Monday, August 24, 2009

An Open Letter to Levi and Mercede Johnston

--- by SnarKassandra

[I've been corresponding with SnarKassandra at the blog firedoglake since she was 14 or 15. Her winning struggle against some fierce odds have inspired thousands of adults around the world as we've read her experiences of growing up, and becoming very politically aware, too. This is reprinted with approval of one of Cassie's adult friends where she lives]


Dear Levi & Mercede,

I was sorry to hear about your mom’s arrest and plea for drug use and selling drugs. I was even more sorry that it’s in the newspapers and on the blogs, and that people are making fun of her.

I am around your age (nearly 18) and my mom has been in jail for almost eight years on drug charges, so I know some of what you are going through.

I am also completely a busybody and am going to use this blog post to give both of you some advice.

1. Go to Alateen. Or ACOA. Or someplace that’s NOT your church where you can learn about addicts and addiction how none of this is your fault and that you can’t cure your mom. Also, Mercede, if there’s a support group in your town or in your HS for kids who have a parent in prison, GO!

2. Mercede, I don’t know who you are living with these days, but my brother became my guardian when he was 18, and he was way too young. And that’s without being a father himself or having reporters and photographers following him around. I hope that you stay with a family, a whole, real family, at least until you finish HS.

3. You will find out really soon who your real friends are and who thinks a lot less of you because your mom is in jail. Sometimes even good friends can be insensitive, but at least they still like you for who YOU are. Some kids are incredibly creepy and think it’s cool to know someone who knows someone in jail. Stay away from them. Same thing with overly curious adults.

4. People will ask you what they can do to help. It’s a dumb question, but if they ask twice, tell them to do something to improve life for prisoners and provide treatment for addicts. You may even want to join organizations that encourage treatment instead of prison for addicts.
Stand up for your mom. Make sure that the lawyers and guardians and corrections people all know that someone is watching and that someone cares. I don’t visit anymore, but I do have an adult in my life who communicates with my mom and with the prison.

5. Because your mom is an addict like my mom, and because we watched our moms use drugs instead of facing problems head-on, all three of us can become an addict more easily than most people. So learn what the signs are, and be careful, and watch out for each other.


We all need to work on making this country less inclined to incarcerate addicts and more inclined to help them find treatment. And that starts with making sure that drug use is not a crime. Prohibition didn’t work for alcohol and it’s not working for drugs.

I hope you do go to Alateen and counseling and get all the help you need to not have to ride your mother’s roller coaster addiction. You didn’t cause it and you can’t cure it, but you can learn healthy ways to get through the next few years.

Your friend,

Cassie

image - Levi & Mercede in a Jeep

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hope they see this good advice for the two of them. Hope they heed the advice and that their father plays a favorable role in their care.

Anonymous said...

Your letter is excellent. I disagree on one point:Being an addict is a sickness. Selling drugs to others or manufacturing to sell is a crime and should be punishable by dragging the dealers around town behind a big truck. They should suffer maximum pain before they die for all the lives they helped ruin.

Rich said...

Thank You for your letter! I think your advice is right on. I wish someone had told me about Alateen when I was young. I grew up with an alcholic dad. I hope Merced and Levi take your wise advice.

Rehabilitation should be the first choice. Addiction took my dad and putting him jail would not have solved anything. If people commit crimes while on drugs - they deserve jail. Rehab is a lot cheaper and helps the society much more to fix people instead of jailing them.

As a teacher, some of the hardest kids are those with parents in prison.

Philip Munger said...

anon @1:42,

What should be done to all the people who sell alcohol and cigarettes, or doctors who knowingly and sometimes legally sell drugs so they can be abused? Same thing?

Perhaps you lost a loved one to drugs and blame the dealers. I lost a brother to a drunk driver. We eventually had the driver over for Thanksgiving.

Would you drag Rush Limbaugh behind a truck until he was flayed and there was Limbaugh burger for ten blocks (what an awful image, eh?) because he forced his domestic servant to buy oxycontin for him over a year-long period?

Anonymous said...

Hiland needs to have it's guards checked for drugs. It's unbelievable how easy it is to get drugs in that place, and with all the humiliating procedures, the inmates still have access.

There needs to be an AK group that gets this going. Why do Wal~Mart workers get tested for drugs, but not corrections officers?

Curiouser said...

I believe Sherry Johnston was convicted on one charge of distribution. I understand she is taking prescribed medication for medical conditions and there is no indication that she is an addict.

I hope Levi and Mercede will benefit from any of Cassie's advice that might apply to them and won't be put off if Cassie misunderstood their situation.

I apologize if the misunderstanding is mine.

I imagine there is much surrounding Sherry's situation and arrest that has not been made public. It seems like this could happen to anyone given certain medical and economic circumstances...then add in the possibility an influential party wanted them out of their way.

Celia Harrison said...

The setting of the length of prison sentences is from the legislatute. We have to reverse this and get the number of people in prison decreased. They were lobbied by the companies who supply and build prisons along with the corrections officers unions. We know some politicians in AK profitied from one of these companies and are building a new prison in this state.

Anonymous said...
"Hiland needs to have it's guards checked for drugs. It's unbelievable how easy it is to get drugs in that place, and with all the humiliating procedures, the inmates still have access."

When I worked on McNeil Island in WA I asked the Superintendant how all the drugs got to the prison. Since it was an island I imagined scuba divers or something. He said it was the corrections officers plain and simple. I asked why they were not all searched and he said the union prevented it. I asked about it here and they say the COs are not bringing them in, BS.

Philip Munger said...

Celia,

bingo on both counts - scuba divers at HMCC? heh...

Perhaps the biggest contributor to the legal fiasco that has created the California penal system has been advocacy groups. And that fiasco is the biggest single contributor to the financial dilemma CA now faces.

anon directly above,

UA COs, police officers, and, especially - every week - narcotics agents.

Anonymous said...

A discussion of drugs and the societal tolerance and control of drug use should be much more nuanced than has been discussed here.

drugs and drug use have been around since time immemorial, as have the many various methods and means to tolerate and control their use.

In tribal societies, drug use is both tolerated and controlled by custom and taboo.

Throughout history, drug use and it's tolerance and control is dealt with through various means, some being more effective than others.

There's little doubt that our own society has lost perspective and has lost the ability to even rationally discuss the tolerance or control of drugs and their use.

There is no doubt whatsoever we need to gain a new perspective and create new controls and establish a rational tolerance.

Simplistic overly broad generalities are not any way to address the issue. That kind of shallow and facile treatment of the subject doesn't advance the need for our society to gain the perspective needed to come up with a better structure and approach to tolerance or control.

Control and tolerance need be intertwined, they can't be separated, traditions much older than our own and a review of historical events prove that point.

Our short sighted society, on several levels, has lost that inescapable perspective and that ineluctable truth, as have several of those commenting here.

I had hoped for better, but I'm starting to wonder why it was I had hoped to see something better here...

freeper

Anonymous said...

A discussion of drugs and the societal tolerance and control of drug use should be much more nuanced than has been discussed here.

drugs and drug use have been around since time immemorial, as have the many various methods and means to tolerate and control their use.

In tribal societies, drug use is both tolerated and controlled by custom and taboo.

Throughout history, drug use and it's tolerance and control is dealt with through various means, some being more effective than others.

There's little doubt that our own society has lost perspective and has lost the ability to even rationally discuss the tolerance or control of drugs and their use.

There is no doubt whatsoever we need to gain a new perspective and create new controls and establish a rational tolerance.

Simplistic overly broad generalities are not any way to address the issue. That kind of shallow and facile treatment of the subject doesn't advance the need for our society to gain the perspective needed to come up with a better structure and approach to tolerance or control.

Control and tolerance need be intertwined, they can't be separated, traditions much older than our own and a review of historical events prove that point.

Our short sighted society, on several levels, has lost that inescapable perspective and that ineluctable truth, as have several of those commenting here.

I had hoped for better, but I'm starting to wonder why it was I had hoped to see something better here...

freeper

Anonymous said...

Apologies all,

if I had the ability to remove the double post I would.

freeper

Philip Munger said...

agree with lot of what you said, freeper. I published Cassie's post, because it shows a lot of wisdom gleaned from the personal experience of survival by a 17-yo young woman.

Anonymous said...

cassie's post is instructive, though flawed in some respects in regards a lack of reasoning when it comes to addressing solutions to the larger problem of drugs and drug use in our society.

at the same time cassie imparts good survival skills in dealing with a particular circumstance, cassie appears to give the impression she is endorsing the ill-conceived assumption that 'drugs' and their use shouldn't be controlled.

Her proffering the simplistic notion that 'prohibition doesn't work' feeds on a false premise that drugs and drug use shouldn't be controlled or don't need to be controlled, and that tolerance for drugs and drug use should be open ended and not limited.

That's not only self-defeating, it's not in any way a workable alternative or solution to our society's needs.

Though there is much to regret about how we address drugs and drug use in our society today, the solution cannot be oversimplified so as to promote the adoption of a careless attitude of apathetical indifference and disregard.

Drug use of any kind has consequences that require us to put in place some kind of control, whether that be societal pressure or some other means of control, that control is ultimately necessary.

Since we haven't adopted either a set of agreed upon societal mores, customs or taboos, we necessarily will have to maintain controls by other means to replace the lack of custom and taboo.

That those societal controls could be designed to be more humane and effective doesn't necessitate the need to abolish such controls, nor does it justify adopting an attitude that we should not embrace controls.

Tolerance speaks to a balance, it's not a catch phrase to be wielded to vindicate or openly endorse whatever or whichever irresponsible action some may wish to engage in.

Your publishing the post is fine, it's publishing it without qualifying at least some of the content that is problematic.

And that is reflected in several of the ensuing narrow and shortsighted comments.

As always, following up on the issue isn't easily accomplished in a blog format. A blog is too much like the news cycle, once an item drops off the main page, it's largely ignored in favor of the new, newest though fleeting outrage du jour.

Maybe you'll return to the issue, more likely it'll pass like so many other fleeting 'blog issues', without the issue receiving sufficient attention and examination, without sufficient resolve and resolution.

....and that's more than just inconvenient and unfortunate.

freeper