We won't give up on you, Ray, if you don't

True Tales From Everyday Living

February 04, 2007|By Lynn Anderson | Lynn Anderson,Sun Reporter

The last time I saw Ray, the young man who robbed me in Hampden, it was September. We were in Baltimore City Circuit Court, and he was about to go to prison.

Ray had pleaded guilty to two counts of robbery and had been sentenced to three years in jail. But there was a hitch: If Ray's family could get him enrolled in a yearlong, inpatient drug treatment program by the end of the year, Ray's sentence might be reduced.

Last month, Ray and I were back in court. Ray's mother and father were there, too.

Ray's attorney, Warren Alperstein, had talked to a counselor at a drug treatment program in Park Heights and there was a good chance that Ray would be accepted.

This was good news.

Since the fall, I had struck up a supportive relationship with Ray's mother, Kim, and knew that she had been praying for this outcome.

I had advocated for drug treatment for Ray from the beginning. Even when I first met Ray in Hampden last summer, I knew he needed help. Something in my gut told me he was desperate, not violent.

After I wrote my first column about Ray in November, an article that depicted Ray's initial court appearance, as well as my appeal for drug treatment, some readers called me crazy. They blasted me for being too nice and for ignoring what addicts like Ray do to neighborhoods, how they turn entire blocks into open-air drug markets, trash rental properties and frighten homeowners.

There are far worse stories, but, no, I didn't hear from relatives of any of the young black men gunned down daily in drug turf wars. Somehow, I wasn't surprised. I would like to hear from these people, but perhaps they are too caught up in the chaos of their own lives, or too upset at a society that doesn't care about them, to pick up the telephone.

I did hear from a nun who praised me for my ability to forgive, as well as an Anne Arundel County woman whose deaf son is a long-time alcoholic and occasional drug abuser. The woman said she had yet to find a treatment facility that would take her son because of his disability. She lamented the shortage of treatment slots for people like her son, who she said has Medicare but still isn't eligible for entry into a government-subsidized program.

"So do we forget about these pitiful human beings and let them continue their path to crime, prison, illness and death?" she asked in her letter to me.

Ray's lucky.

Lucky he has parents who hired a private attorney to defend him. Lucky the attorney, who knows the system, had a friend at a treatment center. Lucky the friend was able to secure a government-subsidized treatment slot, which means Ray's parents won't have to pay for his treatment.

Lucky to be alive.

At his re-sentencing in Circuit Court a few weeks ago, Judge Thomas J.S. Waxter adjusted Ray's sentence to time served plus three years probation, with the requirement that he spend the first year in drug treatment. If Ray does not, he could be arrested and sent back to jail.

Before Waxter dismissed Ray, he told him that he believed in drug treatment but that he knew Ray's odds for recovery were slim.

"More people do not succeed than actually do succeed," Waxter said. "But that is no reason for this court to give up on drug treatment or for you to give up.

"Good luck to you, and I hope it's successful."

A few days later, I spoke to the court liaison who helped Ray get into Gaudenzia, a long-term treatment facility on Woodland Avenue in Park Heights. The liaison, a former addict named Charles Cockrell, told me that Ray was doing well. He had been through his initial assessment, a thorough review of his background, including past criminal violations, education and job training, and had been assigned a mentor, another recovering addict, who was helping him adjust to his new life.

"He is doing well," Cockrell said. "His spirit is a lot more brighter."

I spoke to Ray's mom, Kim, as well, and she also had a good report.

"He sounds like they do," she said, referring to Cockrell and other former addicts, "hopeful."

Thanks to a supportive network and some lucky breaks, there is hope for Ray.

But now the hardest work begins.

Come on, Ray, don't let us down.

lynn.anderson@baltsun.com

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