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Monday, July 10, 2017

Bill Pekarski: Day 306, Living life on my terms

Bill Pekarski:
Day 306, Living life on my terms.

How many times do you listen or read the news and see where someone was arrested for alcohol or drug abuse? How many times do you say to yourself; “there goes old so and so getting in trouble again?” Did you ever stop to think that maybe that person is someone’s child, husband, mother, or father? Or how about wondering why doesn’t that person get some help and break the cycle?

If you’ve been following the local news over the past couple of years, you are probably aware that Potter County is at the forefront of a movement to change the way we go about dealing with criminal defendants who are addicted to alcohol or other drugs, as well as those who have mental health issues. Larger counties have pursued these programs for several years, but very few rural counties in Pennsylvania or across the country have progressed as far as ours. In fact, Potter County was presented with the 2015 National Association of Counties Outstanding Achievement Award for its innovations.

The development of these specialty courts are due much in part to the vision and dedication of current President Judge of Potter County, Stephen Minor.

It’s hard to believe that Stephen P. B. Minor has passed the midpoint of his eighth year as President Judge of the Potter County Court of Common Pleas. We’re fortunate to have a man of his integrity and demeanor on the bench, and doubly fortunate that his predecessor, John B. Leete, has remained on as a senior judge assigned to cases both near and far.

Judges in Pennsylvania are ethically bound to avoid political activities. For many reasons, they tend to have a low profile, even though the decisions they render can affect many people’s lives.

There have been several reforms, but the two that have taken root and changed lives are the Drug Treatment Court and the DUI Treatment Court. I am far from an expert on the topic, but from the newspaper articles I have learned that these court systems are open to criminal defendants who have been diagnosed as addicts and are willing to go through a process that can last two years or more to get clean and sober for all time and make many other changes in their lives. The defendant, if accepted into the program, progresses through different levels in his recovery and is subjected to intensive probation and many standards of accountability.

Judge Minor was a driving force behind the formation of these courts and Judge Leete, who stands strongly behind them, is presiding judge for each of them.

I know the worn-out slogans like “do the crime and you must do the time." But what we are finding is that locking up addicts and doing nothing about their issues is a prescription for failure. More often than not they will end up back behind bars because their lives are still broken. The cost of this cycle of crime is going through the roof for the taxpayers. If you look at the entire justice system as a whole, the United States has the largest percentage of its citizens incarcerated of any country in the world. It doesn’t take much to realize that overall, the system is broken.

The latest program that the court system is looking into involves improving the effectiveness of services for criminal defendants who have certain types of mental illness. Many of them follow the same path in and out of jail as the addicts. They rarely get the help that they need and society pays the price.

I know that Judge Minor’s heart is truly in these programs. The support he has received from others who are involved in the system is equally impressive to me. Your stereotypical district attorney, police officer and jail warden is perceived as “tough on crime,” but the ranks of those who understand that there are alternatives to locking up a criminal and throwing away the key are growing all across the country. This is not to say that everyone can be rehabilitated. Sadly, there are those who must be separated from society and those who have committed serious crimes and must suffer the consequences of their actions.

I guess my point is that all too often we are quick to judge others without realizing the demons to which that person has to deal with every day. Maybe with a little care, training, and a hand, that person can break the cycle that seems to doom them to a life of repeated offenses and incarcerations. Maybe by giving them a real chance to better themselves instead of locking them away, we may create a productive member of society.

Today I am dedicating my progress to current President Judge for the Potter County Court of Common Pleas; Stephen P.B. Minor as well as his predecessor and Senior Judge John B. Leete. They are two local men who have dedicated their life’s work to serving all the people of Potter County.

9 comments :

Anonymous said...

Bill,

This epidemic is far more severe and reaching than your average addict suffering alone and gets caught red handed purchasing their next pick me up. Anymore these drugs are death sentences and the addicts know that and they make the CHOICE to put this stuff into their system. More importantly is that fact that when they do make that decision they are not only putting themselves in harms way but also first responders. Countless people are also exposed to these highly dangerous drugs because of their poor decision. I’ll bet the founders of the drug court NEVER did take that into consideration. We do not need to poo poo their problems like our local “We are not accountable for our actions” drug court. They need REAL CONSEQUENCES for their actions. NO room at the inn for these people at the local county level then put them in the state penitentiary. How DARE they put other people in harms way because of their poor decisions!!! We should not be in the business to try to save these people who are quite frankly NOT worth saving. No one should have to risk their lives in an attempt to save them. Society and the tax payer should NOT have to foot the bill to help save them in any respect. Put them away or leave them die. When faced with that choice they will either sink or swim. Again, that is their own decision just like the decision they made to get into their own mess.

Mouse

Anonymous said...

Potter County is sometimes described as a Christian County but "Mouse" is at least one exception. Even Jesus was not as all-knowing and discerning as Mouse because, from all accounts, he didn't have Mouse's divine wisdom to determine which among our brothers and sisters are "not worth saving." We don't need the Gospels. We have Mouse!!!

Anonymous said...

Wow 12:46 you really can judge people quickly without respect to human decency. Can't believe you can just give up on a person so quickly. I'm sure this epidemic has not hit home for you or you would not have this attitude. We are extremely lucky that there are people who take on the job to serve and protect. Please don't get me wrong. I wouldn't want them to come to harm because of someone else's poor decision. Who are you to decide who is "worth saving"?? Our emergency responders react daily to many situations which could be avoided. Auto accidents, fires, etc. Please try not to judge others and condemn so quickly. It is a true illness for many and you would be surprised of the amount of people who have been able to come through it and become responsible citizens. Don't give up on humanity.

Debi Shepard said...

"All LIVES ARE WORTH SAVING"
Seems very heartless, just be careful it doesn't come back to bite you Mouse, You're not the judge, God loves them as much as he loves us, just be thankful it's not one of your children, grandchild or even great grandchild
Bill, thank you for honoring two very caring & compassionate judges.....these people need help, a lot of them have come from broken homes, sent to foster care, some are even homeless, they get in such a chronic depression state of mind no one cares about them so they turn to the streets & drugs, they become their comfort & it fills the void & emptiness in their lives, I pray for families that have a child and/or children with an addiction.....Ive experienced being shoved from foster home to foster home & Believe me it's no picnic, you do get in a state that no one really cares about you....you have no hope.....we need to be very careful who we judge & who we condemn, it will come back to bite !!! Jesus cares about everyone of us & He Loves everyone of us, He's no respector of persons, He shows no partiality!

Anonymous said...

If they're not worth saving then they're not worth arresting. Funny how that double standard works.

On one hand you think it's okay to throw people in prison with murderers and rapists for consuming a drug, but on the other hand you have no sympathy for those people.

What's your logic? Clearly you don't care about them. You have no desire to help them, so what's your excuse for arresting them for hurting themselves?

Oh, maybe you're worried their habit will infect someone you care about? No other reason, so we'll see what tune you're singing when that day DOES come. Lets see if that person YOU care about is "NOT worth saving".

Mr. Front Porch said...

Go ahead....TRY to save them. The only way they get HELP is when they are arrested. Then they go into the system/rehab..... then once they are done they are right back at it. I agree with you Mouse!

Anonymous said...

Everyone is worth the effort! But, You can't help people who don't want to live! This is so sad! Everyone needs saving grace! By the grace of God you will be saved! Ask God to save you! He loves all of us and he will not let you down! Amen!

Anonymous said...

Well said, Bill. Kudos to you!

Slim said...

There is no God. If there was one, obviously he doesn't care what happens or he would and the worlds suffering and killing.