Please Know...

As I come to know these fine people, they share with me more of their personal and sensitive stories. Their collective story is what I am trying to share with you as my way of breaking the stereotypical beliefs that exist. "Blog names" have occasionally been given to me by the person whose story I am telling. Names are never their actual names and wherever I can do so, I might use the opposite pronoun (his/her, etc.) just to help increase their privacy.


Thursday, March 21, 2019

It's Way Past Time for Philadelphia Prison Release Reform


The following is adapted from a letter that I recently wrote to a judge on behalf of a person who is currently trapped in the legal system due to their Substance Use Disorder which is an officially recognized condition by the medical community...  Please also read the footnotes... 

Many thousands of people are dealing with Substance Use Disorder, an officially recognized condition as described in the DSM-5.  Virtually every illegal act that lands them in the court system has its roots in this disorder.[1]  Most want to stop using and move on to their new life goals. 

If given the slightest opportunity to do so, a person's Substance Use Disorder will win the battle in demanding that they continue to "take her medicine."[2]  To whatever extent the court can serve as a de facto physician[3] in bringing about healing, I urgently and humbly ask that when the time is right, any person within the court's jurisdiction would be transferred directly to an appropriate care facility that will serve them in a way that is best for them and will truly help them achieve their goals for a new and productive life.[4] 

This situation applies to men and women.  
Women in this situation are forced to carry an extra dose of potential harm…

In the absence of a predetermined place for a woman in this situation to go to directly from her current incarceration, she will be released from RCF[5] any time between 7pm and the middle of the night.[6]  She will be provided with one token for the bus which is available to her right off the jail grounds and will have little choice but to return to Kensington.  She will be released without whatever personal effects she had on her when brought to RCF.  These items, which include her ID and some degree of cash will need to be picked up by her on some future business day between the hours of 9:00am and 1:30pm.[7],[8]  She will be required to hop on the visitor's bus and return to the same building in which she had been incarcerated for days or months.[9]

Between her moment of release from RCF and retrieving her personal belongings, upon her return to the familiarity of the streets of Kensington, with hunger setting in and the call of her Substance Use Disorder screaming for attention, she will have little choice but to succumb to her nightmare of humiliating herself by 'dating'[10] so as to earn a few dollars for food and heroin.

In the absence of the relative safety of community found within Emerald City[11], her chance of finding any place to lay her head will be next to nil.[12]  She will have little choice but to find someone's residential step or piece of sidewalk upon which to lay and consume her first doses of heroin for this round of homelessness.  

During her incarceration, her body has 'reset itself' to its tolerance of how much heroin she can safely[13] handle.  A 'normal' dose for her prior to incarceration could easily end her life on this night and bring one more set of loved ones together for a funeral that could have been prevented.  If she has found an abandoned house to rest in and inject her heroin, it may be days or weeks before anyone finds her decaying body.

She may pass out due to her body having 'reset itself' and not being used to this amount of heroin.   In the absence of communities such as Emerald City, she runs the risk of being attacked while lying unconscious in an area less secure than a 'tent community.' 

Do you see my point?

Let us please work together to establish new ways of transitioning our sons and daughters from incarceration to actual health care and to protect them from the symptomatic behaviors of their officially medically recognized Substance Use Disorder.



[1] This disorder almost always has its roots in some form of emotional trauma.  That's a subject for another day.
[2] This is a recognized pattern for any person who would be in this situation.
[3] acting or existing in fact but without official sanction
[4] The original letter to the judge, upon which this blog is based was written almost three weeks ago.  A direct transfer was already part of the judge's plan for this person.  So far, the judge and this person have fully believed that the transfer would happen on two different dates.  This person is still sitting in a 6x9 jail cell at RCF.  She is sharing this space with another woman and being given no degree of counseling.  In her own words through tears when I visited her two days ago:  "It's humiliating!  There's nothing to do except sit.  When either of us needs to do so, we are forced to piss and shit in front of each other in the exposed toilet in our cell."   Is this any way to treat human beings who are made in the image of God and who are dealing with a recognized condition formally recognized by the medical community as Substance Use Disorder?
[5] Riverside Correctional Facility
[6] I have been there to pick up three people upon release from RCF. The earliest was approximately midnight.  The latest was after 2:00am.
[7] In my recent visits to RCF, there have been more formerly incarcerated women on the visitor's transport bus coming to retrieve their belongings than there have been visitors coming to see their incarcerated loved ones.
[8] To do so, she will need to ride public transit which costs money, money which will most likely be earned through 'dating', an illegal act for which she could be arrested and taken back to jail before her first 'freed' sunrise.
[9] There is no reasonable purpose for expecting a person who has been declared free of their charges or 'done their time' to return to the place of their incarceration simply to retrieve their personal property which includes their ID. This ID is required to be presented in various places so as to achieve services that get these people moving toward the next healthy steps of their life.
[10] And please understand that in the process of 'dating' to earn funds that she was not given upon her release, she may be picked up by police and charged with prostitution and end up back in jail before the sun rises the next day.
[11] Which was disbanded by the City of Philadelphia on January 31, 2019…
[12] Established shelters will be filled to capacity at this time of night.
[13] I know… It's a bit of an ironic and inappropriate word to use but it sort of fits in this case.

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