Check your local meeting calendar…
It hasn’t occurred to Judge Williams that AA meetings — which are unregulated, anonymous, open to the public, completely unaccountable for what happens in meetings, and attract vulnerable, addicted, mentally and emotionally broken people — might be very attractive to sexual and financial predators. She thinks children should be added to this company.
Of all people, a judge should be most aware of the types of people that end up in AA, considering how many are sentenced to attend meetings by themselves and their colleagues. So, there must be some logical disconnect between what a judge like Cheryl Williams knows to be true and what she believes about Alcoholics Anonymous. She must know, for instance, that AA teaches people that they have a lifelong disease; that it offers a spiritual awakening as a cure for this disease; that membership in AA is forever. She must also know that all manner of criminal is sentenced to attend AA. Despite knowing all this, she still finds that sending kids to AA meetings is something she should “always” do. Clearly what this judge knows and what she believes about AA have no relationship to each other. She knows that there are sexual offenders in AA; but she believes that it’s full of plain talking, gold-hearted Wilford Brimleys and that it’s a perfectly safe and reasonable place to send a teenager, as a matter of course.
Williams says her “biggest hammer” is the ability to suspend a driver’s license. But, the judge points out, not every offender has a license – many simply drive without it. “It’s effective only to those who care about the consequences,” she said.
If she’s aware of a previous alcohol-related offense, she may require the offender to spend time in a hospital emergency room or write his or her own obituary.
Repeat offenders are not unusual. The News‘ analysis of municipal court data showed that some youths had multiple offenses before reaching legal drinking age. About 8 percent of those charged in the last five years have already reoffended.
But the chances of Williams knowing about a previous Class C arrest are slim – there is no statewide database for Class C misdemeanors.
Whitney always orders youthful offenders to attend a series of Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. He said it’s not unusual for them to take a laissez-faire approach to the sessions initially, but the message eventually gets through.
He recalled a case 10 years ago in which he fined a teenager $300 and ordered eight hours of Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.
“I really didn’t think that I would get anything out of Alcoholic’s Anonomous [sic],” the young man later wrote to the judge. “I sure didn’t think I had a problem. After I listened to the first three speakers I started to see a pattern in all of them, that being their childhood and their younger drinking days sounded a lot like my life.”
The youngster went on to tell the judge that the sentence “was not actually a punishment at all but a great lesson,” and that he planned to continue attending AA even after his court-ordered sessions ended.
“If you can show them the way, get them in a program, you’re usually able to turn them around,” Whitney said.
In Williams’ court, every juvenile offender – and their parents – must meet with a social worker for an assessment. If Williams’ staff identifies a substance-abuse problem, she refers the child for treatment.
Here’s the whole story…
Updated to add a link to Corey’s comment about a child predator in AA.