Treatment isn’t priority, the priority is punishment

By Janet Goree
Janet Goree and her son Bobby

Most people know me as an advocate for prevention of Shaken Baby Syndrome. I have spent the last 17 years working to educate the general public and professionals about traumatic brain injury resulting from babies that are shaken by caregivers. Kimberlin, my granddaughter, lived only three years after being shaken by my son-in-law. The tortured life and death of a precious member of our family had long-lasting effects on everyone in the family. 

My son Bobby was 15 years old when Kimberlin was shaken. Kimbers’ father was my son’s mentor and friend. When she died, we all went to counseling, but Bobby began using drugs. For 15 years Bobby’s life has been a cycle of rehabilitation, prison and addiction. 

Released from prison last year, he signed up for ex-offender programs and rode the bus every day looking for work. He participated in the Methadone program and stayed off heroin. He couldn’t find a job and when his depression returned, we sought a more intensive treatment program. Bobby pleaded with his probation officer, operation PAR, anyone who would listen. No one would intervene until Bobby was off Methadone.

His withdrawal was difficult, more than he could stand, and when he broke down, he went into a grocery store, stole a knife, then robbed the Walgreen’s of oxycodone. Bobby was arrested in the store’s restroom and, thankfully, no one was physically injured. My son took responsibility for the crime and was sentenced to 30 years in prison on September 12, 2008.

My former son-in-law shook my granddaughter to death and served only probation. The average sentence in the State of Florida for killing a child is eight years. Drug crimes, with threat of violence or without, carry sentences of 30 years to life. This doesn’t make sense to me.

We are locking-up young people who need help. We are throwing away an entire generation of sons, daughters, fathers, and mothers. The long term consequences of this war on drugs will be far-reaching and devastating.

I have partnered with the wife of another inmate of Florida’s prison system to start Florida Community Capitol Coalition. Our goal is to help in any way possible with the existing efforts to end mandatory minimums, to be a support system for family members, and to improve conditions in the prisons. 

It is slow going as there is definitely a “lock ‘em up and throw away the key” mentality out there. It is too late to save Bobby from these incredibly misguided laws, but together we must change laws and make treatment the priority, not punishment.

To learn more about Florida Community Capitol Coalition and its mission to build public awareness regarding sentencing reform, restorative justice, and applications awareness, contact Janet Goree at 727- 204-8441 or 727-204-8441.

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