Judicial candidate saw substance abuse first hand
|By Kyle Melinn|
At first, a younger Clinton Canady III probably didn’t think he had a problem.
Maybe he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. A victim of bad luck.
Even when he was arrested for drunk driving, it took the insistence of friends and family to drive him to the conclusion that he had a substance abuse problem. He needed help.
For more than three years, Canady battled with keeping his disease under arrest. It took time to "understand what they were talking about." He used a 12-step treatment program.
Now, 23 years later Canady, the successful Lansing attorney who is seeking a spot on the Ingham County Circuit Court, can safely call that part of his life "ancient history."
And, if elected Nov. 2, Canady, 62, could use this experience to guide individuals who find themselves in a similar situation. It’s a role he’s played for several years already as the attorney for the county’s family dependence treatment court, which works with the parents whose addictions impact their ability to raise their children.
"I think I have a perspective and an idea of what is needed to recover," Canady said. "People need to realize that people can recover. I understand the nature of the disease and there may be some suggestions I can make that will help the individual come to a separate conclusion, but I have to stress that it is always up to the individual."
For years, national studies have shown a direct link between a high percentage of crime and substance abuse. Property crime, robberies, even domestic violence. Drugs and alcohol spur a need for money or spark a poor choice.
The goal is to help the parent get the information they need to understand their situation and address it before the emotional toll drives their children down the wrong path.
"There is resistance," Canady said. "A person has to come to the conclusion that this is what they want. When people first suggest they have a problem, the very nature of the disease is that they don’t feel that they’re that bad … . The courts are trying to get them information and some outpatient treatment so they arrive to the conclusion that they don’t want to use substances anymore."
Canady said today’s courts are more proactive in getting individuals into programs. Ingham County doesn’t have a drug court like the state’s larger courts, but the sobriety courts used in Lansing, Mason and Charlotte district courts are successful in steering substance abusers to programs such as Teen Challenge and Life’s Journey. Ingham County Circuit Court has used the House of Commons.
If an addiction can be stunted, the chances for re-offense are reduced. That helps the family and, ultimately, society.
Jail and prison can’t be ruled out, though, Canady said.
"You really have to look at things on a case-by-case basis," he said. "At some point, you have to draw the line and make it clear that there are consequences for your actions. The bottom line is that you have to look at the protection of society and create a deterrent."
Treatment can work, but often it’s not until the person is out of the judicial system that its clear the treatment has worked.
For example, a defendant could have gone through counseling, visited their probation officer and did their community service without any problems. The real test is how that person reacts when they are no longer under the microscope, Canady said.
Do they think they can return to substances since they were able to "get by" for the several months? Or do they realize that substances are a problem and they’re not going to use them anymore?
Some in the recovery community have suggested that Canady, as the head of his own legal practice, the Canady Law Firm, is an inspiration for those going through recovery. They point to him and say, "If he can do it, I can do it. If he can make it, I can make it."
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(Kyle Melinn is the editor of the MIRS Newsletter. He’s at firstname.lastname@example.org.)