, as I have said repeatedly, neither would have been effective for him to recover from his drug addiction.

In my ongoing work, I constantly deal with a population that can be classified into five distinct categories here in Stanislaus County:

1. Those that are in the Proposition 36 cyclic process.

2. Those that are in drug court.

3. Those that are facing long term incarceration.

4. Those that are not currently in the judicial system or a drug treatment program.

5. Those that are in a drug treatment program by their own accord or by the support/sponsorship of someone or some organization.

Of these five classifications, the most successful by far is Drug Court.

Though this statement is skewed by the severity of the fact that a significantly low percentage of Stanislaus County’s population of drug addicted individuals are granted the opportunity of the Drug Court Program. A percentage that has decreased exponentially since the implementation of the severely dysfunctional Proposition 36 process as well as the long term sentences of incarceration passed out like candy by conservative judges acting on misguided values that dictate harsh judicial deliberations for them without consideration of the drug offenders realistic future life – a life that is possible without the use of drugs. All stemming from the denial of the fact that drug addiction as a choice erodes as the addiction fully manifests itself to the point that after a series of bad decisions, it leaves the individual stranded and alone, generally, with no way of winning their battle with addiction. Just like the man I told you about that could not suffer through an hour and a half lecture once a week for no more than four of the six weeks of the Drug Diversion program to save himself from a 30 year period of incarceration.

I ask you - where is the freedom of choice here?

Unlike Proposition 36, Drug Court has the majority of its percentage of those five items of accountability that I previously mentioned:

1. The accountability of the offender.

2. The accountability of the treatment program(s).

3. The accountability of the courts.

4. The accountability of friends and family.

5. The accountability of the community.

Incarceration is but only one of several factors that contribute to Drug Court’s amazingly high success rate.

By insisting on the accountability of more than only one element of those five accountability factors, the success rate is remarkable and practically guaranteed in cases in which the offender truly desires to be free from his or her affliction of drug addiction.

But the slots available for Drug Court are minimal at best. A very small percentage of the drug addicted population of Stanislaus County are given this opportunity to redeem themselves and save their very own lives from the ravages of hard drugs.

And most certainly, these opportunities are not curtailed by Proposition 36 sentencing, because the slots are always full with a waiting list. So much so, that Proposition 36 or long term incarceration are not alternative sentencing based on a judges discretionary decision making of availability of all three options (Proposition 36, Drug court and long term incarceration), but rather due to Drug Court’s high expense and ever increasingly limited availability as a direct result in a recent economic downturn. Because of that, most of the drug addicted population of Stanislaus county either continue to use, whether incarcerated or not, or those that are not involved in the Proposition 36 process may seek out recover services on their own or via the motivation provided by church groups, other organizations, or someone like myself.

Those that enter recovery on their own have an extremely low success rate as well. It is extremely humanly difficult to rely on the strength of one’s own character when his or her very soul is held hostage by a demonic substance which controls their very thoughts.

Think about it. When was the last time you saw a self-performed exorcism? Perhaps it was the last time you saw someone overcome their addiction to drugs all by themselves without the help from anything outside of themselves. It is rare. Because the only choice they ever made about it were the few choices to do their drug of self perceived necessity the few times it took to reach their eventual point of no return – full addiction. They probably never saw it coming in the first place.

So there you have it. The three tools used by the Stanislaus County judicial system to treat drug offenders, as well as the two classifications of those that are not currently affected by the county’s Proposition 36 process, Drug Diversion or long term incarceration.

Respectively, also those that use addictive drugs on a daily basis and are not currently in recovery and those individual that are in recovery. Even divided further through a spectrum of usage of varying times per each individual on a case by case basis. Though so few seem to be interested in the details of a drug addicts horrible life.

Once of the clearest short term goals that must be realized is the necessity to increase the Drug Court program based on the educated conclusion that it is, by far, the most effective instrument we as the County of Stanislaus have at our disposal to remedy the individual’s involuntary afflictions of drug addiction.

That of course takes money. But to bring attention to and educate for the most effective weapon in our arsenal that produces the most desired results with our drug offenders is more slots for Drug Court.

Though I feel that Proposition 36 is a life threatening trap, I begrudgingly accept it’s existence, but not for the majority of Stanislaus County’s drug addicted population.

Concerted outreach by local drug treatment programs are pathetically affected by the wounds of our current economy, though this is a recent excuse for a long existing history of the same symptoms, which are not derived of apathy, but rather, of limited outreach and expansion to the drug addicted population.

The mythological lore which has educated us as a society of the capacity of solitary responsibility and accountability being held solely by the drug user him or herself has been an out of reach expectation of the community as whole, due to mass media and the American Governments’ over confidence in anti-drug propaganda which was thought to be able to “win the war on drugs.”

First we had “Reefer Madness”, and now, since that didn’t work at all, we have the DEA.

But the damage was far greater than it’s mere ineffectiveness.

It produced a complex and self-destructive understanding of an a-typical drug addict that came to represent all drug users in the United States as a whole. Most in particular it had this perceptual affect upon those individuals who had never been addicted to drugs themselves, therefore already limited in their understanding of the pain and suffering that this medical affliction causes.

Leaving with our collective American society’s perception and image, a mass public perception and assumption that drug addicts are not suffering from a toxic medical condition at all, but rather, that every time is the first time that they use their self perceived drug of necessity. That the decision to commit this act is made with a rational mind every single time once the addiction has a hold of them. As though no addiction exists.

Addiction, for the most part, has since been removed from the equation in this “war on drugs”, all along since those glorious “Reefer Madness” days of yesteryear.

Drug addiction is a medical emergency. A medical ailment that requires medical attention and treatment. Just like diabetes or Tuberculosis.

Without the acceptance of this fact, the recovery rates of Stanislaus County’s population of drug addicted individuals will continue to climb and inevitably these people will continue to suffer a horrible life all alone. A life in which, for the most part, they are shunned and despised by the majority of the non-drug using community.

For every single one of these individuals, there must be an offering of support. Not just by themselves solely as individuals, but by other segments of Stanislaus County as well.

We must raise the bar for ourselves if we as the County of Stanislaus and its respective citizens are sincere in our desire to affect positive change to our population of the drug addicted.

Copyright 2009 by Robert Stanford, All rights reserved.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Pleased To Meet You. Hope You Guess My Name.

As I struggle to write this piece, I think of all those that will ever read what I am writing right now.

The motivations for reading this are multi-faceted. From search engines to titles, or my personal favorite, those that read it because I wrote it. Whether for good or bad.

For whatever the reasons for reading this, I know that statistically, there is a very good chance that if the reader knows about me at all, they only know select slices of what makes up who and what I am, professionally as a community advocate.

Often, I feel as though I am wrapped up in words and phrases that pigeon hole me, so that people can readily praise, defend or harangue.

Words such as politician. Suddenly the next election becomes the target of feverish slander, “Well, if that’s the way your going to ______ then you can forget about winning the next election.”

Words such as activist, “Well, if your going to call yourself an activist, then you had better ___________.”

Words such as crackpot, “Your such a joke. Our city would be better off without you. Mr. Stanford, go away.”

I could go on for hundreds of pages and each one said or written over and over again, month after month and year after year. However, I believe that all of these things have something in common. These people that say or write these things only know little bits and pieces about me – slices of a whole picture, but not enough slices to know what that picture really is.

Of course, that’s not always a bad thing in so many ways.

“Mr. Stanford, we need someone like you in Government. Someone that will get all these criminals off the street.”

And of course, these same people don’t know that I do not consider undocumented immigrants to be criminals. Nor do I believe that this war on drugs has been anything but a very, very tragic mistake. And for all the same reasons. I have more pieces of the whole picture about these things than others do. But I have personally sought them out. I was “hungry” for them. Hungry to complete a picture.

“Mr. Stanford, your going to lock up all the gang bangers and dope pushers.”

Once again, that’s only partially true.

When I got the Mono Park illegal hypodermic needle giveaway operation which was run by home grown terrorists shut down, many people thought and still think that I am against legitimately regulated and legalized needle exchange. The people that think this do not know that this assumption is invalid. Simply because they missed my articles, blogs, radio and TV appearances.

I have been aware of this miss-assumption all along, since I first discovered the illegal needle giveaways. Yet even now, I find myself forever explaining the harm increase. Explaining the mathematical and precise reality of the situation to counter the misguided myth that the constant disbursement of approximately 800 to 1,000 hypodermic needles to junkies in a park ends up being approximately 80 to 85 percent shared needles. Still reducing any possibility of harm reduction as so many assume. Actually causing the opposite affect.

Not that this article is concerning the issues of this incident, but it’s a good example of assumption that even I had made concerning my effectiveness of communication this from my platform as – (hold onto your hat) –A Modesto Airport District Activist.

And as so much that I assume this title to fit, I must possess two separate capes of two separate colors – red and blue. That’s when the American flag and the Mexicana flag compliment my eyes very well when they are braided together and wrapped around me in the style of Villas artillery belt.

The second cape comes into vibrant view when it is necessary to kick up the dust for sidewalks, sewers, water, lights and gutters as well as other positive, yet difficult to achieve neighborhood goals. For then my title changes to blend within the second cape – I suddenly become a Modesto Airport Neighborhood Activist. On another turf.

So, let’s review, just for good measure:

Flag – American
Cape – Red
Cause – Crime
Title – Modesto Airport District Activist
Dumbed Down – Neighborhood Watch In The Ghetto.
Super Hero – The Shadow

Flag – Mexicana
Cape – Blue
Cause – Neighborhood Vitalization
Title – Modesto Airport Neighborhood Activist
Dumbed Down – Happy face/Dockers Time
Super Hero – Spider Man

If it’s not in the Airport District, it simply becomes community advocate or activist. And I find comfort in what my spidey sense tells me.

Whenever I introduce myself at public gatherings to groups of people, I always say, “My name is Robert Stanford. I am a Civil Rights activist. I advocate primarily for the Modesto Airport District.”

It’s efficient for me, as much as I would like it to be more understood by my introduction of what I do, I feel that it’s the clearest definition that I can provide. Leaving them to fill in. So many blank spots of the picture all based on what they perceive of civil rights, activism and advocacy. Further, the perceptions are immediately forged merely by their very association with each other in a statement.

Since approximately two thirds of the meeting that I attend are done so wearing the red cap, I say the statement as though I were the Shadow.

For the remaining third, I am Spider Man wearing the blue cape.

No need for a phone booth. I can change in mid sentence when need be to focus and home in on particular items for my own agendas. All of them structured from the foundations of positive applications of method to achieve the goals that will ultimately affect an entire population of present and future resident of Stanislaus County. With a sharp eye dead set on those suffering the most. The Lord’s common sense triage like approach to improving a community on a scale that will set in motion all of the elements necessary to propel the entire county of Stanislaus into a utopia.

And from this act, like a true super hero, I shall affect this utopia throughout America and then throughout the world -. My ultimate true aim – Global domination*.

But after making the initial statement, “My name is Robert Stanford. I am a Civil Rights activist. I advocate primarily for the Modesto Airport District.”**

Many people will be saying to themselves, “But he’s white…”

And once again, like a chameleon, I blend in with the apple pie faced redneck draped in the good ole’ red White and Blue. The don’t even know that I speak Spanish more often then English. A virtual myriad of so many things – they have no idea of – no “AWARENESS”.

Unless they read about me somewhere, saw me on TV, or maybe heard about me from some friends or “others”.

I have come to be aware of the fact that generally, for most people, they will know of one or two issues associated with me. Like a roulette wheel coming to a stop, I can begin to recognize things that they may have been exposed to regarding me, whether entirely true or not.

- They heard from Queen La Raza that I took unfair advantage of farm workers, promising them citizenship in exchange for their life savings.

- They saw me when I was alone. Out of a quarter million resident, I was the only one to beg the Modesto City Council to not gut the Modesto Police Department.

- They read an editorial some years ago in an out of town paper, in which I was portrayed as a profiteer, praying on the Andy Raya and Officer Stevens tragedy by glorifying a cop killer.

- They saw me on a blog site empathically telling another user to go screw themselves, getting myself literally banned from the Modesto Bee blogs.

Where would I want the memory to come to rest?

Right Here – They saw me at my best speaking eloquently and passionately for any cause.

I feel if they had witnessed that, I would have reached them on a spiritual level and made a connection. Not for them to vote for me, assist me or even agree with anything I say or do. But to be moved enough by my passion so that at least they would be inspired to pursue goals for our community, whether I agreed with them or not.

If someone votes because they don’t want some kind of _______ like me in that position, I have still affected positive change. I have done the job that I originally many, many years ago, set out to accomplish.

Since my entry into local Government politics, for the most part, one on one, things go well. However, as I meet people they are given select pieces of the entire picture in the hopes of inspiring interest in these individuals that they may want to see what the overall picture would look like if they had more pieces.

So one on one has been a city council campaign for nearly two years now.

“Hi! How ya’ doin!? Hey! My name is Robert Stanford! Annnd I am running for Modesto City Council! Yea! We need to apply positive and effective solutions to eradicate gangs and drugs in our community. And this is why you need to vote for me, Robert Stanford for Modesto City Council District Four!”

This is much more effective. They don’t really need to know anything about me or what I do. All they need to do is trust me. Because more than likely they will not recognize my name again until they see it on the November 2009 ballot.

Pleased to meet you. Hope you can guess my name.

The Shadow knows because his spidey sense tells him so.

Maybe the next time you see my name, you will stop and ask yourself what it is that I am trying to tell you. Or better yet – ask me!

*In a good way!
**I know, but just think of how many times I have to endure it!

Copyright 2009 by Robert Stanford, All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

No Child Left Behind

There was a remarkable performance recently. I stumbled upon it strolling an Airport District sidewalk in close proximity to a recent Norteno on Sureno gang hit.

The synergy of various people that I would encounter still glistened from the shudders of a tragic event so close to home. An apocalyptic moment for many of us. So slow is the recovery from too much realization. Too much reality. Too much recognition of our own mortality and vulnerability.

But this particular individual was a visitor to our neighborhood. A person, whom which when I look upon, beams a beacon that spans across my brain’s processing of name and face recognition.

Healthy start – even the very name itself seems to propose what is the best start to everyday?

To one’s life?

A healthy start.

He’s moved up a level now and applies his previous life’s hardships to winning back the lives of youth. Youth once destined for prison and death are now becoming our doctor’s teachers and other benefactors that contribute to our eventual American Utopia. A Utopia we shall proudly call the United States of America.

“Hey, what are you doing right now”, asked the dynamic spiritual leader, Jorge Perez.

I ended up sitting amongst my clients, neighbors and friends listening to Jorge Perez present to us a single solution emoted through the excitement of hope and understanding that only love and compassion of an entire community could bring about.

Very first to grace the stage was the principle of Orville Wright, Heather Shereurn.

She touched on the tragedy of the recent homicide. A touch was all that was needed with her open and straight forward acknowledgement. When no punches are pulled, we knew that she saw what we saw.

And her melodic and eloquent presentation of our solution was presented just as plainspoken. The family and school relationship was poured within us as the foundation of our very future’s concrete security.

Harnessing the ever more cohesive relationship that our community shares a common mission. A mission from God for ourselves individually, as well as for the community as a single, unified whole.

Everyone was armed with a radio and headset for the purpose of receiving transmissions in espanol.

So when Jorge Perez introduced Arturo Flores, The Superintenden of Modesto City Schools – there was no more need for Ingles.

Soft spoken, our chosen one spoke to our hearts as though each one of us were speaking with a warm and trusted family member.

He talked of poverty, the fields, the path of Mexicanos and Chicanos. The sacrificial alters of success that we all must place and practice upon with our very own beating hearts – together.

As Mr. Arturo Flores spoke, plumes of understanding began to grip us as he applied the solution, once again – the importance of an education.

A holy grail that can only be achieved through the dedication of community. He understood through us that there had been a very special import from Mexico with the Airport District’s recent migratory wave.

The values and practices of pueblos and ciudads in Mexico had arrived to us intact and in excellent condition.

Through forced isolation, like fertilizer for roses, these cultural values of family and unity blossomed into beauty rivaled by the most splendid flora anywhere in the world.

Leaving us with the lasting conviction and the very crux of who we are “Si Se Puede.”

And then there appeared from out of nowhere, John Ervin.

Previously out of reach, untouchable and arms length, to no one other than myself, for me it was another assumptive instantaneous recognition trap dating my musical interests and complex comparisons in not so distant memory without him – a time long before, which absolutely no one would ever be able to make the association without combining the spelling out of three magical letters with an attitude that would say, yes, I am Greatfully Dea-DICA-ted.

“Nothin’ left to do, but smile, smile, smile."

Not today though. When John Ervin began to speak, the music stopped playing in my mind.

There was us and there was John Ervin. Once again we set our gaze on another soldier that understood us. We gazed upon one of us as John Ervin displayed his passion as though we were witnessing the private and super spectacular performance of a Japanese Fan dancer.

It was the epitome of the entire performance. So much so that others that spoke will now have no mention from me.

If you ever have the good fortune of meeting Mr. John Ervin face to face and you want to enjoy the illustrious smile of his – just tell him that he can never lose what he never had. Those are the magical words John Ervin blessed us with in his presentation of the solution. The guarantee and assurance of our success.

That every single child in Airport District graduates.

That every single child in Airport District considers college.

That we as a community can make this our goal and what’s more – meet that goal.

We’re on the right track. It’s all good.

Thank you all for believing in us.

Copyright 2009 Robert Stanford all rights reserved.