Last night, criminal prosecutor, maozedong, posted an interesting comment offering insight into the courts’ practice of sentencing people to 12-Step programs. I didn’t want anyone to miss this, so I’m reposting it here. Thank you, maozedong. — ftg
At the risk of drawing some ire, I will disclose that I’m a criminal prosecutor; threads like these are getting my attention as I’d never given much thought to issues related to criminals in AA.
How prosecutors and judges handle sentencing varies from state to state and county to county. In my county, first time DWI (aka DUI) offenders are not generally required to attend AA meetings as a condition of probation. There’s this perception out there that anyone who gets a DWI must have a drinking problem, but my experience has been that this is not the case. In the case of someone with multiple DWIs, AA attendance is usually imposed as a part of the standard plea deal.
Most people who are charged with first-time DWI find the criminal process to be scary, embarrassing, and downright horrible. Memories of that experience will keep the average person from making the same mistake again. A person who went through all that and STILL continues to drive drunk does, in my opinion, need to closely examine his/her drinking habits. Sending that person to AA may be of some help. I’m not saying I hope every repeat offender that goes there will get a sponsor, work the steps and buy into the DOUBLETHINK. I just want the offender to think about the choices s/he is making with regard to alcohol, and I think to an extent AA facilitates that end, even if it just leads the person to conclude “I don’t want to end up like these AA idiots.” Yes, there are church/state issues that I avoid talking about.
What about sending rapists and child molesters to AA? That does happen in my county. Most of the time, it is brought about via the Presentencing Investigative Report (PSI) prepared by the probation office. The probation officer asks the offender a variety of questions, basically taking a life history. The offender will often volunteer all kinds of stories about substance abuse in an effort to mitigate their own responsibility for the crime (e.g., “I didn’t assault that woman because I’m a bad person, Demon Rum made me do it!”). In such a case the probation officer recommends, among other things, that AA is made condition of probation. We don’t have to go along with that recommendation, but we almost always do, so I do accept responsibility for this practice.
In most cases, I hope a felon placed on probation will succeed in completing his sentence. However, there are cases where I hope the person fails. Many times, we are faced with horrible crimes, such as molestation, where the evidence is flimsy. If we go to trial and lose, the guy is out and about to do whatever the hell he wants. So instead, we put him on probation, then watch him like a hawk. The more conditions of probation, the better, because if he violates any of them he’s headed to prison. Accordingly, I’ve always been on board with including AA as a probation condition – one more thing that could trip him up.
Honestly, it’s never occurred to me that I’m sending predators to AA groups that include very vulnerable people. I guess I’ve always subconsciously assumed that the old-timers would protect the innocent ones, but my own experience actually doesn’t bear that out. I can remember old-timers doing nothing more than chuckling at the hideous 13th-steppers making the rounds of my groups. I was never a member of the AA “inner circle,” so I don’t know if anything worse was going on, but it wouldn’t surprise me. Ugh. This site has given me some things to think about and discuss with my colleagues.