A Well Balanced Approach

by The Discovering Alcoholic on October 19, 2007

I was searching for articles on the use of ankle monitoring braces for alternative drug and alcohol sentencing when I ran across this quote from Martha Stewart.

When asked about still being under home confinement, she lifts up one leg of her brown pantsuit. “I have a microphone on one ankle,” she says — puts that leg down, then lifts the other to reveal her electronic monitor — “and an ankle bracelet on the other. So I’m well-balanced.”~ USA Today

Although she was making a joke about her monitoring bracelet, I thought the quote was rather apt for another type that I have become very interested in, the SCRAM bracelet. The word “balanced” comes to mind when I think about how the punishment should be meted out for alcohol and drug related crimes caused by addiction. Now don’t get me wrong, I am not advocating a slap-on-the-wrist approach for law breakers. What I am for is sentencing that is punishment for the crime, but not the disease of addiction. In my state we have very draconian mandatory sentencing for alcohol and drug related crimes (DUI, possession, etc.,) that more often than not restrict the ability of the addict or alcoholic to fight their disease. What we need is a well balanced approach to sentencing that provides both punish/deterrence for crimes yet enhances rather than degrades an addict or alcoholic’s chances for recovery.

For example, take a repeat DUI offender that has had his driver’s license revoked for 5 or 10 years. Of course bear in mind that this is after he has served one or two years in jail for a crime that was serious no doubt, yet in most cases no one was injured. Where I live in the South, not having a driver’s license will severely restrict the ability of a person to attain a job and then be able to maintain good attendance. Not having a driver’s license or being able to drive makes it doubtful someone will be hired for any job especially when you consider the added bonus of having a criminal record. Now we all know that a full time job and the ability to support one’s family are almost prerequisites for recovery. Add the fact that frequent meeting attendance is almost mandatory, and then it doesn’t become hard to see how revoking the license of an alcoholic is pretty damaging to their chances for recovery.

This is where devices like the scram bracelet would come in handy by allowing those that have served their time to resume a normal life, while the court system is able to have confidence that a repeat performance is not just around the corner. In fact, the monitoring bracelet makes a great recovery tool because it is a powerful physical reminder of the consequences of a relapse.

Let’s face it; revoking an alcoholic’s license will not stop him from getting behind the wheel… incarceration is the only effective tool to prohibit this behavior. So by taking away an alcoholic’s driver license, the only thing that is being prohibited is long term recovery. This type of punishment doesn’t deter further offenses, quite the opposite, it promotes an environment in which the disease will flourish and future offenses are more probable.

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