It had to happen, or did it? Mary is dead.
Some readers may recall what I wrote in this column on Sept. 16 of this year. The very first paragraph read: “Have you ever watched someone slowly but surely kill themselves? Have you ever tried to save someone’s life? Have you ever felt like nobody even cares?” The headline was “Thoughts on Slow Motion Suicide”
The column started out with me speaking of seeing drug-addicted prostitutes daily walking through Deskins Addition as I traveled to and from my job as a Logan County magistrate. At one point, I described some of them as formerly being “somewhat attractive ladies” who gradually became “walking skeletons.”
I wrote about placing two of these girls in jail and setting bonds on them for misdemeanor charges that hopefully would keep them there long enough to at least detoxify them — normally, 10 days. There was the scant hope that somehow the jail time would lead to one or both of them realizing the path they were traveling was leading only to a dead end. My hope was to save or at least extend their lives.
Both females were residents of the town of Logan. One of the girls had been previously charged with mostly misdemeanor crimes 57 times since 2015. The other girl, who somehow attracted the male bottom suckers of life in her gilded profession, did so to procure monies for both her own habit, as well as her boyfriend’s.
The very day I arraigned her for stealing a woman’s purse she begged (as most arrested addicts do) to be released because her boyfriend was having emergency heart surgery that same day. I did not release her and was surprised when six days later a man posted her $1,000 cash bond.
A little upset over her getting out of jail so soon, I was concerned that she needed more time to “dry out.” But knowing that she was entitled to bond, there was little I could do until she appeared on her court date. When her boyfriend was later released from the hospital, I spoke to him on the streets of Logan about his near-death experience. He, like his girlfriend, was not a “bad” person in terms of being criminals. They were simply drug addicts.
One afternoon while speaking on a Stratton Street sidewalk to a couple of friends, I saw her coming up the street and crossing it in my direction. With a milkshake clutched against her chest with one hand, she extended her other tiny hand toward me and said, “I just want to thank you for putting me in jail. I am doing so much better now.”
I explained I couldn’t shake her hand because of the pandemic we’re in, but I did tell her that I wished her well and that it was not my intention to punish her with the jail time. The fact that she at least was sipping a milkshake gave me hope that she was doing better, after all she looked as if had not eaten in days. Perhaps her appetite had returned.
I only saw her walking through Deskins Addition one other time after her jail stint. Her boyfriend, as usual, was lingering behind her.
I do not know the details, but about a month from his release from a Pikeville, Ky., hospital, the boyfriend was found dead. Just a few days later, Mary also succumbed to the evils of the land. Her misdemeanor case of petit larceny was set to occur one week ago today. It will be my duty to make certain that case is dismissed by a prosecuting attorney. She now has paid the ultimate price.
For nearly 20 years, I have written about the need for the need for a drug rehabilitation center that could serve multiple southern counties. In addition, I have voiced my opinion that magistrates — when we first see a possible addiction problem arising — should also be allowed to order an evaluation and then accordingly be able to sentence a person to mandatory rehab.
Of course, I know the cost of such a facility that could be filled within a week is the real problem in these difficult economic times. However, the “vision” was not there years ago when some of us predicted today’s times of increased drug activities and overdose deaths. The fact is that had a rehab facility been completed many years ago, the regional jail bill likely would have never escalated like it has, and more importantly, lives would have been saved.
It’s not a matter of law enforcement not doing their jobs, because they actually do their best to take drug criminals off the streets. However, with inexpensive heroin, meth and fentanyl replacing the pill mill doctors and pharmacies that once provided a steady supply of opioids to addicted individuals, the problem has now been compounded with overdoses daily in Logan County. Many people have died, while numerous people have avoided death multiple times through the use of Narcan.
The regional jails are being filled, despite every legislative effort imaginable to prevent arrested individuals from being incarcerated. Some of those people cannot even be arraigned for several days at a time because they cannot reason for themselves, usually hallucinating and becoming almost unmanageable, even for jail personnel.
As the harsh economic times grow even worse during this awful time of strife, government will be facing some mighty tough choices in the near future. What happens when counties can no longer pay the jail bills generated by the drug arrests that happen daily? What services or jobs will be cut as coal severance taxes continue to dwindle?
The Logan County Commission, for instance, for years was proudly able to pay its monthly jail bills, while other counties could not. Well, guess what? As of Dec. 1, Logan County owes a jail bill of $1,423,603. The month of November, whose jail bill totaled $122,603, made one year since the last time a regional jail bill was paid by the Logan County Commission. Hopefully, there very well might be funding somewhere that could alleviate the problem that Logan County, like many other counties, could find itself in troubled financial waters.
And, while I do like the still popular musical group “Dire Straits,” some of their musical works may just apply on the local level. Here’s a few suggested tunes that come from “Dire Straits,” which includes great rock songs like “Money for Nothing,” “Sultans of Swing,” and “Private Investigations.”
I’m told that over 30 people died from drug usage in Logan County over the Thanksgiving weekend. Perhaps our local drug and jail problems will solve themselves completely — with every addict just dying. How sad.
Meanwhile, good-bye, Mary.
Dwight Williamson is a former writer for the Logan Banner. He is now a magistrate for Logan County. He writes a weekly column for HD Media.