Friday, September 12, 2008

A Dozen Steps has a great post today about the importance of accepting responsibility for our own behavior. I especially enjoyed it because this matter came up among some of my homegroup's members this week.

Story as old as A.A. time: newcomer has a little time, and the persistant folks in the warrants division of the county she used to live in located her to discuss with her a rubber check she wrote that she hadn't amended. She doesn't want to go to jail.

So a member called BF and me, asking if we would like to contribute to the cause of keeping her out of the pokey. We said collectively something along the lines of "Not just 'no', but 'hell, no'."

I do not bail people out of jail, ever. You are incarcerated because there is reasonable cause to believe that you have broken the law. Your name wasn't drawn out of a hat for random, causeless arrest.

We put people in jail for breaking the law because a) we as a society would like you to stop harming others and b) imprisonment may teach you not to pull that stuff again. The longer you cool off in there, the less likely you are to repeat your offense.

One of the cases in our courtroom yesterday was a young man, barely over 18, with a file an inch thick. This particular day he was pleaing on 8 different counts. His mother had already posted a $600 bond, and then paid an additional $400 as a result of his remaining issues.

Think he learned not to break the law yesterday? No way! What he learned yesterday is that mom will bail him out. Mom won't have any money saved for her own security in life, but I can assure you he doesn't care about that.

The best thing his mother could have done for him and for herself yesterday was say, "Well son, I hope you can come up with $400 this afternoon," and gone home to mind her own business. An al-anon working a program would call this "helping someone find bottom".

But our newcomer's story has an encouraging ending: instead of taking others' money, she went with her sponsor and turned herself in to the county jail. She was arrested and detained for 90 minutes, and paid what fines remained after her jail credit was applied.

Now, she need not fear this issue ever again: she's paid her debt. She doesn't owe anyone for bailing her out. She has a new degree of respect and encouragement from folks in the meetings. Fear of people in that county has left her!

"They always materialize if we work for them."