My son, Tommy, is an addict. This, of course, is not the path we wanted for him, but this is our reality. His addiction to opiates eventually led to prison, but he worked hard to get his life back on track. Nevertheless, even as he leaves the drugs and the lifestyle behind, the stigma follows him.
Because of his past, despite his reform, he might go to prison again because of an ad on Craigslist.
One hundred dollars for two laptops. Prosecutors say Tommy should have known it was too good to be true, even though Tommy was deemed to have a Severe Mental Illness while he was in prison and, as an addict, understand that sometimes people sell things for far less than their value in order to get high.
Regardless, Tommy bought the laptops and resold one for $300. He found out they were stolen when Chandler police arrested him. It did not matter that Tommy had paperwork showing he purchased the laptops, and it didn’t matter that he immediately cooperated.
Tommy has now been charged with trafficking in stolen property and is facing a sentence of 10-to-12 years. For two laptops he did not steal, for making a sale he did not know was illegal, my son may spend a decade in prison. He is only 25 years old.
Most people would probably call this excessive, maybe even tragic. But my son is a victim of mandatory minimum sentencing and unduly harsh prosecution, punished for low-level conduct, trapped by his past.
When Tommy was in prison the first time, he established a peaceful environment in an otherwise chaotic place. He sent letters to all of us, full of support and motivation, even writing in Romanian to his grandparents.
It is time for Tommy to come home. Instead, he faces another situation in which prosecutors are setting sentences with no consideration for rehabilitation. With no consideration for humanity.
The time he already spent incarcerated, over four years, taught him his lesson. He paid a price, a price he will continue to pay throughout his life.
The extreme sentences that our state laws demand, and that the people prosecuting my son are seeking, will make Tommy pay more than is owed. My son needs to be rehabilitated, not thrown into a cage for a decade.
Gov. Ducey recently declared a statewide health emergency related to opioid use. My son is among the people suffering because of this drug emergency. But no one in our government wants to seem to understand his situation or help him; they just want to lock him away.
By Carmen Hreniuc
Carmen Hreniuc is mom to Tommy and Nicole, wife of 27 years to Johnny, MBA, addiction counseling graduate student. American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona, acluaz.org.
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