Sound Off: Drug court is effective for some, but fails others

  • Friday, July 6, 2018 12:48pm
  • Opinion

By Lane Campbell

At a recent campaign forum on South Whidbey, I shared some of my of real-life experiences that have informed and shaped my opinion of the drug court program. Understandably our local judges are staunch advocates of this program, and I understand their commitment and dedication. However it is concerning they chose to respond without confirming if the context of my statements was accurately portrayed.

I don’t mince words and will stand by what I said. However, I am not going to allow the mischaracterization of my intentions nor the assumption that I am unfamiliar with the pros and cons of the drug court program to stand without clarification. Drug court, like all one-size-fits-all government, serves some and fails others. It is a viable option for a select few, but this is not a complete law enforcement solution.

What is a solution? Alternative programs combined with tougher penalties, greater rights given to the victims of crime than to the perpetrators, and a well-developed and diversified approach to holding criminals accountable that includes but does not solely rely on programs like the drug court. This is the context in which my thoughts were shared.

For the last 37 years I have worked in law enforcement, nearly 28 of those in Island County. My desire to serve as Island County Sheriff was manifested out of the need for change. We need leadership that is out in the community working alongside our deputies and corrections officers to ensure that we are getting positive results. The closer you are to the citizens of Island County the quicker you realize that we are not as effective as we should and can be. The criminals in our communities know it. Drug dealers know it. Most significantly, we know it.

I believe that public trust is the foundation to effective law enforcement, and it’s time to stop mincing words, say what needs to be said and get down to the business of public safety. My comments about the merits of the drug court were made in the context of what I believe is the most effective way to deal with our rising drug epidemic. Having alternative programs for the first time offenders who demonstrate the desire and inner strength to make change has its place and I agree they should be given every opportunity to succeed. That being said, these programs should not replace consequences for the re-offender.

I am tired of seeing our communities deteriorate to the point where criminals have more rights and access to services than those they victimize. This is unacceptable. We need to do better, we can and we will. The Island County Sheriff is a role and responsibility I will take seriously. I am passionate about our islands and will not simply stand by and watch our lifestyle erode. Crime is crime, and we have real victims in our communities who are suffering because of our turn-the-other-cheek approach to many of these issues.

In closing, I am just as committed to the success of the drug court program as our respected judges. I understand that no program is perfect, however, it is my intent to work closely with the prosecutor’s office, judges and program managers to ensure that the individuals who are being considered for the program are truly viable candidates for the program. These individuals must demonstrate that they want help and are not just using the program to avoid prison time. I won’t apologize for my passion when it comes to keeping our community safe.

Lane Campbell is a candidate for Island County Sheriff

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