by Isaac Peterson
Well, it looks like Robert Downey Jr. is in the news again. It looks
like his drug use cost him his gig on Ally McBeal this time. It's clear
that the monkey on his back is more like a 600 pound gorilla.
It's easy to feel sorry for a good looking 36 year old award winning actor who can't seem to stop pissing away his life to drugs. Here's a young man, who by all rights should be on top of the world. It's obvious that his drug use is ruining a very successful career, and more than that, his life and health.
He has successfully convinced the courts several times to allow him back on the streets and continue his career. I personally believe this is, for the most part good, because at least in his case, the legal system appears to recognize that his disease is just that, a disease. Treatment is appropriate for dealing with disease. It has been recognized that his foolish decisions and bizarre behavior are caused by drugs that are controlling him. He was sentenced at one point to three years in prison but released after one. Jail is, at minimum, a questionable way to treat people with illnesses.
I want to share with you some quotes from one of my hometown newspapers about his latest arrest, and then pose a few questions.
"The actor's legal troubles began in 1996 when he was stopped for speeding and authorities found cocaine, heroin and a pistol in his vehicle. A month later he was found passed out in a neighbor's home and was hospitalized at a substance abuse treatment center. Three days later, he was arrested for leaving the center."
Here's what we have: a rich, well known actor is stopped for speeding, found with heavy drugs and a weapon. 4 weeks later he is found trespassing, presumably out of it enough to be unconscious. After all that, what he was finally arrested for was leaving a treatment center.
"In August 1999, Downey was sentenced to three years in prison for violating his probation by missing scheduled drug tests. He was released a year later on $5,000 bail. Last November, he was arrested at a Palm Springs hotel after police received a 911 call reporting someone in a hotel room with guns and drugs. He was charged with felony possession of cocaine and Valium and a misdemeanor count of being under the influence of a controlled substance. No weapons were found."
Hmmmm....He missed drug test(s) and was sentenced to prison, but was
released on $5,000.00 bail.
Then he was arrested again with drugs, apparently cocaine and Valium.
Do you get the impression he's not the only one who's lost touch with
Let's go over this again from a different point of view: mine.
Let's say any ordinary man (me, let's say; no one is more ordinary than
me) is caught speeding down the street, pulled over
and coke, heroin and a gun are found. Let's also imagine that the man, like me, is also a minority. Is there any doubt that
there would be a long-term cell made available for me in less time than it would take Bush to say "Huh?" on Jeopardy?
Even leaving out the DWB (Driving While Black) part of this hypothetical equation, how many of us without his resources would rot waiting for our court appointed public defender to meet with us for a short chat 10 minutes before trial.
And then be urged to plead "no contest" so we take up too much of anyone's time?
If you're still with me, you know that what I'm getting at is that we
have an UNEQUAL and unrealistic justice system.
Robert Downey has been able to afford more justice than I or most of the rest of us could ever hope to afford.
I mean, come on, there are people locked up for a decade and more (especially in "law and order" places like
Texas and Massabama) for doing less than RD did the first time he was arrested. People who should have only
been sentenced to rehab, and are only playing cards stuck with a clothespin in the wheels of justice.
Study after study has shown that treatment is more effective than incarceration.
For God's sake, even Richard Nixon understood that. (His idea of drug policy
actually made more sense than what we have now. I don't believe it ever
became policy, but I've read that that was his personal belief). Instead, prison is what we are in the biggest hurry to
provide to most people. And a large, large percentage of the people in prison now are there for smoking pot.
If someone can make this make sense to me, please e-mail me, because I want to know what I'm missing here.
There are some enlightened judges and jurisdictions, but for the most
part we're in a race to see who can be the toughest
on drug users. (Some of the ones trying to be the toughest are prosecutors. They run for re-election and higher office
based on their conviction rate. Convicting your little sister for smoking a joint is just another notch on their belts).
There is much more funding proposed for prisons than for rehabilitation or treatment. Study after study has also
shown that treatment costs less than prison in the long run, both in dollars and benefit to society. That's less costly
for a state, though. Treatment costs thousands of dollars that most people can't afford. It's an option mostly for people
who can afford it, and expensive lawyers who can plead a good enough case for treatment to be an option. This doesn't
include most public defenders. Most people have to sweat it out, take their chances and hope the judge is in a good
mood that day, or not Judge Judy.
I do sincerely hope that Robert Downey can turn his life around. I don't
have anything against him being able to buy
the help he needs. I'm positive he doesn't want to be a drug addict; not many people do. His life seems to be one
gigantic cry for help the last few years. There are millions of other cries for help that aren't being heard. What I'm
wishing was reality is that everyone who needs the kind of help Robert Downey has access to can get it without
money and politics being obstacles.
It's obvious that treatment hasn't worked with Downey yet, but from
what I understand, it takes longer with some people,
you need to really want to get better and stick with it. I realize that not everyone else would benefit from rehab, but I
don't think that's a good enough reason not to try it, to give people at least a chance to make it or break it.
While we're at it, we should look closer at what makes people become
addicts in the first place. Or to paraphrase
Bill Hicks, I suggest we shut the %$# up about prisons and law and order and take a look around at the world we live in.
It's a stone miracle more people aren't drug addicts.
Thanks for coming and drive careful.