Tchaikovsky Sounds Funny: Book Review: "Save My Son"

Is this where I put in key words such as sex, lesbians, vampires, Christopher Lloyd and others things to which this blog do not pertain, but by putting them here, I may get hits from all the Christoper Lloyd lesbian vampire fans (and you know who you are)? This is the primarily humorous and occasionally rambling writings of Leon Tchaikovsky, humor writer. Enjoy.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Book Review: "Save My Son"

Tchaikovsky Sounds Funny

Are we imprisoning people with a medical condition that is difficult for those afflicted to control? When people with these medical conditions are in government custody, do we fail to properly treat them so they may overcome their difficulties? Have we become so stuck on punishment that we have lost sight of the real goal of helping people who need help?

According to “Save My Son”, this is what is happening as we have dramatically populated our prisons with people with drug addictions. Without arguing that people who commit crimes deserve to be imprisoned, we may have gone overboard with incarceration and ignored that addicts need treatment. Incarceration followed by release without treatment neither benefits the addicts nor their future victims.

“Save My Son” is written jointly by Mike Carona, Sheriff of Orange County, California, who has watched his jails grow with addicted inmates, and by Maralys Wills, the mother of a drug addict who is currently imprisoned. As the book notes, 80% of incarcerated people enter with a drug addiction, and, in California, over a fifth are imprisoned solely for a drug offense. Yet, upon imprisonment, few prisons offer drug rehabilitation programs. Our hesitancy to invest in prison rehabilitation may create greater future crime and health costs.

Maralys Wills delivers a heart breaking first person account of an upper middle class mother who watches her son Kirk develop from a high school boy who successfully hides his drug use from his family to a full blown, paranoid addict who has trouble managing a job, a place to live, and his health, to finally becoming another criminal statistic. Some say an addict must hit bottom before he realizes he needs to overcome his addiction. We follow Kirk as he is seriously injured, driven to paranoia, unable to hold a job, imprisoned and released-and still has not “hit bottom” to overcome his addiction. If drug addiction changes the brain functions on some such that the brain demands more drugs, regardless of the consequences, the consequences do nothing to change the addiction. True rehabilitation requires the brain to totally rethink and realize what it properly needs.

The book also delivers stirring commentary from Sheriff Carona as he writes about his observations of prisons and of his own mother’s alcoholism that eventually killed her when he was a boy. The Sheriff recognizes the need to reach out and help people from destroying themselves and others around them. He points out how crime continued rising despite $30 billion in spending on new prisons. Addiction is usually not solved from imprisonment; the addiction is too strong. We are incarcerating and then releasing untreated and angrier addicts.

“Save My Son” describes studies by criminologist Elliot Currie that show how being imprisoned both reduces and increases recidivism. It decreases recidivism for many violent offenders yet increases recidivism for many addicts. Prison is often where addicts learn to become even better addicts. A better alternative for addicts, this book argues, would be intensive therapy to get addicts to successfully overcome their addiction.


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