Changing Rooms

There are rooms where the POTENTIAL exists for permanent change for the better

What follows is just a sample of such rooms

The holding cell within the loss prevention office of a department store.

Here sits the handcuffed shoplifting suspect. They come in all sorts of backgrounds.

Some are:

  • Angry and beligerent
  • Tearful and remorseful
  • First timers
  • Repeat offenders
  • Gang wanna be’s looking for street creds and fulfilling an initiation requirement
  • Junkies needing a fix
  • Kleptomaniacs
  • Just plain lazy, selfish, narcissistic products of our shallow consumer driven society

No matter what their background and persuasion, they are in custody. They got caught. We have their attention because we are in charge and they are in handcuffs. Might now be the time to dig deeper to determine their underlying motivations so as to counsel them to change their ways?. But no. The time and resources are limited. The result is release into the custody of parents/guardians if they are minors, a night in jail for the others and a Promise To Appear (PTA) in court for all of them (unless the shoplifting was accompanied by some physical resistance).

Teachable Moment & Opportunity Lost on all of them except the most contrite who might be “scared straight”. For the rest, where is the “tough-love”? When will the taxpayers say “enough is enough” and stop paying for this revolving door? Might it make sense to pay some attention and money now rather that keep pouring it down the drain later?

The doctors office for the annual check up

Here sits the patient dutifully answering the following questions:

  • What is your weekly intake of alcohol? Oh, just an occasional beer or wine with dinner
  • Are you eating plenty of fruits and vegetables? Oh, yes almost every day.
  • Are you exercising regularly? Oh yes, I have a gym membership
  • Are you getting at least 8 hours of sleep every night? Oh yes, no late night tv watching or computer screen surfing for me.
  • How is your home life and is anything bothering you? I’m fine
  • Have you paid the co-pay for todays visit? Yes, I paid on the way in.

Here sits the patient:

  • Morbidly obese
  • Bloodshot eyes, tired, forgetful
  • High blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes

Teachable Moment & Opportunity Lost on all patients except those who have taken a good look at themselves in the mirror and are resolved to change. For the rest, where is the “tough-love”? Might it make sense to pay some attention and money now rather that keep pouring it down the drain later with increased health insurance costs, increased medication levels and frequent hospitalizations?

The emergency room treating overdose victims

Here lies the drug overdose victim. They come from all sorts of backgrounds but they have one thing in common…they almost died from their addiction. Another thing most of them have in common is that this probably not their first brush with death and it will not be their last.

Teachable Moment & Opportunity Lost on all patients except those who have taken a good look at themselves in the mirror and are resolved to change. For the rest, where is the “tough-love”? Might it make sense to pay some attention and money now rather that keep pouring it down the drain later with increased health insurance costs, frequent hospitalizations and continued arrests? Might this be the time when bring them back from such dire circumstances to enroll them in long term hospitalizations that include both physical and psychological therapy? Costly up front but cost effective in the long run.

Hospital psychiatric wards

Here sits the “frequent flier” needing stabilization and safety.

Teachable Moment & Opportunity Lost: Might now while they are receiving direct care and supervision be the time to make sure their diagnosis and medicine management are correct. Might now be the time to transfer them to a supervised, therapeutic residence for longer term care and treatment rather than release them into the community where there is a high likelihood that they will relapse, hurt themselves or become victimized.

Emergency housing shelters

Here sits more “frequent fliers” needing stabilization, safety and longer term treatment

Teachable Moment & Opportunity Lost: See description above concerning psychiatric admissions. On a personal note, having worked for over 30 years in the affordable housing field, I recognize that every case of homelessness is different and treatments must vary accordingly. That said, the pervasive pattern of homelessness is a clear indication that issues must be addressed concurrent with putting a roof over someone’s head. Again, spending without tough-love is good money after bad.

The court room and the jail cell

Here sits more “frequent fliers” needing stabilization, safety (from themselves and for society) and longer term treatment.

Teachable Moment & Opportunity Lost: If they are in these systems (courts & jails) we know where they are and we have their attention (similar to the shoplifters described in custody at the start of this discussion). Obviously, the circumstances of every person in the criminal justice system will be different for each person. Solutions need to be tailored. Additionally, the punishments must be proportionate to the crimes committed. However, for chronic repeat offenders, there needs to be a mechanism in place that provides long term intensive supervision and therapeutic treatment (and confinement if violence is on the criminals resume) since it’s obvious that stints in jail are not turning this persons life around.

So what prevents tough-love, long-term, cost-effective solutions to the above described revolving door scenarios?

There needs to be a re-examination of our perspective on individual rights and autonomy when the safety of both persons and society are at stake. When there is a pervasive pattern of good-money-after-bad-money pouring down the drain with no evidence that the problem is being addressed, it’s time to consider more mandated, longer term treatments when we have the full focus of the person who is in crisis or in the case of persons engaged in criminal activity who are caught red-handed.

Of course, there needs to be oversight to make sure that there are no abuses of power concerning the application of tough-love, mandated treatments. Maybe if we crafted a system of conservators, mentors, and life-coaches coupled with technology to monitor those persons in need of monitoring for their own safety and the safety of society, we might be able to reduce the repeat offender syndrome. This approach would bring a stop to the ridiculous “catch and release” treatment of all the persons described in this article. As someone who has worked in the fields of community organizing, housing, criminal justice, education and mental health, I have seen my share of “catch and release” and observe that nobody wins in the long run. Maybe with dwindling funding to address problems, it’s time to think outside of the box in addressing these problems.

Some of this outside-the-box thinking and long-view perspectives are baked into my upcoming novel Mall Child so stay tuned for details!

Published by dunnwriteswell

Boomer who is late bloomer to writing. Healthy addictions include Book TV and exercise. Track all things historic, political, cultural, economic and social. Mixture of tough-love. Minimalist who is fiscally conservative and socially progressive. Realist not afraid to see the glass as half empty. However, still willing to consider outside-the-box, long term solutions to seemingly intractable problems. Old enough to appreciate the greater arc of history while remaining young at heart.

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