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On recovery...and resolve

Unless you have recently awakened from a Rip Van Winkle type slumber, you know just how devastating the effects of substance abuse are on the country. Many reading this will have known the loss and devastation of this awful scourge on a very personal level, having watched a loved one struggle to cope with addiction. Some lost jobs, marriages and families. Some lost their freedom and ended up in prison. Some lost their lives. But some...some overcame and even today are living productive lives. Addiction lurks, just in the shadows, and these overcomers understand how perilous their sobriety is.

About fifteen years ago, Judge Carroll Ross met with then District Attorney Jerry Estes to talk about a new concept...a "drug court." This was a concept that was showing remarkable promise in places where it had been implemented. The idea was that our judicial district would come together and identify those criminal defendants who could pursue sobriety and build life skills and be survivors. Once identified, these defendants would be monitored, counseled and held accountable to change. They had to resolve to change their lives. That beginning has now culminated into what we now call the Tenth Judicial District Recovery Court. Working with defendants on an individualized basis, this group has seen remarkable success. They are good people working hard to make a difference. I have, and will continue to be a strong advocate for the good work being done by the Recovery Court.

Yesterday, we learned that the Recovery Court had been awarded a significant federal grant. The grant will allow us to almost double the number of citizens we can assist. The grant is for just over $800,000.00. Only 50 were awarded in the country. It is an amazing development and a significant recognition of the dedication and results of the Recovery Court team.

If we are going to effectively combat addiction and substance abuse, we must do more. We must push for greater treatment resources and engage our communities to all be committed to helping the addicted. We must seek out more to help. We must give them a hand...and hold them accountable to change. That is the "secret ingredient" of the Recovery Court. Respect and accountability married. Show the offender that you believe they can be more and do more...and demand that they live up to that potential...or go to prison. Make them resolve to be different.

Recovery is a crucial word. So is resolve. If we are going to ever hope to "win" the war on drugs and addiction, we must foster recovery and resolve to continue to fund and support treatment.

But we must also resolve to make drug dealers pay for poisoning our friends, neighbors and children. We continually hear about the "low level nonviolent drug offenders" that are clogging the prison system. We are told we need to let them out to return to our communities and resume "their lives."

President Obama recently announced another group of convicted federal drug dealers would be released early because they were "low level" and "nonviolent." Among those released was Ralph Casas. Mr. Casas was serving a life sentence for conspiring to distribute 9,445 kilos...that's right...NINE THOUSAND FOUR HUNDRED AND FORTY FIVE KILOS of cocaine. That's just shy of 10 tons. How many Recovery Court candidates did he help create?

We must not stop. We must be relentless in trying to send drug dealers to prison. And keep them there. No truce. No surrender. If you sell drugs, our office will do everything we can to send you to prison for as long as possible under the law. And keep you there. This resolve and the resolve to help promote recovery are not mutually exclusive. In fact, one cannot be successful without the other. Decriminalization is not the answer. Being resolved is the answer. Resolved to find treatment options, educate children to the dangers of drugs, and imprison the purveyors of death for profit.

We are the 10th. We are resolved.

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