When an SF man was kicked out of a residential treatment program for taking a cookie without asking, Drug Court gave him two choices, go back and start all over again or spend six months in county jail. He chose jail.
(From Press Release – SF Public Defender’s Office) – On Monday, December 2, 2019, Gregory Fields, 42, was remanded to SF County Jail to serve six months because he would rather not start over at Harbor Lights, the residential treatment program that kicked him out for eating a cookie.
Mr. Fields was placed in the residential treatment program through Drug Court while on probation for a 2017 vandalism charge. Harbor Lights requires a 30-day detox followed by a 30-day blackout period where Mr. Fields, who lives with his mother in San Francisco, was not able to contact her or anyone else. Mr. Fields completed both of these challenging phases and was regularly attending meetings and court. However, after a Harbor Lights outing, where they made and handed out lunches to homeless people, Mr. Fields returned and ate one of the leftover cookies without asking. That’s when Harbor Lights told him to leave.
Fields immediately called his case worker, who persuaded Harbor Lights to let him stay, but only if he started the program over from the beginning, including the grueling blackout period. Mr. Fields did not want to be shut off from the world again for no therapeutic reason and thus went home to his family.
In the interim, Mr. Fields sought outpatient treatment on his own to maintain his newfound sobriety, including showing up at Drug Court for group meetings run by the SF Department of Public Health, but was turned away. He found another outpatient program for himself and was willing to return to his placement without starting over, but those were not options.
At his next weekly appearance at Drug Court, no other treatment programs were offered. The only alternative offered was six months in SF County Jail. Mr. Fields, who has been clean for over three months, told the judge that he would rather go to jail.
Despite the risk to Mr. Fields’s long-term recovery, which ultimately impacts personal and public safety, Judge Michael Begert remanded him into the County Jail to serve six months at taxpayer expense.
“The program’s response was grossly disproportionate to the unauthorized snacking offense, and the court’s response to the low-level rule violation is counterproductive and inhumane,” said Deputy Public Defender Dana Drusinsky, who has seen Mr. Fields’s upward progress over many months. “If the court and providers were in fact focused on Mr. Fields’s recovery, they would not have locked him up for eating a cookie.”