As parents who lost an adult son to opioid addiction, we’d like to respond to Sheriff Kevin Joyce’s commentary about criminal justice reform (Sept. 4).

Our son was arrested and spent time at the Cumberland County Jail for violating probation due to heroin use. Upon visitation we witnessed him going through withdrawal, which he suffered for several days without any treatment. He eventually went to the minimum-security facility in Charleston, where he served his sentence.

At the time of his arrest, his then-girlfriend was arrested on similar charges. While my son was incarcerated, he received little to no treatment to combat his addiction, but his girlfriend, who was not incarcerated, was given treatment and counseling. She was then able to start college and is now married and has a child.

Our son, once released from prison, was sent back into society with no support, housing or counseling except what his parents could provide. His felony conviction for possession of heroin made it difficult for him to find a decent job.

We agree with Sheriff Joyce that our policies are not working and police departments are the wrong avenue to help people in crisis, whether from addiction or mental health issues. Our state needs to care more about treatment than locking them up. Incarcerated individuals will go back out into society and struggle just to find housing, transportation and food. Without support, these people are going to fail again and again.

Law enforcement alone cannot fix this. It has tried for decades, but addiction and incarceration have only increased. Policies have started to change, but more needs to be done. I applaud Sheriff Joyce in recognizing this and trying to make a difference for our state.

I’m also hoping that our government will step up and treat people instead of locking them away. There are success stories out there, but they’re the exception, not the rule.

Cindy and Dennis Crowe


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