The Needles and the Damage Done

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Cary Caldwell of the San Antonio Current reports on a policing strategy of genius not seen since the salad days of Lt. Charles Marimow: Prosectuing volunteers for needle-exchange programs.

On Thursday, January 23, the police department plucked a "traffic ticket" misdemeanor from Municipal Court and re-filed it with the District Attorney's office as a more serious Class A misdemeanor against three volunteers with the Bexar Area Harm Reduction Coalition, a needle exchange and condom program. Now, 73-year-old Bill Day, 67-year-old Mary Casey and registered nurse Melissa Lujan 39, face up to a year in jail and a $2,000 fine each for allegedly distributing narcotic paraphernalia. The trio was cited by patrol officers on January 5 while taking used syringes from addicts and prostitutes on the street for disposal by the Metro Health District. They showed officers what they were doing — reportedly handing out baggies containing a new insulin syringe, a condom, a cotton ball, an alcohol whip, a commercial bottle cap for cooking a drug dose, and referral pamphlets to public-health agencies.

"It's not like they were doing anything sneaky," said State Representative Ruth McClendon, a longtime advocate for legalizing needle exchanges in Texas. "This group is well known in our community."

But in the eyes of the police and the DA, these perfectly legal items, when assembled  in a baggie and given away, constitute a "heroin injection rig." 

"You cannot flaunt the law regardless of how well-intentioned you are," First Assistant District Attorney Cliff Herberg explained.

I'm going to go ahead and assume that the DA made the flaunt/flout error, which goes some way toward explaining his confusion. "Every day we're not doing what we're supposed to be doing, someone else is catching HIV or hepatitis unnecessarily," says one of the samaritans Caldwell spoke to.

Last year, Steve Chapman wondered if needle exchange opponents simply wanted people to drop dead.

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  1. Let the punishment fit the crime: Give the DA either HIV or Hep C.

    His choice, of course. We don’t want to seem heartless.

  2. Every junkie’s like a setting sun.

  3. Keep Dope Alive

  4. Why bother wasting time and resources prosecuting violent criminals when you can score face time on the local TV channel by prosecuting meddlesome do-gooders.

  5. Alice, I have to ask: is your father always talking to you, trying to tell you how to live, but you don’t listen to him because your head is like a sieve?

  6. Every junkie’s like a setting sun.

    Huh? You mean they are colored red by California brush fires?

    You comment thread poets
    almost always confuse me.
    Ah, Crap… Run! Haikus!

  7. kinnath: It’s simple; the first one requires effort. The DA has a better chance of getting re-elected if he gets some good face time, and low-hanging fruit tends to get it for them.

    That being said, it is the wrong priority for them, unless the town happened to be overrun by violent street junkies, which doesn’t appear to be the case. There’s a difference between feeling safer and being safer, and I’d rather want the police moving towards making society be safer than have them undertake some cheery illusory action.

  8. SugarFree, the title of this post is a Neil Young song. My line there is a line from the same song. I am offended that you would think I would do something as gay* as compose impromptu poetry.

    * joke for all the fucking humor impaired morons

  9. Oh, I see… you we’re quoting song lyrics. Pardon me for assuming you had writing talent.

    You’re a bigger disappointment to me than my first two wives.

  10. So they wouldn’t blow you either? I’m sorry, I just won’t do that for you. It makes me feel subservient.

  11. An “alcohol whip”?

  12. To make it more obvious for mad mike, append /snark to my preceding post.

  13. I’m sorry, Episiarch, what we’re you saying? I can’t understand you with my dick in your mouth.

  14. Epi (can I call you Epi?), I was wondering, since our comment thread senses of humor seem so aligned… do people in the real world have a hard time understanding when you are joking? Even when I spin a grin out and give verbal and facial cues for laughter, quite a few people can’t quite get it. And if so, do you think it has anything to do with using the same tone of voice for humorous and serious statements. (Which is something we both seem to do on the boards here.)

    Am I making any sense? I’m really sleep deprived today.

  15. Alcohol whips make me feel subservient.

  16. Very interesting story was just posted on Drudge about Obama’s position on decriminalizing marijuana … apparently, he supports it. Here is the link … http://www.washingtontimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080131/NATION/896961936/1001

  17. “You cannot flaunt the law regardless of how well-intentioned you are,” First Assistant District Attorney Cliff Herberg explained.

    flaunt (v) – to parade or display oneself conspicuously, defiantly, or boldly.
    flout (v) – to treat with disdain, scorn, or contempt; scoff at; mock

    So in addition to being a tool, ADA Herberg is also a grammatical ignoramus — unless these people were waving around a copy of the latest law journal in an ostentatious manner, but I don’t think that’s what he meant. And this is where our tax dollars are going. Where’s the outrage?

  18. Good for him to take that position, but the Clintons are going to pound him with it.

  19. Cesar … I wholeheartedly agree. The Clinton’s are already gearing up the attack machine on this, and will probably have a press release decrying his irresponsibility before day’s end.

  20. do people in the real world have a hard time understanding when you are joking?

    Sometimes, as I will often use a deadpan delivery, but I try to follow that up with a facial expression or laugh that clearly indicates that I am joking. Also, I try to scope out who will get it and use it for them, and not do that around people who won’t.

    Online, it’s much harder to do that because there are so many “observers”, and also because I can’t use facial expressions or tone.

    Does that answer your question?

  21. Am I making any sense? I’m really sleep deprived today.

    Maybe you shouldn’t have spent all night at the glory hole.

  22. How do the DA and cops sleep at night?

    They are so engrossed in getting convictions that they have lost all sense of humanity.

    I consider myself a hard-nosed anti-welfare type, but Cliff Herberg and his cohorts make me nauseous.

  23. Epi,

    Well, all I had to do was stand there with my skip-rope out. You did all the work.

    (By the way, cracking jokes back and forth like this is pretty much my whole workday. Until the girl employees show up. Then we have to behave. Boo.)

    Windy,

    Your jealousy bleeds green all over the keyboard, doesn’t it.

    But, point taken… Epi and I can exchange fat momma jokes some other time.

  24. Aresen,

    How do the DA and cops sleep at night?

    On top of a waterbed filled with jellied suffering.

    Most models are equipped with a nipple so they can gently suckle it all night.

  25. “You cannot flaunt the law regardless of how well-intentioned you are,” First Assistant District Attorney Cliff Herberg explained.

    Why not the police do it every fucking day. What planet does this the DA DumbAss live on?

  26. But, point taken… Epi and I can exchange fat momma jokes some other time.

    Ah, what the hell, it beats having to wade through 400 Ron-Paul-vs.-cosmotarian posts in every thread…

  27. I’m just surprised that they didn’t get charged for the left over residue in the needles that they were taking back in the exchange program.

    hmm .. shh .. don’t give the cops ideas.

  28. So in addition to being a tool, ADA Herberg is also a grammatical ignoramus

    Let’s be fair, folks. The DA made the statement verbally in a press conference. The SA Current reporter provided the spelling.

  29. Let’s be fair, folks. The DA made the statement verbally in a press conference. The SA Current reporter provided the spelling.

    So Bush gets a pass for being a horrendous orator?

  30. Hey! My mom isn’t fat! She’s just a total nanny statist.

  31. Even when I spin a grin out and give verbal and facial cues for laughter, quite a few people can’t quite get it.

    I think this is because a higher percentage of the population are government employees and have been trained only to laugh at government-sanctioned attempts at humor.

  32. I’m just glad my fat ugly momma isn’t alive to see this day.

  33. Enough about your promiscuous mother, SugarFree.

  34. Every time I’m in San Antonio, I’m shocked at the amount of violent crime reported on the TV news. For a city that size, it’s pretty nasty. Good to know the cops and DA have their priorities straight.

  35. Russ 2000,

    You know, if the government would just regulate laughter, all our problems would go away. Assuming the right people were elected to outline the laughter protocols and their enforcement was administered well, of course.

    (Please fill-out form JX-764 to perform a .5 second chortle. Assuming you haven’t already used up your chortle credits for this fiscal period. A grunt of beleaguered agreement is also acceptable unless you are a resident of the 2009 Norto-American Grunt Interdiction Zone or a member of a non-affiliated anti-grunt treaty. Please see “Grunting Guidelines for the 48 Contiguous States” pamphlet available at your local Department of Homeland Hilarity office.)

  36. Please fill-out form JX-764 to perform a .5 second chortle. Assuming you haven’t already used up your chortle credits for this fiscal period.

    I think I qualify for the September 11 Emergency Ironic Chuckle exemption. Is there a form I have to fill out?

  37. You will have to apply for a waiver and have your status as a non-comedatant confirmed.

  38. SugarFree, don’t quote me regulations! I co-chaired the committee that reviewed the recommendation to revise the color of the book that regulations are kept in!

  39. It’s people like you who keep this country great.

  40. “You cannot flaunt the law regardless of how well-intentioned you are,” First Assistant District Attorney Cliff Herberg explained.

    Why not the police do it every fucking day. What planet does this the DA DumbAss live on?”

    Truer than you may know. Google news about San Antonio PD + (convicted, suspended) for a recent hall of shame list.

  41. Why are they giving the addicts a bottle cap? Maybe if they leave that out, then the coppers would be ok with it…

    Then again, maybe not…or I may be underestimating how hard it is to find a bottle cap…

  42. or I may be underestimating how hard it is to find a bottle cap…

    Finding a bottle cap is easy. A clean bottle cap is another matter.

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