A letter I wrote to a local judge concerning a family member who was convicted on drug charges, served her time and was refused her medications by law enforcement during her incarceration. She decided to smuggle the meds in and was caught in a strip search. The accounts are true but the names have been changed to protect the innocent.

Honorable Judge Steiner:

I am writing to you today on behalf on Jan Smith. Jan is scheduled on the docket to appear before you at 11:00 a.m. on June 21 2009 for probation violation.

Jan is a 39 year of woman who has made some bad decisions in the past. She got involved with illegal drugs due to medical and mental issues she has battled for the majority of her life. Jan is diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder and Migraine Headaches. Due to her socioeconomic status she went untreated for years. Once she did seek treatment she encountered the next barrier of having no insurance and the cost of the medications prescribed by physicians and psychiatrists being so far out of her monetary grasp. Jan’s medication for migraines alone ranges from twenty-five to thirty-five dollars PER pill at the most cost efficient pharmacy.

As many other people have done, Jan attempted to self-medicate with disastrous results to every nuance of her life. Jan became addicted to chemicals and as happens with all people who suffer from the disease of addiction, her life took a downward spiral. When she was arrested she was spinning out of control and those of us who knew her believed she was a heartbeat away from death. Such is the evolution of the disease of addiction. The authorities stepped in and incarcerated her not a moment to soon. Jan spent time in the Monroe County Jail and it was during this time she began to detox from the chemicals in her system.

Jan spent several weeks in a rehabilitation facility which offered her the basic tools of the 12 Step program as well as helping her to understand the unresolved issues that were a factor in how she turned to drugs initially.

When she graduated the inpatient portion of her treatment she entered the next phase of rehabilitation; outpatient meetings and classes. Jan attended all required meetings and classes with faith, hope and a new found love and respect for herself. However, she went further with her sobriety by attending meetings she was not required to by law, she did independent research to better arm herself against the disease she will do battle with everyday for the rest of her life. In Jan’s personal life she and her husband started couples counseling to improve and stabilize their relationship. Jan made difficult decisions where her friends and family were concerned. The people who were not a positive influence or brought their own dramatic issues into her life, Jan made the sometimes very difficult decision to distance herself from them. Jan worked her way up through the levels of the program with eagerness to gain more knowledge and put the applications to work in her personal life.

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  • Julian Wright on May 23, 2009

    As my work takes me into some of these areas I know where you are coming from – I see a lot of discrimination across many disabilities but mental illness is the most feared and misunderstood – particularly by those that should be exercising duty of care. Mental illness is what it is, an illness. Let’s treat it in the same way we treat any other illness for goodness sake! So, thanks for submitting this piece the more awareness the better – it would be nice to find out the response or outcome to the letter.

  • Crystal Tankersley on May 23, 2009

    The judge in question announced in court that he was not looking to ruin her life and then promptly sentenced her to 120 days in a state corrections facility which for some reason turned itno 6 months. She got in no trouble while she was in prison and when we inquired they said it was a backlog in paperwork. Somewhere along the line we have to make our judicial system just as accountable as our citizens. Thanks for reading and commenting. Crystal

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