A two-year investigation with its sights set on a California drug dealer began in Arkansas, according to reports. The connection between the two states? MS-13, a gang with organizations in both California and Arkansas.
The joint Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and FBI investigation began when local law enforcement busted someone with seven ounces of crystal meth in northwestern Arkansas. The drug dealer in question, responsible for making shipments of drugs to Arkansas, was in California at the time locked up in prison and had been since 2008. From his cell, the man was still heavily involved in the MS-13 gang and directly in shipments to Arkansas.
Throughout the course of the investigation, agents seized 25 pounds of crystal meth and arrested 18 people in Arkansas who were ultimately sentenced to a total of 91 years in prison combined.
Prison and Addiction
If nothing else, this story is an indication that incarceration does little to address the problem of addiction in California or anywhere in the country. It is clear that, in many cases, from inside prison walls, people are able to continue drinking and getting high and, in this case, to continue directing drug sales on the outside. There is little protection provided to the individual or the community when a prison sentence results from drug-related charges. Though it is clear that something must be done, it seems obvious to many experts that spending time inside does not help the individual on a physical or psychological level to overcome the issues that may have initiated the behaviors in question.
What Other Options Are There?
There are a number of different ways that legislators can handle the issue of high rates of addiction among the prison population and address addiction in future “offenders” without exposing them to a community of people who are facing similar issues with mental health and addiction without treatment. Some of these options are currently in place, to some degree, here in California. Others require a great deal of groundbreaking innovation in order to clear the path forward. Here are just a few possibilities:
- Drug courts: Currently, in California, there are drug courts that are accessible to people who have been charged with nonviolent, drug-related crimes. Often, this means possession charges of small amounts of illicit substances for personal use and any other charges that occurred at the same time. These courts have been instrumental in changing lives, offering people the opportunity to get sober under the supervision of a court-appointed professional and, in many cases, wipe the slate clean. They are not, however, available to people who are violent at the time of the arrest and/or who possess large amounts of an illicit substance, purportedly for the purpose of sales.
- Assessment and evaluation inside: If, during the course of their intake process, offenders were given a full assessment and evaluation workup to determine the issues they are facing, it would be possible to better support them during incarceration and after with appropriate, directed care that would make their time in prison more productive and help them avoid a repeat of old behaviors when they leave.
- Treatment in prison: For those who cannot avoid a prison sentence based on violent charges or large-scale drug dealing, the next solution is to connect the person with treatment while inside. Even if they are not living with an active addiction, which is rare, they are likely dealing with a mental health disorder that would benefit from treatment.
- Support with life needs. Upon release, some prisoners have families to return to, many of which may be mired in the same difficulties that originally spawned the problems that resulted in the jail sentence. Others have nowhere to go. Faced with all the same problems, now worsened by their experience in jail, many simply return to their old habits. But if they had the support they needed upon release to find safe housing and get treatment for co-occurring mental health issues as well as addiction, the results might be different.
If your loved one is frequently facing conflict with law enforcement, it may be time to seek treatment services that can help them avoid future incarceration. Is now the time for you and your family to get help?