Pubdate: Mon, 16 May 2016
Source: News & Observer (Raleigh, NC)
Copyright: 2016 The News and Observer Publishing Company
Note: By The Editorial Board


Nashville - North Carolina's Nashville, 45 miles east of Raleigh - 
has a police chief who is changing the way law enforcement deals with 
drug addicts, who might ordinarily be arrested and put away.

Chief Thomas Bashore has seen the consequences of drug abuse, and 
he's come to see that conventional law enforcement solutions, meaning 
arrest and imprisonment, don't seem to come to a constructive end. 
Addicts go in for a while, come out, get reacquainted with drugs, go back in.

But now Bashore has instituted a program in his community whereby 
people who are seeking treatment for their addictions can come to his 
police department and get help. They'll be assigned to a community 
volunteer who will take them to a medical facility to start treatment 
and recovery.

"It doesn't matter if a person comes to the Police Department in 
possession of paraphernalia, or even drugs," he said. "If that person 
comes to seek treatment, they will not be arrested."

The politically popular position to take when it comes to drugs is: 
lock them up. The federal government has seen the folly in that. It 
has revised sentencing guidelines for nonviolent federal drug 
offenders which has resulted in earlier releases for many.

At the highest point of tough sentencing for drugs, over half the 
inmates in federal prisons were drug offenders, and a significant 
percentage of those were nonviolent offenders. That meant prisons 
were getting overcrowded, and some petty criminals - charged with 
drug possession crimes - were being given the opportunity during long 
terms behind bars to become not-so-petty criminals.

Making drug users feel as if the police station can be a way to find 
freedom from addiction instead of a place of incarceration means 
there will be a better chance those people will become productive 
citizens. That saves society the expense of taking care of them in 
prisons, and it may well save their families - period.

Drugs remain a serious problem, but the lack of creative ways to help 
people is contributing to that problem. Bashore is a true public 
servant, who sees it as his duty to help those he is sworn to serve 
with compassion, with solutions.
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