Friday, August 23, 2019

signing out

The shot was interesting enough that I did not hesitate in taking it.

Had I paused to think about it, I would not have raised my camera. Logic would have warned me off of taking photographs at a police headquarters.

The sign is posted on the entry gate in Manzanillo’s Public Safety complex. It is printed on paper, but the admonition appears to be permanent. Even though it is a building filled with armed men and women, with a tire and sand barricade in front to provide a defensive shooting site, visitors are requested not to bring their firearms to the party.

But I was not in Manzanillo yesterday on a mission that would have required a firearm. I was there to assist a family who wanted to place a member in a drug rehabilitation center.

My work with methamphetamine addicts in my neighborhood has taught me about our local rehabilitation system. When I was a criminal defense attorney, I learned a lot about the treatment centers north of the border – especially, in Oregon. Almost all of that knowledge has been useless here.

We have two residential addiction treatments in the local area. Both provide residential treatment for a passel of addictions. Alcohol. Marijuana. Cocaine. Heroin. But, the fastest-growing is methamphetamine. And it is one of the most difficult to treat.

At least a score of my friends and acquaintances have ended up inside one center or the other. Almost none of them have gone there voluntarily. They have been placed there by their families.

The places are run like boot camps. Outside visitors are not permitted initially. After the patient has been at the center for a certain period, the family members who placed him there may visit. Any other visitor must be approved by both the family and the director of the center. The reason is simple. To control the addiction, circumstances must be controlled.

What struck me as odd when I first visited one of the centers was that most of the patients are not allowed to leave the property. They are effectively locked in the structure.

My northern attorney instincts bristled when I heard that. To me, it was nothing more than kidnapping and false arrest.

Yesterday I learned the rest of the story. I thought the patients were being held without any judicial order. To a degree I was correct. But there is governmental involvement.

If a family believes a member of their family needs to be effectively incarcerated for an addiction, the family may apply for a letter from the police or a social agency in the state where the potential patient lives. That letter authorizes the family to seize the “patient,” take him to a facility, and keep him there until his treatment is successful. (I use the traditional “he” because most addicts are male. But there are plenty of women who have also fallen foul of methamphetamine addition.)

That is why I was in Manzanillo yesterday at the Public Safety complex. A friend and I had driven there to seek the assistance of DIF (a government social welfare agency) to obtain what sounds to my Anglo-Saxon ears like a writ of attainder.

They could not help. That was why we ended up standing in the arms-free patio of the police headquarters talking with a clerk about the procedure to apply for a letter.

She told us a letter was not required – that any family member could seize and transport a member of their family to a center for involuntary treatment. Because that information was inconsistent with what we had been told in the state of Jalisco (Manzanillo is in Colima), we were both skeptical.

My friend had decided he has performed his due diligence. He is going to round up his vigilante family to corral their recalcitrant member. Their action will be in love. I understand that, but every common law bone in my body aches.

It probably should not. Mexico does not have a common legal system. Until recently, it was a country where “due process of law” was not a central tenet of its judicial proceedings. Its laws are far more Henry VIII than Henry II. Mexico's law is code-based. Napoleonic and Roman. In Mexico, governmental agencies have far more power than they do in common law countries. At least, in theory.

I wish the family well. Weekly I see what addiction to methamphetamine has done to tear apart Mexican families. If one more person can be freed from its clutches, I will rejoice along with the angels in heaven.

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