Alcohol Anonymous Becoming Dumping Ground for Offenders on Probation and ParoleOpinion
OPINION — With jails and prisons overcrowding in Texas, the seemingly easy way out of this tough situation for the courts seems to be probation or parole. Beds in prison are never filled when the convicted is offered probation. And for those who have served a stint in the TDCJ, parole gets them out of the prison system early.
There are dilemmas that arise out of this, especially with infractions dealing with alcohol and drugs. In McCulloch County, part of the 452nd State Judicial District, three different courts involving district judge, county judge, justice of The peace and perhaps a judge representing the State Attorney General might choose to sentence many to probation in lieu of a prison stay. Once the parameters of the probation are set during the sentencing phase, the administrative duties involved are set in place.
In the probation office, problems arise soon enough. Some of the guidelines to be adhered may include payment of a probation fee, community service, and many times there is a court referral for the offender to attend Alcoholics Anonymous (AA).
At first glance, it would appear that the path dictated would be eagerly followed and no snags in the system should raise their heads; however, it should be remembered that these people required to participate are not always of the most trustworthy characters. There also is the probability of a lack of manpower to oversee all these violators. It is unimaginable how difficult it must be to ride herd on all these offenders who have a unique way of trying to find an easy way out of a situation even though they were given leniency to begin with.
When probationers are court-remanded to attend meetings of AA, they are issued a paper slip that requires them to attend such meetings and get said slip signed at the end of each meeting they attended, showing when and where they went along with the time.
For decades an unwritten AA principle of “co-operation with the courts” has been followed — until more recent times where the often tiny rooms of AA are flooded with court paper holders. A system of holding the papers until after the meetings for signings has slowly eroded. The paper holders now bring their papers early and expect — and most often get — their slips signed before the meeting to be are quickly on their merry way...often with the smell of alcohol on their breath.
One AA member said that a long-held tenet of the organization is that, “The only requirement for AA membership is a desire to stop drinking” and “it is obvious that these people do not want to be here, so we will not argue with them.”
Other comments made included those who dealt with parolees. The offender may be paroled to live McCulloch County, but they must report to the nearest parole officer in Brown County, 46 miles away. That officer would assign those people to Narcotics Anonymous (NA) in Brady, but since there is no such program locally, they go or are assigned to attend Brady's only AA group meetings.
Problems have arisen, not by verbal threats or comments, but more in the way of gestures and looks and glares to not only display their displeasure of having to be there, but to intimidate the speakers. These practices seem to have upset some of the women members who have stopped attending meetings all together.
One member who has lived in many places throughout the state and attended meetings there said he had seen and heard some stories about court appointed attendees. He has seen referrals for shoplifting, incest, family violence and a whole gambit of other indiscretions, not just for alcoholism. In Houston, he said a young man about 16 kept coming to meetings to get his paper signed. He seemed a quiet and polite young man, but still entered the room with some hesitancy and a slight look of fear on his face. One day in a casual conversation he was asked what he thought of the program of Alcoholics Anonymous. He hesitated before he answered that he had neither an alcohol nor drug problem. The Judge had sent him because he was a chronic masturbator.
The same gentleman said, “Why in the hell does the State of Texas with all its resources choose to dump these people on AA? They should be sent to the Rotary Club or the Lions Club if the courts want them molded into first class citizens. Or have them run as candidates for city council! We are, after all, a non-profit program with one sole purpose — sobriety; that does not include rehabbing wards of the court.”
Nothing will be resolved it seems until all rungs of the court system ladder are in tune with what is and what isn’t co-operation with AA.
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