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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Rest in Peace

I received a call from the mother of one of my clients, Mr. CWL.  She called to tell me that he passed away in his sleep and his body was found in his home this morning.  I have a mix of emotions running around inside of me right now:

--honored that she thought of me when she is still dealing with the fresh news that her child has passed before even reaching his 40's

--sad for the loss of another human being

--relieved that the system won't screw over someone that is an addict, not a criminal

and finally,

--inadequate....??...maybe...ineffective?

This man was 39 years old.  His father passed away when he was a child and from that point on, he was never the same.  He became addicted to drugs and alcohol before he reached 13 years of age and our justice system kept throwing him into jail instead of treatment.

When his case was assigned to me, our social worker did an assessment and I convinced her to send him to treatment.  He was successful in his in-patient treatment and both he and his mother expressed their gratitude for getting him the help he has needed for the last 26 years.  But then he was sent to a halfway house and 2 months after checking in, he checked himself out. 

My clients mother informed me that an autopsy is going to be done in order to determine the cause of death.  It breaks my heart every time I consider the possibility that it could be a drug overdose. 

I don't know how much change I am going to effect during my time at the public defenders office.  There are days when my heart aches so much for my clients that I don't know if it is in the best interest of my health for me to remain here.  Those are the same days that my heart aches when I think about no one being in their corner if I am gone.  But clients like Mr. CWL make me feel inadequate and ineffective because he was in our system for so long without anyone caring to address his underlying problem.  NEVER convicted of a crime that touched the life of another, his only crime was harming himself.

The last thing his mother said through her stifled sobs before she hung up was "Thank you for caring."  At the end of the day, whether you are a public defender or in private practice, whether you practice law, medicine, teach or touch people in some other way, the point is to TOUCH their lives.  I mean, that's really what we're trying to do here isn't it?  We're trying to touch someones life, because they will touch ours in return, and we all crave touch.

Mr. CWL sought illegal drugs and alcohol in an effort to create some type of peace in his chaotic world.  My prayer is that he finds some peace now that he has left this world.

Until next time,

Be blessed, be careful, don't confess and don't consent.

~LT