Died in Prison
Wednesday, February 11, 2004 - The Honolulu Advertiser
How to save a Mackey Feary
By David Shapiro
Whenever I hear politicians and prosecutors tout law enforcement as the only solution to drug abuse, I think of Mackey Feary, the former lead singer of Kalapana who hanged himself to death in a prison cell in 1999.
Feary was serving 10 years for relatively minor offenses related to his crystal methamphetamine addiction. A judge had enough of Feary's empty promises to kick the habit and came down hard after he threatened his wife with a hammer to get drug money.
Out of hope of being freed from either prison or his addiction, Feary ended it with a bed sheet.
Feary's death tragically pointed up that drug abatement is an issue of prevention and treatment as much as law enforcement. And they all failed him.
Even a good individual with Feary's many blessings couldn't be prevented from becoming addicted. Repeated treatment failed to end his dependence on ice.
I suppose you could say law enforcement ultimately solved the problem, but was the hideous outcome of Mackey Feary hanging from a bed sheet really acceptable?
These issues are playing out in the Legislature as Democratic lawmakers push bills heavy on prevention and treatment to combat ice addiction, while the Lingle administration and Honolulu Prosecutor Peter Carlisle fight for tougher law enforcement.
May they gain the wisdom to see that these are all pieces of the same puzzle and don't necessarily have to stand in opposition.
The Democrats' $21 million initiative, which makes a noble attempt to balance prevention, treatment and law enforcement, is an excellent starting point for collaboration.
Unfortunately, Attorney General Mark Bennett instead chose at a public hearing Saturday to draw a political line in the sand and declare the Democratic package "a step backwards" because it emphasizes treatment over prison for first-time, nonviolent drug offenders.
Added Carlisle, "In my mind, we have always focused on rehabilitation - both legislatively, criminally and financially."
With all due respect, this is pure nonsense.
We've fought a war on drugs in this country for well over 30 years, pouring billions of dollars into law enforcement with inadequate attention to treatment and rehabilitation of addicts before or after they enter the criminal justice system.
Where has it gotten us? Drugs are more prevalent in our communities than ever, and our jails are bursting at the seams with drug criminals.
This strategy attacks the supply of drugs without addressing the demand. Squeeze supply without reducing demand and drug prices only soar, making the trade even more lucrative for suppliers and causing addicts to commit even more crimes to pay for their habits.
Yes, we must support law enforcement to stem the flow of drugs into our community and punish offenders who profit from the trade and commit the crimes that sustain it.
But we must also support prevention and treatment as equally important fronts in the war on drugs.
Every addiction we prevent with education and every addict we successfully treat before prison comes into play lightens the burden on law enforcement.
It more than pays for itself to empty some crowded prison cells with far less costly drug treatment that has greater long-term impact on relieving the human suffering and economic drain of drugs in our society.
The best energy of the legislative session should be devoted to finding an effective way to do this, whether it's fine-tuning existing law, as Democrats propose, or running the efforts through an expanded Drug Court, as Lt. Gov. James "Duke" Aiona suggests.
Let's figure out what would have saved Mackey Feary and do that.
David Shapiro can be reached at email@example.com
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