Addiction is a medical issue not a moral failing

Just a few days ago Dupage County Sheriff James Mendrick spoke to a local newspaper decrying the “unintended consequences” of doing away with Illinois’ cash bail system.

It is a specious argument meant to win over a segment of the public that has been led to believe that all that protects them from imminent chaos and bloodshed is the “thin blue line” of law enforcement. The “thin blue line” is a deeply troubling ideology fraught with racism of its own. That matter aside, it is also deeply troubling that public servants like Sheriff Mendrick are emboldened to use disinformation to buoy their value. It is a shame these tactics are resorted to since there is an inherent value to law enforcement in our communities; it just does not need to be nearly as expansive and expensive.

According to the recent story in The Beacon-News (a Chicago Tribune newspaper) the Dupage County Sheriff has partnered with JUST of Dupage. This organization is described in the article as “a nonprofit organization that tackles issues of alcoholism, mental illness, anger and lack of opportunity through robust rehabilitation and reaffirmation program inside the jail.”

There is a value to having substance addiction treatment inside of jails for those who are detained. It’s not a reason to retain in place the irreparable cash bail system that is so emblematic of racism and classism in our state. But even in a system of no-cash bail there will be individuals who are adjudicated unfit for pre-trial release. Treatment for those who are suffering from substance addiction makes sense.

But then one reads about the Dupage County Sheriff not following medical science in his jail treatment and it calls everything into question.

Is the Dupage County Sheriff’s jail treatment really an effective program to begin with if it denies detainees access to much needed medications to help them with their substance addiction? It turns out Sheriff Mendrick is being sued because he will not provide a detainee with a medication she is prescribed to take: methadone for an opioid addiction.

In a 2/12/21 Chicago Tribune article it is reported that the Dupage County Sheriff is being sued over this very issue. According to the article it is clear that the Dupage County Sheriff will deny access to medication to treat an opioid addiction.

Here are some excerpts from the article (click here to read the full article):

Finnigan is an individual who must report to the Dupage County Jail to serve a 30 day sentence later this month. She was trying to ensure that here prescribed medication – methadone – would be administered to her. Sheriff Mendrick’s office will not do it.

Dupage County Sheriff James Mendrick

Looking ahead this is what needs to happen:

  • medical science needs to be followed inside of Dupage County Jail’s substance addiction program; and
  • funding for substance treatment for those who cannot afford it privately should be made available so that providers in the community can contract with the county to provide it as a service that can be ordered as part of a mechanism of pre-trial release.

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