Is Substance Addiction a Felony? Should it Be? When, oh when, will our society (in the US) catch up with itself? A felony is a big deal. A very big deal. If you have one on your record, there are whole industries that are closed to you for life. There are resources that are not and never will be available to you again. In some states, you can never vote again without special dispensation. Pretty serious stuff, right? You would think that the sort of thing that gets called a felony would be equally serious. Society harming serious. Harming another individual intentionally or through gross negligence serious. Right? Yet, at least in the state of Missouri, there is such a thing as felony simple possession of a controlled substance. I run into black (almost exclusively) men (almost exclusively) all the time who have a life altering felony on their records because they are addicted, and had on their person at an inconvenient time the substance to which they are addicted. Let’s review addiction science 101. Addiction is a disease. It is a deadly, progressive brain disorder with a specific etiology, course, and manner of treatment. It has about as high
This is How Trans-Courtesy is NOT Done I work at a homeless drop in center, right? It’s a violent, not very safe place, though we work hard to make it safe for everyone. This morning we didn’t succeed, on many levels. One client for reasons known only to him, suddenly decided to attack another man who was checking in at the front desk, for no apparent reason. Really weird, actually, since the guy he attacked hardly ever says a word and spends most of the day drawing. Well, the fallout of the attack is that the guard got the attacker out of the building, two bystanders were slightly injured (one had her hand shoved against a wooden railing, and the other fell on a knee that had been shattered about a month ago), the guy he was attacking was just fine, and the police and ambulance responded to our 9-1-1 call (the woman whose hand was injured had requested the ambulance).
The day-to- day work at a homeless drop in center is quite possibly the least glamorous job in the universe. Walking through crowds of people, some of whom have extremely strong smells attached, all crowded into a five foot wide foyer for warmth and the privilege of being “first”, is the first part of the day. Five minutes later, in the chaos that ensues when a hundred grumpy, cold, and hungry people enter the building simultaneously, I have to keep order, then serve coffee and stale donuts (or muffins, occasionally cookies, or croissants — basically whatever got donated).
There is a traditional story (origin unknown) that goes something like this: Two women are fishing on the side of the river, enjoying the weather and each other’s company. They have had quite a good catch, and are getting ready to head back, when they notice that many people are floating down the river, crying out for help. One of the women drops her fishing pole and begins pulling people out of the water. The other drops her pole and begins walking upstream. The first fisher turn to her friend in horror. “What are you doing?”, she asked, “These people need to be pulled out of the river before they drown.” Her friend nodded. “Yes, they do. Please continue to help them. I’m going upriver to see what is pushing them in”. Since finding this uncredited story while writing a research paper while working toward my MSW, it has resonated with me. Social workers play a lot of roles in society, everything from case managers to counselors to administrators to politicians, and in those roles they are often caught between pulling people in immediate danger out of the river, and trying to find out how to prevent them falling in