GOD Bless “Sheriff Bucky”! I have just emailed him a “stick to it, way to go!” message – below. There will be bad apples in ANY program, but this Sheriff is on the right course and should continue to fight for this program. He sees [why I started our Church Reentry Program] that church is a good place for ex offenders to be, for many reasons.
This guy is a bright light in a world of darkness known as prisons. He knows that most inmates WILL be released (about 96%) and it helps us to help them.
My email to the Sheriff:
Keep up the great work. Every day – EVERY day – I see an article about or I am told about some prison official who just doesn’t get it [that is expressing it very kindly@ 😊]. Clearly you do, and I salute you for your common sense and your efforts to reduce recidivism with your Church Work Release program and all you do.
Stick to your guns! That one woman who commented is soooo typical. She does not realize that a “convicted felon” very well may be sitting next to her in church, and she just does not know his/her past.
You are a bright light and a beacon of hope for the many inmates who DO want to change their lives. You’re making a difference, Bucky! 😊
http://www.citizensforcriminaljustice.net/maury-county-sheriff-stands-program-allows-inmates-attend-church-go-bucky-go-kra/ – Maury County sheriff stands by program that allows inmates to attend church – “Go, Bucky, GO!” kra
My signature block.
MAURY COUNTY, Tenn. (WKRN) – A controversial program at the Maury County jail is now on hold after an inmate was caught smuggling drugs and tobacco into the facility. The program is called Church Work Release, and it allows inmates to leave the jail and go to church, wearing civilian clothes with no one guarding them.
News 2 has obtained surveillance photos that show prisoners leaving the jail and walking around one of the participating churches. In the photos, the men are dressed in street clothes and there is no one supervising them. Maury County Sheriff Bucky Rowland told News 2 the program is designed to help inmates cope with being on the outside.
“There are folks back here who are rotten to the core, and they are where they need to be, but there are folks who in days are going to be released, and I want to make sure we do all we can,” he explained.
In 2014, Sheriff Rowland ran on a campaign of prisoner rehabilitation. By December 2016, Rowland had initiated the Church Work Release program. The program is described by the department as a religious-based work re-entry program. “Inmates are checked out by spiritual mentors who have been vetted through our jail chaplain and have been volunteers in our facility as mentors or program leaders and has completed TCI training for volunteers,” Rowland said.
He continued, “Our goal here at the Maury County Sheriff’s Department, whether on the street or in the jail, is to reduce recidivism, to leave folks better than we found them.”
From December 2016 until this past June, the department said 75 prisoners have been released from the Maury County jail and taken to a half dozen participating churches. “I believe they truly want a change in their life,” the sheriff told News 2.
The inmates are not under guard and they are not accompanied by an armed deputy. Instead, Rowland said the inmates are escorted by a spiritual mentor who has taken some state sponsored corrections courses.
“We are trying to make a safer community,” Rowland said.
Sheriff Rowland maintains there are many good people in his jail.
“We will invest in them to change that way of thinking,” he said. “Ninety percent of the people in this jail – they are good folks. They have addiction problems, drugs or alcohol. They get clean, and they say they don’t want to be here, I’m not coming back. I think they truly want a change in their life, and I believe it starts here.”
According to Sheriff Rowland, to qualify for his program, the inmates must be near the end of their sentences and have no disciplinary issues.
The sheriff also said the program was temporarily suspended after one inmate, Forrest Voorhees, went to church and was then caught smuggling drugs and tobacco in the jail.
Why Can’t Uncle Come Home? A story for children struggling with the wrongful conviction of a loved one.
Very Well Done!
Why Can’t Uncle Come Home? is a one-of-a-kind children’s picture book for children struggling with the wrongful conviction of a loved one. This amazing story, written by Christiane Joy Allison and illustrated by Liz Shine, is scheduled for release in late 2017.
You can now PRE-ORDER copies of the book that are signed by the author and illustrator through this campaign!
Christiane and Liz have worked together on numerous projects in the past. They have an outstanding history working together, and are very excited to launch Why Can’t Uncle Come Home? as the first book in the Where Is Uncle? series; which will address other issues children face with the rightful or wrongful incarceration of a loved one.
In the story, Timmy and his little sister Kate are struggling with the wrongful conviction and imprisonment of their beloved, innocent Uncle. Inspired by the author’s real-life niece and nephew, Timmy and Kate walk-through experiences that are common to children in these types of tragedies. Timmy and Kate suddenly lose access to Uncle. They watch Auntie to go through the process of losing her home. Timmy eventually gets to visit Uncle, and ask the ever-present question, “Why can’t Uncle come home?”
The National Registry of Exonerations has tracked more than 2,000 exonerations of the innocent in the U.S. since 1989. The sad fact is, this is really only the tip of the iceberg in comparison to those who still sit in prison, unable to prove their innocence or overcome arbitrary rules of the court that keep them imprisoned. If only a single child was attached to each one of these individuals – not only as a parent but just as someone in their life who is important to them – we automatically know there are thousands of children across the world who have experienced wrongful conviction directly, and are still continuing to experience it. The average amount of time an innocent person spends in prison before being exonerated is eight years. That means these children are growing up with this as a defining part of reality in their childhood, and they need to know they’re not alone.
There are many people in the United States who are wrongfully convicted because the wrong person was accused of a crime. However, there are also many individuals wrongfully convicted for a crime that never actually occurred. Adults often struggle with how to explain these situations to their children. They may feel so wronged and wounded about the experience themselves, that they have a hard time putting into words the real reason their loved one cannot come back to them. This book aims to be able to have that conversation in a healthy way.
In our story, Mama uses the example of a vase that fell off of a shelf and broke to help Timmy and Kate understand what happened to Uncle. No one is actually at fault for the vase breaking, but Timmy blamed Kate because he knew that he wasn’t the culprit. Wrongful conviction is a really complex issue with many different causes, but this example simplifies the real problem in a way a child can understand. Ultimately, they know that Uncle has been blamed for something he didn’t really do, and that there are many people that love him who are working hard to help everyone else understand the truth.
Your donations will go directly to the costs of printing and distribution of the book. Whether you have a little or a lot to pledge to this critical project, there’s a whole menu of options to choose from! Lower-level awards allow you to PRE-ORDER copies of the book that are personally signed by both the author and the illustrator straight from the presses. Larger amounts allow you or your organization to be listed as a sponsor of the book with your name actually printed on the inside! Last but not least, the largest contribution category allows you to have a more direct and personal experience with the author.
Getting Why Can’t Uncle Come Home? out into the hands of the public is critical! Children all over the world have loved ones who are incarcerated, and an unknown number of those are actually wrongful convictions. It is our hope that Timmy and Kate will let these children know that there are others who understand what they’re going through. It doesn’t make it right, but can hopefully help them reorient their thoughts into how to stay positive, and how to help during the long period of time they will likely have to wait.
Risks and challenges
The manuscript is already finished, and the illustrations are underway. The book has already been assigned a PCN number through the Library of Congress. Vendors have been selected for printing and distribution, and we plan to have this book available by the end of 2017. The only foreseeable delay that could occur relates to the completion of the illustrations and final page layouts. However, at this time we do not have any concern about missing our deadlines.
The litany of horrifying accounts of abuse and neglect is not news to me. Neither is it unique to Nebraska. Far from it; most prisons in America are out of control hell holes, and the refusal by officials to acknowledge and fix this is a national disgrace. READ Prison Abuse – Why Massive Indifference is a Massive Mistake
A prison holding more than three times as many people as it was designed to house. Another prison repeatedly wracked by deadly riots. Prisoners suffering injury, disability, and death because they are denied basic medical care. These conditions exist not in the distant past or in some impoverished or totalitarian nation, but in the US state of Nebraska in 2017.
On Wednesday, the American Civil Liberties Union and our partners are filing suit to halt the human rights crisis in Nebraska’s prisons. The lawsuit is a horrifying account of a profoundly broken system. One prisoner died of a heart attack, ignored for weeks despite his obvious symptoms.
Another went blind after being denied adequate treatment for his diabetes. Prisoners with mental illness are warehoused in solitary confinement, exacerbating their suffering and increasing their risk of self-mutilation and suicide. And those with disabilities are denied the most basic accommodations, resulting in their exclusion from education, parole, and other prison programs.
Nebraska prisons are very dangerous places for both prisoners and staff. In the last two years alone, riots have left four prisoners dead and multiple staff members injured. Another prisoner was killed by his cellmate after the two were locked together in an isolation cell.
The primary cause of all these problems is the extreme overcrowding in Nebraska’s prisons. The system as a whole is at close to 160% of its capacity, with four prisons at close to 200% of capacity and one at a staggering 302%. The entire system has been severely overcrowded for more than a decade, and the problem has gotten steadily worse.
What do these numbers mean in concrete terms?
Every prison is designed to hold a certain number of prisoners – it has enough cells, enough medical facilities, enough toilets, enough exercise space – for that number. As that capacity is exceeded, critical systems are increasingly stressed, and at some point, they break down completely. There aren’t enough bunks, so prisoners have to sleep on the floor. Communicable diseases like tuberculosis emerge and spread. Toilets, sinks, showers break down from overuse. Tempers flare as more and more prisoners are crammed into a fixed space, and violence increases, both among prisoners and between prisoners and officers. The prison becomes a nightmare for everyone.
Nebraska is a textbook case of this deadly phenomenon.
It’s well established that severe overcrowding violates the US Constitution’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishments. In 2011, the US supreme court heard a case involving California’s prisons. Although the California system is significantly larger, the level of crowding in California then was similar to that in Nebraska now.
The court found that severe overcrowding increased violence, promoted the spread of disease, and made it impossible to deliver minimally adequate medical and mental health care. “Needless suffering and death,” the court concluded, “have been the well-documented result.” The court ordered California to dramatically reduce the level of crowding in its prisons; we’re seeking a similar order in Nebraska.
But it’s not just US law that is violated when prisons are filled far beyond their capacity. The United States has ratified the United Nations Convention against Torture, which prohibits torture as well as cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment. The Committee against Torture, which monitors compliance with the Convention, has recognized that prison overcrowding can amount to prohibited ill-treatment or even torture.
Fortunately, solutions are readily at hand. When the prison population reaches 140% of capacity, Nebraska law allows the governor to declare an emergency and release prisoners who are eligible for parole. States as diverse as New Jersey, Alaska, and Mississippi have dramatically cut their prison populations by reducing sentences for minor drug offenses and taking other commonsense steps. There’s no reason Nebraska can’t do the same – more than one-third of its prisoners are nonviolent offenders who could be safely managed in other settings.
Litigation isn’t the best way of reforming large, complex institutions like prisons. It’s often slow, cumbersome, and needlessly adversarial. It’s far better when government officials take seriously their responsibility to protect the health, safety, and human dignity of the prisoners in their custody. But when those officials turn a blind eye to dangerous and degrading conditions, it’s time for the courts to step in to protect the fundamental human rights of all.
This Story was sent to me by our friend, Susan Boshea.
51 NC jail inmates have died in past five years after poor supervision from jailers – The tip of the National Iceberg! kra
The “Whole Story” describes other deaths which never should have occurred, besides, Ms. Call’s. People DIE because prison staff is so very seldom held accountable. We can never know the true numbers, because prison officials lie so much to cover cause of death [see numerous related Articles on this website!]
As I have seen, even when they are supposed to watch inmates, the guards sleep through their shift and then awaken to falsify reports, indicating that they had checked on inmates … when they had not.
This is just the count for county jails in one state, and does not include the main prisons. The true number of preventable, needless, deaths is beyond outrageous!
Excerpts from the Article:
It couldn’t have been any clearer to Wilkes County jail staff that Emily Jean Call intended to kill herself. She had been arrested on April 16, 2012, for missing a court date. Call had told detention officers then that she was high on crystal methamphetamine and wanted to kill herself. She had cut her wrist two weeks earlier, requiring a trip to the emergency room, state records show.
After two days in jail, she told medical staff she was sick, fatigued and depressed, feeling like she was going to have a nervous breakdown. The county’s mental health provider was no longer offering services at the jail, which meant no one was available to treat her mounting depression, the records show.
She should have been watched closely – at least four times an hour, according to state regulations. But Call, 32, a mother of two struggling with drug addiction, went unwatched for more than an hour. She slipped away to a bathroom in a common area, slung a bed sheet over a water pipe, tied it around her neck, stood on a toilet and stepped off.
“I said: ‘Please, I beg you, watch her,’ ” her mother, Anna Call, recalled telling a jail employee she knew. It was among many phone calls she said she made to jailers to keep an eye on her daughter. She said her daughter was being treated for a suicide attempt when she was arrested for missing a court date.
Emily Call was one of 51 inmates who died in North Carolina’s county jails in the past five years after being left unsupervised for longer than state regulations allow, a News & Observer investigation shows. Jailers failed to make timely checks, left in place sheets or towels that prevented them from seeing suicide attempts, or didn’t fix broken cameras or intercoms that helped them keep in touch with inmates.
“There were no rounds made the entire day,” a state report said of Reynolds’ death. “…It is clear that there was a gross failure to properly supervise inmates.”
Often, the inmates who died had not been convicted of the charges that landed them in jail. Many were for lesser offenses such as illegal panhandling, drug possession and larceny, though some had been charged with more serious offenses, such as murder.
The deaths account for slightly more than half of those investigated from 2012-2016 by the Department of Health and Human Services’ Construction Section, which is better known for inspecting medical facilities. A lack of supervision was blamed for one out of every three of the 151 deaths in county jails in that time period.
The deaths also expose the rising number of inmates who suffer from mental illness, drug addictions or both – and underline the importance for jailers to check on them frequently.
“The duties of the jail to properly manage, supervise, care for these inmates is paramount,” said Morey, a Democrat. “And the number of cases that you’re telling me about when the regulations are not being followed is appalling.”
You know, some laws are just made to be broken. The government is not always right, and too often they are seriously wrong, as with most of our marijuana laws. The only two which I see as legit are keeping it from youths [because their brains still are developing] and prohibiting driving or operating equipment while high!
It is hard to believe that witnessing the epic failure of the war on drugs, we still fight it!
Excerpts from the Article:
In some circles, Jessica Andreavich is known as the Robin Hood of Delaware’s medical marijuana community. But to law enforcement and others, she is a drug-dealing felon who gamed the system. For years, the activist and medicinal marijuana cardholder turned the plant form of the drug into edible candies, oils and creams for Delawareans with ailments like cancer, multiple sclerosis and post-traumatic stress disorder. State law permits those with cards to share marijuana.
Experts and physicians say ingesting marijuana in a food form can make it more potent and last longer than smoking it. Occasionally, Andreavich would give her candy to military veterans struggling to get into the state’s program.
Only recently did the 45-year-old – who uses marijuana to treat her depression, anxiety and arthritis – start charging people the cost of processing marijuana into an alternative form, making little to no profit, she said.
But the minute money and drugs were exchanged with those not permitted to have it, Andreavich broke Delaware law. She was found guilty Wednesday of one count of drug-dealing and one count of conspiracy after selling five marijuana gummy candies and one bottle of tincture (plant extract) for $60 to an undercover New Castle County detective. She was sentenced to one year of probation and community service.
“I’ve always known that if they (the state’s medical marijuana program) decided to turn me in, I’d go to jail over this,” said the former employee of First State Compassion Center, which operates the state’s two medical marijuana dispensaries. “But it was not designed to make money.”
Andreavich believes the state dispensary charges patients too much for the product, and she has made it her mission to make medical marijuana more affordable for the poor.
“This sounds like somebody who has a real humanitarian spirit,” said Dr. David Bearman, a clinical medical cannabis expert. “And indeed, cannabis is very expensive. … Frankly, I think that law enforcement has better things to do with their time.”
Under state code, those who are afflicted with specific ailments such as cancer or multiple sclerosis can obtain a medical marijuana card to ease their pain. But the marijuana must be purchased at one of two state-approved dispensaries.
Andreavich’s case raises questions about the access to the state’s medical marijuana program and the high cost of marijuana once patients are accepted into the program. These issues have been debated since a law allowing the sale of medical marijuana was approved in 2011. Patients complain of paying high costs for small amounts of marijuana at the First State Compassion Centers – one outside Wilmington and another near Lewes. Many say the cost makes it nearly impossible for low-income patients to afford the drug prescribed to them by a doctor.
Baltimore Police Officer Accidentally Records Himself Planting Drugs At Crime Scene – Prosecute his ass! kra
Yet another pathetic cop. They MUST be prosecuted!
This is why body cameras are a MUST. They dropped the charges here, but how many thousand innocent people are rotting in prison due to such antics?
Excerpts from the Article:
An officer from the Baltimore Police department accidentally recorded himself planting evidence. On Wednesday (July 19), Baltimore’s Fox 45 published footage of the officer hiding drugs at a crime scene without realizing that his body-worn camera caught him in the act. In the recording, which was captured in January, officer Richard Pinheiro and two other officers, can be seen in an ally on the side of a house. The body camera appears to capture Pinheiro hiding a bag of pills under a heap of trash, while the two other officers stand behind him.
The cops head back to the sidewalk, at which point Pinheiro turns on his body camera. But as VOX notes, body cams can record up to 30 seconds of footage before being manually activated.
“I’m going to check here,” Pinheiro is heard telling the other officers before heading to the back of the house where he pretends to rummage through the trash heap. After a few second, he uncovers the bag and alerts the other officers.
The defendant who was charged in the drug case was scheduled to go to trial this week. The charges were dropped after a public defender reviewed the body cam footage (a night before the trial was set to begin) and contacted the state prosecutor.
That this is featured in Time Magazine is good in spreading awareness of the issue. As I have long said, the human toll of many problems in the system is even more costly than the calculable dollars wasted!
On any given day we have from 450,000 to 700,000 people in our jails and prisons awaiting trial, not yet convicted of any crime. Many are there needlessly; they should be released on their own recognizance. (no bail).
Excerpts from the Article:
Seventeen years ago I made a song, “Guilty Until Proven Innocent.” I flipped the Latin phrase that is considered the bedrock principle of our criminal justice system, ei incumbit probatio qui dicit (the burden of proof is on the one who declares, not on one who denies). If you’re from neighborhoods like the Brooklyn one I grew up in, if you’re unable to afford a private attorney, then you can be disappeared into our jail system simply because you can’t afford bail. Millions of people are separated from their families for months at a time — not because they are convicted of committing a crime, but because they are accused of committing a crime.
But when I helped produce this year’s docuseries, Time: The Kalief Browder Story, I became obsessed with the injustice of the profitable bail bond industry. Kalief’s family was too poor to post bond when he was accused of stealing a backpack. He was sentenced to a kind of purgatory before he ever went to trial. The three years he spent in solitary confinement on Rikers ultimately created irreversible damage that lead to his death at 22. Sandra Bland was also forced to post bail after her minor traffic infraction in Prairie View, Texas, led to a false charge of assaulting a public servant (the officer who arrested her was later charged with perjury regarding the arrest). She was placed in a local jail in a pre-incarcerated state. Again, she was never convicted of a crime. On any given day over 400,000 people, convicted of no crime, are held in jail because they cannot afford to buy their freedom.
When black and brown people are over-policed and arrested and accused of crimes at higher rates than others, and then forced to pay for their freedom before they ever see trial, big bail companies prosper.
This pre-incarceration conundrum is devastating to families. One in 9 black children has an incarcerated parent. Families are forced to take on more debt, often in predatory lending schemes created by bail bond insurers. Or their loved ones linger in jails, sometimes for months—a consequence of nationwide backlogs. Every year $9 billion dollars are wasted incarcerating people who’ve not been convicted of a crime, and insurance companies, who have taken over our bail system, go to the bank. We can’t fix our broken criminal justice system until we take on the exploitative bail industry.
Jeff Sessions: 400 medical professionals charged in largest health care fraud takedown – They Don’t Get It! kra
While it is good that this fraud was caught and will be prosecuted, this widely-publicised bust will do little to save lives. In the speeches given by all of the various officials thumping their chests and patting each others’ backs for being “tough on crime”, scarcely a word was said about the TREATMENT which is needed to save lives!
As surely as I sit here, there are other health care workers similarly abusing the system, stealing additional billions of your dollars, and they too should be tracked down and prosecuted!
Excerpts from the Article:
Federal authorities announced charges Thursday against 412 physicians, nurses, pharmacists and other medical professionals, in what Attorney General Jeff Sessions called the largest health care fraud enforcement operation in U.S. history. Sessions said the suspects accounted for more than $1.3 billion in fraudulent transactions across more than 20 states, and at least 120 people were charged for their alleged roles in overprescribing and distributing opioids, making it also the largest-ever opioid-related fraud takedown.
Of the 412 charged in the year-long operation, 56 were physicians.
“Too many trusted medical professionals…have chosen to violate their oaths and put greed ahead of their patients,” Sessions said. “Amazingly, some have made their practices into multi-million dollar criminal enterprises.”
Which state has the most opioid-dependent patients with private insurance? Opioid prescriptions down, but numbers still dramatically high in some places, CDC says
A doctor at a Houston clinic is accused of writing 12,000 prescriptions for opioids, enough for more than 2 million illegal doses.
The enforcement effort comes as the country continues to battle a fatal epidemic of prescription drug abuse, much of it involving opioids. Abuse of the expensive painkillers often lead addicts to cheaper and often-lethal alternatives: heroin and fentanyl.
Last year, an estimated 59,000 people in the U.S. died from drug overdoses, many of them linked to opioid abuse, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration. Casualties are on pace this year to exceed 60,000, Sessions said.
He said investigators found opioid addicts “packed in standing room-only waiting rooms” at doctors’ offices waiting for their prescription painkillers. “Some doctors were writing more prescriptions than entire hospitals,” McCabe said.
In one case, a group of six Michigan doctors allegedly operated a scheme to provide patients with unnecessary opioid prescriptions and later billed Medicare for $164 million in false claims. Some of the those prescribed painkillers, authorities said, were resold on the street to addicts.
How 6 Milwaukee kids died in 5 days
Iceland knows how to stop teen substance abuse but the rest of the world isn’t listening – we SHOULD! kra
Because our system is so dominated by stupid politicians – gutless, lacking leadership – and by money (the politicians are in the pocket of the private prisons, the union, the police unions, and similar entities who give millions of $$$ to their campaigns) we do not learn from Norway how prison SHOULD operate, from Portugal how to win the war on drugs, nor from Iceland about addiction!
Excerpts from the Article:
In Iceland, teenage smoking, drinking and drug use have been radically cut in the past 20 years. Emma Young finds out how they did it, and why other countries won’t follow suit.
Listen to or download an audiobook of this story on SoundCloud and iTunes.
It’s a little before three on a sunny Friday afternoon and Laugardalur Park, near central Reykjavik, looks practically deserted. There’s an occasional adult with a pushchair, but the park’s surrounded by apartment blocks and houses, and school’s out – so where are all the kids? Walking with me are Gudberg Jónsson, a local psychologist, and Harvey Milkman, an American psychology professor who teaches for part of the year at Reykjavik University. Twenty years ago, says Gudberg, Icelandic teens were among the heaviest-drinking youths in Europe. “You couldn’t walk the streets in downtown Reykjavik on a Friday night because it felt unsafe,” adds Milkman. “There were hordes of teenagers getting in-your-face drunk.”
We approach a large building. “And here we have the indoor skating,” says Gudberg. A couple of minutes ago, we passed two halls dedicated to badminton and ping pong. Here in the park, there’s also an athletics track, a geothermally heated swimming pool and – at last – some visible kids, excitedly playing football on an artificial pitch.
Young people aren’t hanging out in the park right now, Gudberg explains, because they’re in after-school classes in these facilities, or in clubs for music, dance or art. Or they might be on outings with their parents.
Today, Iceland tops the European table for the cleanest-living teens. The percentage of 15- and 16-year-olds who had been drunk in the previous month plummeted from 42 per cent in 1998 to 5 per cent in 2016. The percentage who have ever used cannabis is down from 17 per cent to 7 per cent. Those smoking cigarettes every day fell from 23 per cent to just 3 per cent.
The way the country has achieved this turnaround has been both radical and evidence-based, but it has relied a lot on what might be termed enforced common sense. “This is the most remarkably intense and profound study of stress in the lives of teenagers that I have ever seen,” says Milkman. “I’m just so impressed by how well it is working.”
If it was adopted in other countries, Milkman argues, the Icelandic model could benefit the general psychological and physical wellbeing of millions of kids, not to mention the coffers of healthcare agencies and broader society. It’s a big if.
“I was in the eye of the storm of the drug revolution,” Milkman explains over tea in his apartment in Reykjavik. In the early 1970s, when he was doing an internship at the Bellevue Psychiatric Hospital in New York City, “LSD was already in, and a lot of people were smoking marijuana. And there was a lot of interest in why people took certain drugs.”
This idea spawned another: “Why not orchestrate a social movement around natural highs: around people getting high on their own brain chemistry – because it seems obvious to me that people want to change their consciousness – without the deleterious effects of drugs?”
“We didn’t say to them, you’re coming in for treatment. We said, we’ll teach you anything you want to learn: music, dance, hip hop, art, martial arts.” The idea was that these different classes could provide a variety of alterations in the kids’ brain chemistry, and give them what they needed to cope better with life: some might crave an experience that could help reduce anxiety, others may be after a rush.
At the same time, the recruits got life-skills training, which focused on improving their thoughts about themselves and their lives, and the way they interacted with other people. “The main principle was that drug education doesn’t work because nobody pays attention to it. What is needed are the life skills to act on that information,” Milkman says. Kids were told it was a three-month programme. Some stayed five years.
Laws were changed. It became illegal to buy tobacco under the age of 18 and alcohol under the age of 20, and tobacco and alcohol advertising was banned. Links between parents and school were strengthened through parental organisations which by law had to be established in every school, along with school councils with parent representatives. Parents were encouraged to attend talks on the importance of spending a quantity of time with their children rather than occasional “quality time”, on talking to their kids about their lives, on knowing who their kids were friends with, and on keeping their children home in the evenings.
A law was also passed prohibiting children aged between 13 and 16 from being outside after 10pm in winter and midnight in summer. It’s still in effect today.
Clearly, the US has challenges that Iceland does not. But the data from other parts of Europe, including cities such as Bucharest with major social problems and relative poverty, shows that the Icelandic model can work in very different cultures, Milkman argues. And the need in the US is high: underage drinking accounts for about 11 per cent of all alcohol consumed nationwide, and excessive drinking causes more than 4,300 deaths among under-21 year olds every year.
In Iceland, the relationship between people and the state has allowed an effective national programme to cut the rates of teenagers smoking and drinking to excess – and, in the process, brought families closer and helped kids to become healthier in all kinds of ways. Will no other country decide these benefits are worth the costs?