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Spady: A possible solution to Washington’s homeless drug crisis

A homeless encampment in Seattle during the snowstorm. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

“What we need is a return to law and order.”

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That’s what some of my friends have been saying. It is their proposed solution to the rampant homelessness and drug epidemic in our city, county, and state.

But what does “law and order” mean? Personally, I believe it means enforcement and incarceration when it comes to drug dealing, assaults, and rampant property crimes, combined with rehab, permanent wrap-around housing, and dramatic increases in shelter capacity.

That is how we save Seattle.

We have laws that prevent property crime and the distribution of drugs. But we aren’t enforcing them. We need to treat those crimes for what they are. If somebody is captured committing a crime, they should go to jail.

In some cases, that is what the current system is already doing. But they’ll only go to jail for about a week or two and then we’ll cycle them back onto the street. This level of enforcement is not working. It is a Band-Aid on a gaping wound that is destroying our city. We need to actually start helping people by allowing them to hit rock bottom, and by giving them the pathway out of it, back to self-sufficiency wherever possible.

This pathway can be very simple. If you’re an addict and you commit a property or other non-violent crime, I propose that the addict can have a choice: They can either go to jail for an allotment of time — let’s say 8 months. Or, they can choose a new path for rehabilitation.

Let’s call it farm jail (and continued supportive services).

Farm jail will be a special new type of incarceration for addicts who are willing to get clean. In farm jail, we are going to provide drug rehab, we are going to provide community, and we are going to provide continued education. Perhaps farm jail will even allow the inmates a part-time job on the farm to earn some money for when they have completed their sentence. Money that can be used to help pay for wrap-around housing upon release.

While in farm jail, the inmates will have rehab officers and counseling to help kick their addictions. After six months on the farm, they will move on the next phase of our pathway to self-sufficiency, which will aid in reinstating the addict back into society.

They will live in the aforementioned wrap-around housing at low-cost, with consistent support from partners and service providers. For six more months, they will be slowly re-incorporated back into a life of self-sufficiency.

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This is different than the housing first option we are providing now, where criminals are essentially allowed to continue their lives of drug use, drug distribution, property crime, prostitution, and even human trafficking on the dime of the tax payer. Housing first, as we engage it in Seattle, does nothing to address the issue of addiction. It does nothing but enable a life of crime, substance abuse, and disease in our streets.

If we continue to enable this behavior, our society will never withstand this crisis. Those suffering from addiction and mental illness need help, and for the ones who are committing non-violent crimes to help feed their addiction, we need a new solution.

Farm jail is my proposal to aid these struggling people back to a self-sufficient life wherever possible, and back to being contributing members of society.

Enforcement and incarceration don’t need to be scary words. We need to enforce laws for those living on our streets and for the sake of the rest of the city. The citizens who are sick and tired of the crime, the trash, and the violence. It’s time to fix this problem by voting in new leadership with the vision and gumption to return us to that mysterious state of “law and order.”

Listen to the Saul Spady Show weekdays from 6-9am on AM 770 KTTH.

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