Should we punish the Sick? Why current DWI laws fail repeat offenders.
Recently, I read a story about a man who was arrested for DWI in Montgomery County. It was his 12th DWI arrest. There was some discussion in the media that the justice system should throw the book at this DWI offender. Ultimately, the man pled guilty and was sentenced to 30 years in prison.
Reflecting on a person who had 12 DWI arrests, I wondered how it could have been possible to have a dozen alcohol related offenses occur. From my experience, I knew the sad answer. Regrettably, our criminal justice system is not set up to really treat people with addictions to alcohol or drugs.
I thought what a shame, that this sick man had not been diverted out of the criminal justice system and into the health care system where he belonged. Had he been placed in a real rehabilitation program before, instead of a real jail, then perhaps, his DWI offenses would have stopped at 2 or 3.
Our criminal justice system is supposed to be just. We are not supposed to punish DWI offenders because they are sick. People with addictions suffer great mental and physical compulsions to feed their habit. Addicts cannot be expected to simply turn off the compulsion part of their brain, absent help from mental health professionals. When I think of all the money wasted on processing this man through the criminal justice system, I am disgusted that the funding was not better spent on addressing the real problem and not the effect.
Of course, no one wants to have a drunk driver on the roads. It is not debatable that intoxicated drivers are a danger to themselves and others. It is not debatable that this ill person could have had a better life if he had been helped by the mental health system instead of shuffled through the criminal justice system. What do you think?