I never thought I would have anything nice to say about Joe Birkett, atleast on a blog.
But people's positions on the issue of crime and punishment often cross party lines, and for the first time, I find Joe Birkett on the same side as me.
The compelling lede from today's Daily Herald story, regarding the hyper-incarceration of drug addicts:
Nick Blasucci found himself in jail and in desperate need of a fix.Joe Birkett's response:
He traded his only pair of shoes for drugs that failed to get him high. He received a replacement pair but quickly put them on the black market, too.
It wasn't the life the 17-year-old suburban kid imagined for himself growing up in Glendale Heights. He yearned for his freedom, something away from the jail's bartering system and his tedious existence within it.
The DuPage County court system offered him a way to avoid incarceration. If he agreed to enter rehab, at the county's expense, he would receive probation instead of prison.
Blasucci had no desire to give up his heroin addiction. But if it meant his freedom, well, he would begrudgingly accept the deal.
"I stayed sober at first because I always wanted to look good in court," he said. "But, after a while, I started staying sober because I wanted it for myself."Blasucci, who now lives in Batavia and has been sober for 16 months, credits the court-mandated program with saving his life.
DuPage County State's Attorney Joseph Birkett - who championed the drug court program that put Blasucci on his road to rehabilitation - agrees incarcerating drug addicts is not always the most fiscally or socially responsible option.
"Ultimately, it's better to have someone getting treatment," Birkett said. "It's much cheaper to have someone out working, paying taxes and contributing to society than it is to house them in prison."
If Joe Birkett can admit it, why can't the Cook County State's Attorney's office just say it, instead of this?
When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. It's time to put a few better tools in our toolbox.