December 19, 2010

Leandra's Law

NY has a law referred to as Leandra's Law. It's named after a little girl who died when an adult drove drunk with her in the car and crashed. I've had a problem with this law since the moment it was enacted.

It provides for an automatic felony charge for drivers caught driving drunk with children 16 or under in the car. Wonderful. That's just what these people need: to be taken away from their children for decades and placed in prison, where they will get little or no help with their alcoholism. Now isn't that sensible?

No, it's not. Instead of providing people with the support they need to learn how to live sober, they toss them in jail and take a child's parent away. This is not pro-family in any way.

A story on NY1's website -- NY1 is NYC's main cable news station -- today said that 660 people have been caught breaking Leandra's Law. Six hundred and sixty! That's how many families lost a parent: 660!

After telling us this, the article mindlessly goes on to wonder why the numbers haven't gone down at all since the law passed. Duh. Drunk people are drunk. They usually don't even know about things like laws, so the numbers will never go down. All that will happen is that more children will lose their parents.

Why couldn't there instead be a campaign mandated by law, that reaches out to parents who are alcoholics and have young children? Why not try to get them into treatment so they don't drink and drive with their kids in the car? Couldn't this be done with an intensive PSA campaign? Why not try to provide a benefit rather than a lifelong penalty for these families?

The moment the law passed, all I could think of was all the parents who would be caught in its snare. These aren't people who are trying to kill kids -- they're people who are alcoholics and don't know how to deal with the problem. They just think they're driving their children around to be helpful. They have no clue.

And for those who think these parents (and that's who they are: parents; let's not forget this for one second) will go to AA meetings in prison and "straighten out", I've got news for you. I've known good people who went to prison and who were alcoholic. Universally, they told me that you cannot be honest at an AA meeting in prison because you are surrounded by predators. Your honesty will be paid back twenty-fold with duplicity. AA in prison does not work.

These parents need help, not decades of incarceration. But politicians don't care about facts or sense or thinking through the issues anymore. They only want to get votes and this seemed like a big vote-getter, so now it's the law of the land.

I detest this law and all the harm it brings to families.

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