10 hours ago
Saturday, November 12, 2005
Registering drug offenders and background checks
The Luzerne County commissioners started a process that would force rehab programs and halfway houses to perform background checks on people seeking help to kick their habits. I'm not an expert in the field but I'm sure these checks will reveal a history of drug use and petty crime or worse. They are reacting to a recent sensational crime and the feeling that we have to try something to get a handle on the problem. From the TL:
Still haunted by the death of Mary Leo, Luzerne County commissioners voted unanimously Wednesday to approve a policy that would force operators of area halfway houses and other transitional living facilities to document criminal and sexual abuse histories of program applicants before allowing them to relocate here for services. Commissioners don't know if they can legally enforce the policy because such facilities are not under their control and do not receive county funding.
"This policy was born out of the very tragic death of Mrs. Leo," said Commissioner Greg Skrepenak. "Many residents have expressed their concern that a lot of activity happening in our county is from people taking advantage of our system by coming here, using us, committing crimes and then leaving."
A Wilkes-Barre councilman wants to take it further as outlined in the CV:
Councilman Jim McCarthy proposed legislation requiring anyone convicted of drug felonies to register with the police department when they move into the city. City attorneys are reviewing McCarthy's proposed legislation. It is based on Megan's Law, which requires child molesters and sexual predators to register with police. "I believe this kind of law might have alerted our police department to the previous activities of the man charged in the murder of Mary Leo, a man who had an extensive criminal record before coming here for treatment of his drug addiction," McCarthy said. The law also might have alerted police to previous criminal activities of those arrested in Operation Main Street, which brought down a major drug ring in Wilkes-Barre, McCarthy said.
The aim of these proposals seems to keep "outsiders" from moving here and causing trouble. The last time I checked any American citizen can live wherever they choose and both these proposals have serious legal questions. I'm also not in favor of passing laws in the heat of the moment, witness the Patriot Act. Every town in America is dealing with these problems and I wish I had a solution. But the policy of locking up all the druggies has not worked. The tough nut is how to convince people not to take drugs in the first place and if they do, what can we do to help them stop.