Leonard Campanello, former narcotics officer and now Chief of Police in Gloucester, Massachusetts, has recently proposed three provocative ideas: 1) stop arresting people solely for their status as addicts, 2) establish the police department as a safe haven where people with substance-related problems can get linked to effective treatment and recovery support, and 3) use assets seized from drug dealers to expand local addiction treatment and recovery support resources.
Drug control policy in the United States is in desperate need of fresh ideas and approaches after decades of failed efforts as a country to incarcerate our way out of a public health problem. Chief Campanello is to be commended for his courage in breaking with tradition and setting forth these new proposals.
Chief Campanello’s first proposal suggests that we hold citizens accountable for what they do (e.g., criminal conduct), but not punish them for who they are or for health conditions not of their choosing. This position is reminiscent of earlier Supreme Court decisions holding that the status of drug and alcohol addiction cannot in itself be considered a criminal act (e.g., Robinson v. California, 1962; Powell v. Texas, 1968).
Chief Campanello’s second proposal offers a bold new contract between local communities and their addicted citizens. In essence, this new contract says:
If you commit yourself to long-term recovery–by any means necessary under any circumstances, we as a community will support you through that recovery journey. If you meet us halfway, we will assure you high quality addiction treatment and recovery support services, welcome you back into the mainstream life of our community, and forge the physical, psychological and social space within our community in which you can live as a person/family in long-term recovery.
Such an offer recognizes that people with alcohol and other drug problems are not some alien seed, but our own wounded family members, friends and neighbors. Such an offer recognizes that people can be held accountable for their decisions and actions and still offered the community’s helping hand. Such an offer recognizes that there is no more effective strategy for promoting public health and safety than recognizing and resolving alcohol and other drug problems at the earliest stages of their development. Communities wounded by alcohol and other drug problems can begin to heal themselves and their constituents by offering and fulfilling this recovery contract with their citizens.
Chief Campanello’s third proposal reflects a new slant on the concept of restorative justice which in principle suggests that those who inflict harm on the community have a responsibility to make amends to wounded parties. This proposal suggests a different kind of contract between a community and its members:
If you inflict harm on our community by your actions or inactions, we as a community will hold you accountable for that harm and its remediation costs.
Community connotes a place of safety and sanctuary. In its protective functions, the community pledges itself to challenge any person or enterprise (licit or illicit) that threatens the safety and health of its citizens. Where harm is inflicted by any person or institution, the community has the right and responsibility to seek restitution for such harm. In doing so, it declares that every individual and corporate entity is responsible for injuries incurred as a result of personal or institutional decisions and actions.
Chief Campanello’s proposals reflect a new slant on how we as communities can define and distinguish personal/corporate culpability and expectations for moral, legal, and financial responsibility. I hope his proposals will spark renewed discussion about drug policy alternatives at the local level.
Post Date June 25, 2015 by Bill White
Tags community recovery | drug policy | Recovery contract | recovery space
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