Where in the “Sam Hill” is Eugene, Oregon? I have no idea, but I would love to study the people in that community. It seems they implemented police defunding long before the world watched Derek Chauvin murder George Floyd on the streets of Minneapolis. In fact, Eugene Oregon began defunding police thirty years ago.
Those of us who work in the criminal justice system know that we do not have the resources to eradicate the problems we face daily. I cannot tell you the countless times a Judge has asked me what I wanted him/her to do with my client, who is being convicted of Larceny for the 5th, 6th, 10th time. Not because my client was a “god-awful” criminal, but because my client suffered from a paralyzing addiction that caused him/her to steal to support his/her habit. Those of you who think throwing those individuals into prison will straighten them out. After 20 years as a practicing attorney, I can state with certainty that it does not.
With that being said, when I first heard about police defunding, I was a skeptic. For one, the word defunding made me think of a utopia like society where there was no law enforcement at all. I am not at a point where I believe our country is in a position to dismantle law enforcement entirely. Maybe one day.
But the more I listened and read, the more I realized police defunding is about a community that focuses on prevention instead of reaction. I don’t know about you, but that makes total sense to me. Identify and address some of the issues that ill-equipped law enforcement officers are being used for with the goal of addressing the real problem instead of rushing to criminalize people.
This is precisely why the citizens of Eugene, Oregon started CAHOOTS (Crisis Assistance Helping Out On The Streets) 30 years ago. CAHOOTS provides mobile crisis intervention 24/7 by dispatching a team which consists of a medic (either a nurse or an EMT) and a crisis worker (a person who has at least several years experience in the mental health field) to provide immediate stabilization in case of urgent medical need or psychological crisis, assessment, information, referral, advocacy & (in some cases) transportation to the next step in treatment. CAHOOTS offers services, including but not limited to:
- Crisis Counseling
- Suicide Prevention, Assessment, and Intervention
- Conflict Resolution and Mediation
- Grief and loss
- Substance Abuse
- Housing Crisis
- First Aid and Non-Emergency Medical Care
- Resource Connection and Referrals
- Transportation to Services
I can definitely imagine an entire society that focuses on addressing problems rather than filling prisons. What do you think?