She weighs maybe 90 pounds as she pitifully stands in the courtroom; her eyes starting to roll back into her head. There are remnants of what probably used to be a pretty girl. The young woman is in custody for prostitution and possession of a controlled substance. Having been arrested by the Logan County Sheriff’s Department, she is headed to the Regional Jail at Holden. She will soon become a very sick individual. She will likely wish for death as a result of the withdrawal pains she will have to endure. The devil surely has had his way.
As always, I query the person: “How long have you been on drugs?” “When did you start on drugs?” “Do you have any children?” These are all typical questions of just about any addict I have ever dealt with in my profession for the past fourteen years. I usually wind up advising them that they are going to end up dead, never to see their children grow up or graduate from high school. Almost always, through teary eyes, the person says faintly, “I know.” Believe it or not, I’m supposed to advise the arrested individual to not say anything. I find it very difficult to adhere to this basic court rule.
Drug addiction affects nearly every family in Logan County in one way or another. The addiction is not prejudicial as it survives in every economic phase: the wealthy, the poor and everything in between. Lying, stealing, violence, financial problems, poor health and unfortunately, even death are the bi-products of addiction. There appears to be no clear cut answer to the menacing problems plaguing our society, although there are those persons who are quick to supply their unwarranted solutions.
“What they ought to do is gather them all up and put them in one fenced- in place, then put thousands of pills right in the middle of the place and let ‘em have all they want,’’ was one person’s awkward view; while other people believe jail to be the final answer. Most of us really do not know what to do. Families directly affected—and I know many—oftentimes run into walls of frustration as they travel varying avenues seeking help. There are horror stories related by parents and grandparents who wind up at their “wits’ end” dealing with their family members’ addiction. Most of the time when the first signs are becoming evident the family does not want to pursue any criminal charges: Either because they are not recognizing a potential problem or because they are just denying the facts.
I know people who have had to file for bankruptcy and those who have lost their homes due to family members stealing credit cards, jewelry, family heirlooms, coin collections and even stereos and televisions; all to feed their addiction. Unfortunately, there are even those couples with children, whether married or not, who use every penny from the household to buy their drugs which are more important to them than buying food for the home or paying rent or utilities. Child Protective Services is swamped with cases where children are found to be suffering.
So it is with this 23-year-old girl standing in front of me on this day. She tells me she has been an addict for 10 years and that her husband is also a pain pill addict. They have one child together. This person, who was known in the Triadelphia area as an addict and prostitute, has been seen walking beside the roads at all hours of the day and night there. Recently she has been feeding her habit, as well as her husband’s, through low life individuals who picked her up in the areas of Mt. Gay, Deskins Addition and Cherry Tree near Logan. There are several such women doing the same thing, for the same reasons, in the same areas, as well as many other places in Logan County.
One has to ask as to what kind of husband would promote his wife in these actions. The answer comes from a pitiful person who tells me her habit is $300 per day while her husband’s addiction costs “just” $150 per day. “I don’t like to steal or do other bad things, so I do what I do,” she explains, apparently trying to justify her current predicament.
There have been 167 reported deaths due to overdoses of prescription drugs in Logan County between the years of 2001 and 2010, according to the West Virginia Bureau for Public Health. Of course, there have been numerous overdose deaths, including suicide, from non-prescription drugs. Murders, automobile accidents, burglaries, domestic abuse, and other matters are often the result of drug usage, both legal and illegal.
I realize there have been many programs implemented to address law enforcement, medical and educational issues concerning the epidemic which is not limited to Logan County. However, I feel justified in saying that since former President Ronald Reagan declared America’s “War on Drugs” we have certainly lost many battles, if not the war itself.
It has now been six days since the young addict was sent to jail for prostitution and possession of drugs charges. As I suspected, she managed to convince a family member to bail her out of jail. No doubt, she used the telephone to convince grandma that she has learned her lesson and no doubt she has promised to seek help. They all make these and other promises when they are behind bars. Nearly all wind up arrested again, if not found dead first.
The United States Constitution assures a person to bail and it is written as to prevent judicial officers from setting excessive bail amounts. Although in the long run it would probably benefit the addict if judicial officers such as myself set huge bonds on simple misdemeanor charges that would keep addicts in jail for at least two months before their trial date, it would not only be constitutionally wrong but it would soon bankrupt Logan County.
With the coal industry’s current bleak future, there may come a time when choosing to pay for inmates’ incarceration may become a larger problem than what it already is. Without coal operations, and with a declining population, we could lose our tax base and therefore funding for such things as the ambulance authority and fire departments could face depletion. Other programs, as well as government offices, could be affected. The jail bill then would certainly have to be placed in limbo.
If you pluck a seedling from the ground, it will never have the opportunity to become a full grown weed. Such, I believe, is the case with drug addiction. If magistrates had the ability to sentence to some form of early rehabilitation or drug courts, those misdemeanor violators that we suspect to be potential felony criminals because of suspected addiction might be saved and it would alleviate many future headaches for families, law enforcement and the courts.
Until then, we’ll put them in jail. People will bail them out. And, the vicious cycle will continue.
In the meantime, please keep your doors locked.