Treatment For People Who . . . Don’t Need It?


Harris County Assistant District Attorney Roger Bridgwater has said of the DWI DIVERT (“Direct Intervention using Voluntary Education Restitution and Treatment”, I am reliably informed, and not “maybe this will make the voters love us“, as I suggested before) program:

What happens if someone tests positive for alcohol while on diversion? The program is zero tolerance.

In this 1980 Rand study, 54% of alcoholics were problem drinkers four years after seeking (not being coerced into) treatment. According to the earlier 18-month study of the same cohort, ten percent reported abstention for the first six months and the 12th through 18th months. The other 90%, if their treatment had included Roger’s zero-tolerance policy, would have wound up doing 30 days in jail.

Relapse is a normal part of recovery. It’s not a question of whether the addict will relapse, but when. Any addiction “treatment” program that doesn’t provide for the possibility, much less the likelihood of relapse, is setting its clients up for failure. DIVERT deserves the doubt quotes. Anyone with a drinking problem who signs up for the zero-tolerance DIVERT program is entering a slow plea to thirty days in jail.

But many—maybe even most—people with DWIs don’t have drinking problems. The .08 / loss-of-normal-use standard is low enough that people arrested for DWI are often nowhere near drunk. (That’s why the defense wins almost half of DWI jury trials: because the jury sees the video of a person who doesn’t look intoxicated.) For these people—people who don’t need treatment—divert is the perfect treatment program.

I avoid the use of dictionary definitions in arguments, since it generally reveals a lack of creativity. But in this case I can’t resist.

The DIVERT program is poorly designed to achieve its stated goal of reducing DWI deaths. It is well designed to divert money from defendants’ pockets to the companies anointed to provide services under the program (including those vehicle breath interlock providers who sell photo interlocks) and to provide bloggers with an entertaining diversion. It might even divert the public’s attention from the train wreck that is the Lykos DA’s Office.

Here, for your diversion, is a classic diversion, which was as successful as Roger Bridgwater’s will be:

MAN IN BLACK
(fool’s courage)

Then make your choice.

VIZZINI

I will. And I choose —

And suddenly he stops, points at something behind the Man In Black.

VIZZINI

— what in the world can that be?

CUT TO:

THE MAN IN BLACK,

turning around, looking.

MAN IN BLACK

What? Where? I don’t see anything.

CUT TO:

VIZZINI,

busily switching the goblets while the Man In Black has his head turned.

VIZZINI

Oh, well, I-I could have sworn I saw something. No matter.

The Man In Black turns to face him again. Vizzini starts to laugh.

MAN IN BLACK

What’s so funny?

VIZZINI

I’ll tell you in a minute. First, let’s drink — me from my glass, and you from yours.

And he picks up his goblet. The Man In Black picks up the one in front of him. As they both start to drink, Vizzini hesitates a moment.

Then, allowing the Man In Black to drink first, he swallows his wine.

Cheers!

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