Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

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That just ain’t right: Police panic over minor drug offense

Welcome to "That just ain't right." This is your weekly opportunity to expose some of life's many injustices to the world. There are some items of interest and concern that just don't seem to make any sense to most rational human beings, yet there they are, staring us in the face each and every day of our lives.

This column is your opportunity to help make our lives better, or at least explore alternative suggestions for solving some of the social issues we face. Even if this only means getting it off your chest and sharing your concerns with our readers.

This being my first column, you don't know that I want you to write in yet! So I will tell my own personal story, in an attempt to get the ball rolling. So I am writing to myself… and then I will attempt to offer myself advice. This reminds me of a really bad dream!

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I got busted in October of 2005, in my own front yard for disorderly conduct when I refused to allow a Madison police officer — without a search warrant — to enter my home. As the officer searched me he discovered that I had a gram and a half of marijuana in my pocket.

After paying the $700 fine for the disorderly conduct offense, the district attorney didn't drop the misdemeanor marijuana charge. In May 2006 I entered the "Dane County Alternatives to Incarceration Program," also known as "Drug Court."

I participated in two separate drug addiction assessments. No clinical drug or alcohol dependency was diagnosed. That decision was made using a clinical formula derived from a long "list of indicators for dependency."

When no drug problem was diagnosed, the court still forced me to go attend four weeks of alcohol awareness counseling while taking random pee tests for the last nine months. These tests include urinalysis for alcohol, cocaine, marijuana, amphetamines, morphine and barbiturates.

During this program I discovered that this whole thing has cost the citizens of Dane County in excess of $4,000. I'm very concerned that the people in Madison and throughout Dane County are not aware that their tax dollars are spent "rehabilitating" poor college students who are caught with less than a joint. I'm thinking, "That just ain't right!"

The Drug Court system in this county has, in many instances, been a valuable tool helping addicts overcome a variety of serious addiction problems. The court provides both outpatient and inpatient programs providing supervision, counseling and one-on-one mentoring in an attempt to help serious cocaine and heroin addicts patch their lives back together. All of this while keeping these unfortunate people out of jail. Often the charges against them are reduced or dropped upon successfully completing the nine-month program.

In this particular case, however, I would seriously question whether the system wasn't perverted. This situation seems hypocritical, particularly when from the bench, the judge preaches the value of each and every place in the program. Each spot in the drug program is a very precious commodity that should be cherished by every participant and is a very expensive investment in the participant's futures.

Yet, there seems to be no mechanism in place that allows a judge to objectively review the decisions made by the District Attorney's Office and apply their discretion to modify the conditions of that plea agreement. This would potentially kill three birds with one simple, but brilliant, insight.

Reviewing incoming cases could save taxpayer dollars and offer the judge a chance to evaluate a variety of expense versus social benefit questions, all while protecting citizens from overzealous prosecution and misdirected priorities within the District Attorney's Office.

Well, that's the way I see it. The questions that come to mind immediately are: How does the District Attorney's Office justify the $4000-plus expense to adjudicate a simple marijuana misdemeanor charge? How often does this happen in Madison? Why wasn't the Madison municipal fine imposed? And what about the city municipal ordinance decriminalizing small amounts of the stimulant while on your own property?

At the very least, the court should be willing to modify its policies in order to make the system more efficient and provide additional independent oversight of the district attorney's sentencing recommendations.

So what do you think? Should the good taxpayers of Dane County advocate this method of dealing with insignificant offences? Don't you think your parents' tax dollars could and should be spent more judiciously? For example, giving their money to us college students.

Tell me what you think folks. Because I'm thinking, "That just ain't right!"

Bill Klousie is a junior majoring in journalism and zoology. Send your comments and story ideas to ([email protected]).

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