Pubdate: Sun, 21 Jan 2001
Source: Topeka Capital-Journal (KS)
Copyright: 2001 The Topeka Capital-Journal
Contact:  616 S.E. Jefferson, Topeka, Kansas 66607
Author: Frank X. Brentine


Nationally, we have a new president. Locally, we have a new sheriff 
and district attorney, and we soon will have a new police chief. Can 
we expect to have some new, and perhaps creative, policies to help us 
deal with some specific problems? I hope so.

I would hope that our lawmakers take steps to rethink and even redo 
some of the ways we have been dealing with citizens who may be 
suffering from alcoholism or other drug addiction.

I hope, too, that our justice system makes a sincere effort to 
distinguish between those who deal in large amounts of illegal 
substances and those who become physically and mentally dependent on 
these substances. The mandatory minimum sentence, for instance, was 
designed to stem the illegal activity of big drug dealers. Instead, 
it has been keeping in jail first-time offenders who used and 
trafficked in small amounts of illegal drugs or people who became 

Some legislatures, courts and law enforcement agencies are trying to 
be more creative and realistic on how to treat those with addictions. 
First, they are working together in trying to discern whether the 
person is caught up in an addictive process or is selling these 
substances for profit. Does this person have a serious medical 
problem or a serious criminal problem? Lawmakers, courts, judicial 
systems, law enforcement agencies have been getting together in order 
to sort this all out.

Then, there are degrees of dependence. Some, perhaps, like our new 
president, can find some inner strength to overcome an alcohol or 
other drug problem. Others, however, need a more specialized and 
intense treatment because their alcohol or other drug problem may be 
more advanced, perhaps, such as the deputy sheriff who needed 
specialized treatment and who was caught up in a criminal process.

Professionals in the addiction field know that proper treatment does 
work, if only we recognize that in the majority of cases we are 
dealing more with a medical problem than a criminal one.

The sooner we all have this attitude, the sooner we will be returning 
these sick people to health and a productive lifestyle.

- -- FRANK X. BRENTINE, Topeka.
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