A Safer Juneau – the Pretrial Enforcement Division

Juneau officers, Pretrial Enforcment Div., at the JREC community meeting

The Juneau Reentry Coalition’s mission statement includes, “to promote public safety”.  At JREC’s October 17, 2018 meeting we learned that is exactly what Alaska’s new Pretrial Enforcement Division (PED) is about.  We support that.

Leah Van Kirk, Southeast Pretrial Enforcement Supervisor, said that Pretrial Enforcement has three operational pillars: to maximize court appearances, to maximize community safety, and to maximize appropriate placement.

The overall functions in accomplishing these pillars are pretrial assessments and initial appearance, supervision, and electronic monitoring.  The pretrial assessment informs the court about the risk to the community of the accused in the likelihood of missing future court appearances and/or committing new crimes.  The Judge will consider the assessment as a part of his or her decision on appropriate levels of supervision at the initial appearance of the accused.  The Judge may determine if supervision should include Pretrial Enforcement Officer oversight, electronic monitoring, incarceration, or release on their own recognizance (OR).

During the presentation, Ms. Van Kirk referenced research that indicates that the longer a low-risk person stays in jail awaiting trial, the greater their likelihood becomes for becoming a high-risk for committing new crimes.  For example, a pretrial individual spending 2-3 days in jail is nearly 40% more likely to recidivate, 4-7 days in jail increases the likelihood to 50%, and for 8-14 days a person is 56% more likely to commit a crime.

Reducing recidivism in Juneau is of keen interest to the Juneau Reentry Coalition.  We support the work the Pretrial Enforcement Division is doing in keeping our community safe.

To find out more about JREC’s Pretrial Enforcement Division community meeting, you can read articles at the Juneau Empire and KINY’s News of the North sites.

Recovery Takes a Community, by Jim Musser

My name is William James Musser V, and I am in long-term recovery from substance use disorder.

For me, this means that I have not used drugs or alcohol for an extended period of time, 33 months. To understand why I need recovery, you first need to understand my use. I started when I was 13 years old, probably for reasons like childhood trauma, trying to fit in, and it running in my family.

As time went on, I moved onto harder and harder drugs and using more and more. I could never see it myself, but drugs were affecting my life a great deal. Subsequently I dropped out of school and got my G.E.D. and I became a felon, entering the revolving door of going to jail, getting out of jail, being put on probation, then using drugs and being put back in jail. This cycle would continue over and over again until eventually I finished my entire prison sentence and was fully released. However, I still continued to abuse drugs and alcohol.

I began creating a successful career in caregiving, and working full time. I got hurt, and was one of the many who get prescribed painkillers. These ran out and I found that I could purchase OxyContin on the streets, which quickly took control of my life. Once they stopped becoming available I switched to heroin, eventually bringing me to my knees, and about to lose everything I had worked for.

By some miracle, I sought out treatment at Lakeview Health in Jacksonville, Florida, saving my life. I went straight into sober living for six months and was taught all the different ways people were staying clean, like 12-steps, SMART Recovery, counseling, religion, community involvement, service work, sports, fitness, clubs, yoga, meditation, art classes, and much more. I’m so glad that I tried everything through that program because I got to see what tools worked for me, and was able to tailor them to my specific needs.

For the most part I’ve stuck with these same tools, but I still like to switch it up from time to time to keep myself growing. For example, I’ve got to experience the services offered by recovery communities in three different states and bring some of that knowledge back to Juneau, which could greatly benefit from their example. Here our services have not quite caught up with much of the nation. It will take quite a bit of time to get similar programs running in our community, but I truly believe Juneau is on its way to providing up-to-date recovery options. We have so many amazing people who are both in recovery from substance use disorder and those who are just supporters trying to make this happen.

Today I am in my 11th year as a caregiver for individuals with mental and physical disabilities. I’m switching careers to be a chemical dependency counselor and am currently a technician. I hold the following service positions: President of Southeast Alaska Fatherhood Alumni Association, Recovery Coach Certification from NCADD, Co-chair for Peer Support for the Juneau Reentry Coalition, 12-Step Area Service Position, and Board Member of Great Bear Recovery Collective.

It takes a community coming together to take on a challenge this big. The push continues and I encourage everyone to get involved because at some point everyone will be affected by substance use disorder. There is a lot of stigma and I hope that people open their hearts and understand that many good people are suffering because of their use, making bad choices because drugs have hijacked their brains and bodies. If they can get clean and get the help they need, then they can be amazing members of this community. To those of you who are still struggling: I can relate to what you’re going through, and I made it out, for now. Substance use disorder will be something that we recover from for our entire lives. We will never be cured. But we can stop using the things that are destroying our lives and find a new way. Many people showed me the way and we can help show you. Don’t ever give up, there is always hope.

Jim Musser’s My Turn was printed in the Juneau Empire on Sunday, September 9, 2018.  Jim is Co-chair of the JREC Peer Support Workgroup.