I believe very strongly that laws and regulations are important as they codify social norms and what is defined as “proper,” and “acceptable” forms of behavior. I feel that we all have a right to feel safe in our communities, in our homes, anywhere we may go within this County. Consequently, I envision a multi-faceted approach that I would begin to effectuate with the guidance and support from the law enforcement community:
1. The overarching goal: keep and maintain a safe community
2. I would distinguish between users and dealers
a. I don’t want to punish status crimes – if you are an alcoholic, a drug addict – my goal will be to steer these individuals into treatment programs that both target the disease and provide meaningful outlets and alternatives (e.g. treatment along with development of workforce skills);
b. Dealers: if you operate as a drug dealer within the borders of Seneca County my goal will be to shut you down, extricate your assets (which will be used to offset the costs outlined in point a, above; and if rehabilitation is not possible then push for incarceration
i. We need to realize that dealers are in business, and if we remove all economic incentives from the equation, they will go elsewhere
ii. If we invest in the short-term to drive out dealers, then we all win in the long-term
iii. This also ties into point, A, above – merely hitting the supply side of the equation will be ineffective we need a two-prong approach to both drive out dealers and reduce usage and thus, demand.
Felony diversion program: several counties offer diversionary programs for non-violent felony offenses. We have something partially analogous to this, via our drug court, however, I would push for the implementation of the following:
Drug & alcohol court: for non-violent offenders, the long-term benefits to society through treatment and rehabilitation are too important to ignore:
i. The issue: attempting to rehabilitate an addict and then adding a felony to their criminal record places them in a catch-22 situation. Part of the process requires gainful employment, there are issues inherent in having a status as a felon which bar some employment, thus causing a person to slip up in their treatment and so on…
ii. Treatment needs to be holistic and all-encompassing. If we have addicts, they may need to have their addiction addressed, and then in the mid-to-long term they require career rehabilitation efforts so that they are employable and self-sustaining
I would apply the same principles to a mental health diversionary program: offer treatment, skills enhancement (where and when needed) and the possibility of leaving court without a felony conviction on their record
Similarly, for veterans – this would be specialized due to the anticipated intersection rates between Seneca County veterans and the criminal justice system, but this important population segment should not be ignored.