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Aug 27 2013

Atheist goes to jail for failing religious rehab

A California man is free and may be due compensation after being unlawfully returned to jail. His violation? He objected to a state-mandated 12-step program conducted with a clear religious prerequisite. Problem, he’s an atheist. Fortunately, there may be some relief in sight:

HuffPo — In a move that could have wider implications, the appeals court also ordered a Sacramento district judge to consider preventing state officials from requiring parolees attend rehabilitation programs that are focused on God or a “higher power.”

Hazle was serving time for methamphetamine possession in 2007 when, as a condition of his parole, he was required to participate in a 12-step program that recognizes a higher power. Hazle, a life-long atheist and member of several secular humanist groups, informed his parole officer that he did not want to participate in the program and would prefer a secular-based program.

According to court documents, the parole officer informed Hazle the state offered no secular treatment alternatives. When Hazle entered the program but continued to object, he was arrested for violating his parole and returned to a state prison for an additional 100 days.

Any program that gets someone out of jail has at least some good intent. But the low road is paved with same.

Years ago a south-Austin friend told me a messed up story. Cops showed up at her home one night, allegedly in response to a noise complaint. It was probably another house that had made the racket — she was retired, widowed, and home alone watching TV. But they claimed they saw a bong or smelled pot, or for whatever reason they muscled in, and ended up arresting and eventually citing her for minor possession of drug paraphernalia after turning her home upside down looking for anything they could find (These particular assholes even tried to include a charge, immediately dropped, for some bullshit they called “non-violent resisting arrest,” meaning she politely questioned if they had probable cause and denied them permission to enter).

Off she went into the legal system, where she got a deal, charges reduced or dropped, I can’t remember which, and all she had to do was pay a fine and pay for the privilege of attending a class on the evils of drugs.

It took months and more than a thousand dollars in fines, fees, and lawyers just to get it all scheduled and approved. When she showed up there was a class alright, but she was the only woman in a class full of men and the subject was anger management: a scheduling snafu of some kind had put her in Wife Beaters 101. The lady had a great sense of humor, she laughed, describing to me how these guys would flirt with her on breaks. One or two classmates even asked her out! She would shoot them down with, “Ah, dude, rumor has it you’re a wife beater.”

Her parole officer or lawyer or whatever told her just to buck up and bear it, it was only for a few days, and that would be that. Or she could file some complicated forms, go before a judge, try to reschedule, take the chance that another DA or judge would decide to make things harder on her, and probably pay the lawyer and the city more money for arranging all that. She finished taking the wife beater class.

The point is defendants and certainly parolees are usually desperate, no one wants to go to jail, so if the program is a scam or just a dumb waste of money, they’re easy prey. I don’t know if anything like that happened here, but it’s good to see this guy stand up for his beliefs and better yet to see those beliefs upheld.

5 comments

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  1. 1
    Physicalist

    Title should be ” . . . goes to jail for objecting to religious rehab”, instead of ” . . . goes to jail for failing religious rehab” (at least as I read the story):

    When Hazle entered the program but continued to object, he was arrested for violating his parole and returned to a state prison for an additional 100 days.

  2. 2
    Alyssa Anderson

    I knew someone who had been battling depression and a few other psychiatric issues, but finding the right mix of medication can be really difficult so ne had built up an interesting medicine cabinet full of prescription drugs that hadn’t helped because there are no refunds if the pills don’t work out (at least some places will dispose of such medicines now.)

    The supposed professional/authority failed to help out (I was too young to know much about it, but IIRC there was a serious breach of ethical conduct involved), and ne was already messed up enough to not know where else to turn. Ne ended up abusing those meds, trying to find a mix that worked on nir own.

    Eventually, ne signed nemself into rehab but ne complained and complained about how it wasn’t helping. The facility insisted on using religion to modify behavior, but ne had been a Christian all nir life. Ne ended up signing nemself in and out of facilities for years and years, looking for help but offered only more religion.

    It was very frustrating because none of us knew how to help out. Certain people involved kept insisting that God was the answer, or this or that woo would help. Ne ended up working it out in a roundabout fashion with some (just barely attained) help from the government and a lot of help from some excessively rich family members, but at the time the most readily available “therapy” involved spending ridiculous amounts of time and money on seeking change through God. “God this” and “God that” with a heavy, unhealthy dose of “you’re just not trying hard enough” continuously crammed down the throats of vulnerable people….

  3. 3
    tubi

    @Alyssa Anderson

    Is your “h” broken?

  4. 4
    a miasma of incandescent plasma

    tubi @3

    Is your “h” broken?

    I know right?!>!?!
    I mean, who cares about the content of the comment??
    Or framing the message in a way that reduces reader’s bias by not giving unrelated details??

    What I really want to know is if the person being described is a penis-haver or not!!! It matters because it matters.

  5. 5
    StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return!

    @3. tubi – like ^ a miasma of incandescent plasma I’m guessing that Alyssa Anderson (#2) was deliberately using a gender neutral form of expression. “Xe” or “hir” are more common variants of this from what I gather but I think most people will get the gist anyhow.

    When she showed up there was a class alright, but she was the only woman in a class full of men and the subject was anger management: a scheduling snafu of some kind had put her in Wife Beaters 101.

    Wow. Just wow. The logical, common sense answer here would be, “hey okay, clearly the wrong lass we’ll reschedule you or allow it to be dropped since its our bad” – which didn’t happen because ..?

    The lady had a great sense of humor, she laughed, describing to me how these guys would flirt with her on breaks. One or two classmates even asked her out! She would shoot them down with, “Ah, dude, rumor has it you’re a wife beater.”

    LOL. Of course that’s not so much “rumour” as court order but still classic come-back.

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