There’s this article in the Sacramento Bee  featuring the drug program at the El Dorado, CA court. It’s a pretty innocuous article — a puff piece, featuring a success story. I wanted to post about this article, because I found a couple of points interesting. The first is their “success rate” which they place at 49%:

So far, 250 people have successfully completed the program since it started in 2005 in El Dorado Superior Court. That’s a 49 percent success rate, county data show – above the statewide average of 35 percent.

What was interesting to me about this quote is that it doesn’t mean anything. It seems their only standard for success is graduation from the program. So, among people who would have ended up behind bars and opted (dur!) for the drug program, 45% stuck it out for a year and a half — with the threat of bars hanging over their head. And what does the 35% refer to?

And then, on the day our success story graduates, we learn this:

On the same afternoon that Phimister praised and rewarded Nicole Tennis and a dozen participants for progressing well, he also sent several people to jail for trying to circumvent the system.

“Unfortunately, we seemed to have a pandemic of dilution,” Phimister said.

He chided one tearful woman for diluting her samples, then sentenced her to 210 days in county jail: “You’ve played with the system. You’ve taken advantage of people who tried to help you.

Yeah, I know, you can lead a horse to water… But if we’re talking about people with a “disease” over which they are powerless… OK, here’s what I think: If you are going to take the position that addicts are powerless over their disease, and based on this assumption, you are going to offer them a recovery program instead of jail, then doesn’t it also follow that you will treat a relapse (which is just evidence of powerlessness) as part of the recovery process? And, thus, take punishment off the table completely?  

Well, I checked out the comments over there, and saw one lone voice of opposition, so I got his back, and it seems I’ve poked the hornets’ nest.

[Edited to fix the url]