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Tuesday, October 25, 2016

We Need Less Jail, More Treatment

When Commonwealth Attorney Marsha Garst met with the Valley Justice Coalition last week, she stated that having some kind of detox and mental health facility should be a first priority toward reducing the rate of incarceration in our community. The current $26,000 cost per per inmate could go a long way toward funding this.

As further evidence of this need, I recently received the following letter from someone at our local jail, an abbreviated version of which follows, with his permission (slightly edited):

Mr. Yoder,

I have suffered with depression and anxiety my whole life and I just started back on medications through the Community Services Board. I also suffer from PTSD from a shooting I witnessed as a teen.

I committed some check fraud in 1999 and I am still on probation from those charges after spending almost ten years behind bars for the original charges as well as for some violations for dirty urines. They now want to give me four more years in prison for a dirty urine when their own records show that incarceration has not helped me.

My depression and anxiety get so bad when stressful life situations arise that I fall back into my addictions (self-medicate) so I can go numb and not feel.

For example, I recently learned that my 13-year old daughter was raped, and that my partner had a miscarriage. Our car also broke down and is not fixable, and I had to put my service dog down due to a cancer. Then when I thought things couldn't get any worse, my grandmother died.

I knew I was in trouble and went to my probation officer and admitted I had slipped and had been getting high, and begged her to help me get to Boxwood Treatment Center rather than going back to jail. I was refused.

I want to be a father my kids can be proud of. I just got back into their lives and I really want to change for them, my family and for myself. I have never received the help I needed to achieve that change because all they seem to want to do is to "lock him up".

I recently completed a drug class here at the jail and continue attending even after I "graduated". I just want to get help with my mental health issues. The time in prison does me no good, and if anything actually harms me and hurts my kids and my family.

This jail is full, with 85% of the inmates here from District 39 not because they committed any new crimes but because of failed urine screens while on probation. People like them and myself need treatment, not harmfully long incarceration.

I pray that this community becomes aware of what is going on with our local system and that things change so we can all get help instead of just being thrown aside to fill our jails and prisons.

Thank you,

(Signed)
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