FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

No Walk in the Ball Park for Dwight Gooden

Watching the Mets / Red Sox series this week I noticed they replayed clips of Dwight Gooden in his golden years as an star pitcher. I could not help think about how is life has now turned towards tragedy when he was sentenced to jail this April. I was very sad. Not because of what he did, but instead, of what the system of justice has done to him. Gooden has a medical problem, a very bad addiction to an illegal drug. His struggles with drugs and alcohol have been well-documented. But the obvious misfortune is that instead of being treated as someone with a medical condition, he is being treated like a criminal. This is where the problem lies.

Gooden is serving a 366-day sentence for violating his probation by using cocaine. This is the bottom line.

Americans across the country in some way partake in the ritual of escaping reality daily by getting high. Whether or not it be of legal or illegal means, this is a reality we must face. Addiction is a serious problem. But to treat it strictly punitively is not the answer to alleviate its root causes.

What moved me in an unbelievable way was the fact that Dwight Gooden chose to give up his life as a free man. Faced with a system of justice that has little remorse for drug users, Gooden’s back was against the wall when he made his decision to op for the 366-day sentence. Either that or face probation with the stipulation that any type of violation could lead to a five year sentence.

Just 10 days in a cell at a reception center in Lake Butler, Florida, he professed in an interview he rather be shot then jailed again. The prison experience had gotten to him. Non-fans of Gooden might say that the institutionalization of addicts like Dwight is a sure cure to the drug problem. We might want to get a second opinion though. Maybe we can ask a few prime suspects of drug addiction like Rush Limbaugh or maybe Patrick Kennedy who both recently had their own eye opening experiences with addiction.

The question we should now be asking is when will we as a society appropriately respond to individuals with addictions? Instead of giving draconian sentences for snorting powder or popping pills we should be thinking for alternative solutions to those with drug problems.

Now Dwight is sitting in his cell reliving his crime, thinking about the family and life he has left behind. I know the regrets that Gooden is going through in making his decision to voluntarily put himself in hell.

In 1985, I too had an addiction. In order to support my cocaine habit I agreed to deliver an envelope of 4 ounces of cocaine for $500. I was caught and was offered a plea deal that would carry a sentence of three years. Unlike Gooden, I was afraid of going to jail and leaving behind my wife and young daughter. Instead, I made the choice of going to trial and was slapped with a 15-years-to-life sentence under New York’s ultra-harsh Rockefeller Drug Laws.

I remember watching Dwight pitching from my jail cell in Sing Sing prison. Every pitch he made was on the money, leading the Mets to a world championship in 1986. He was a hero to the majority of blacks and Latinos that were sitting around the television, cheering him on. Most of them were sitting in prison, serving draconian sentences under the drug laws. None of them possessed the fast ball this super star had, but the majority shared the same life defeating addiction.

The war on drugs has fueled the debate on addiction. But along with it, comes the label of demonization that allows drug users to join the ranks of criminals that fill our prisons. Gooden like myself and others with substance abuse problems, are human beings. We do make mistakes. But, when society attempts to lock their way out the problem of addiction, everyone loses.

ANTHONY PAPA is the author of 15 Years to Life: How I Painted My Way to Freedom and Communications Specialist for Drug Policy Alliance. He can be reached at: anthonypapa123@yahoo.com

 

 

More articles by:

Anthony Papa is the Manager of Media and Artist Relations for the Drug Policy Alliance and the author of This Side of Freedom: Life After Lockdown.

May 28, 2018
Ramzy Baroud
Israel’s Premature Celebration: Gazans Have Crossed the Fear Barrier
Gary Leupp
Europe and the US: Dawn of an Era of Mutual Indignation
Doug Noble
Berrigan, Ellsberg and Memorial Day
Bill Quigley
Memorial Day – 7 Facts Documenting Our Neglect of Millions of Veterans
Brett Wilkins
Luis Posada Carriles, Hemisphere’s Most Wanted Terrorist, Dies Free in Miami at Age 90
Jack Rasmus
China Trade War, No. Korea Summit Collapse, & Factional Splits in US Elites
Harvey Wasserman
Trump has Plenty of Accomplices in his Reckless Energy Policies
George Wuerthner
Cheatgrass and the Bovine Curtain
Franklin Lamb
The Multiple Stepmothers of Daesh (ISIS) in Syria
Ray McGovern
How to Honor Memorial Day
Mel Gurtov
In Iran and North Korea, China Holds Some Cards
Robert Koehler
Empowering Kids Instead of Arming Them
Laura Flanders
After Brexit, Blexit: Putting Your Money Where Your Life Is
Binoy Kampmark
Donald Trump Cancels
Weekend Edition
May 25, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Melvin Goodman
A Major Win for Trump’s War Cabinet
Andrew Levine
Could Anything Cause the GOP to Dump Trump?
Pete Tucker
Is the Washington Post Soft on Amazon?
Conn Hallinan
Iran: Sanctions & War
Jeffrey St. Clair
Out of Space: John McCain, Telescopes and the Desecration of Mount Graham
John Laforge
Senate Puts CIA Back on Torture Track
David Rosen
Santa Fe High School Shooting: an Incel Killing?
Gary Leupp
Pompeo’s Iran Speech and the 21 Demands
Jonathan Power
Bang, Bang to Trump
Robert Fisk
You Can’t Commit Genocide Without the Help of Local People
Brian Cloughley
Washington’s Provocations in the South China Sea
Louis Proyect
Requiem for a Mountain Lion
Robert Fantina
The U.S. and Israel: a Match Made in Hell
Kevin Martin
The Libya Model: It’s Not Always All About Trump
Susie Day
Trump, the NYPD and the People We Call “Animals”
Pepe Escobar
How Iran Will Respond to Trump
Sarah Anderson
When CEO’s Earn 5,000 Times as Much as a Company’s Workers
Ralph Nader
Audit the Outlaw Military Budget Draining America’s Necessities
Chris Wright
The Significance of Karl Marx
David Schultz
Indict or Not: the Choice Mueller May Have to Make and Which is Worse for Trump
George Payne
The NFL Moves to Silence Voices of Dissent
Razan Azzarkani
America’s Treatment of Palestinians Has Grown Horrendously Cruel
Katalina Khoury
The Need to Evaluate the Human Constructs Enabling Palestinian Genocide
George Ochenski
Tillerson, the Truth and Ryan Zinke’s Interior Department
Jill Richardson
Our Immigration Debate Needs a Lot More Humanity
Martha Rosenberg
Once Again a Slaughterhouse Raid Turns Up Abuses
Judith Deutsch
Pension Systems and the Deadly Hand of the Market
Shamus Cooke
Oregon’s Poor People’s Campaign and DSA Partner Against State Democrats
Thomas Barker
Only a Mass Struggle From Below Can End the Bloodshed in Palestine
Binoy Kampmark
Australia’s China Syndrome
Missy Comley Beattie
Say “I Love You”
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail