The Executive Director of the Yakima Union Gospel Mission, Mike Johnson has penned a letter to the community in which he says it's time we get tough with those who break the law. Johnson says for the last 15 years he's worked directly with thousands of men and women overcoming homelessness and addiction.

Johnson says jail time can mean a chance at a new beginning.

"I have seen several hundred succeed. I've even climbed to the summit of Mt. Rainier with 43 of them during that time. A very large supermajority will tell you about the essential role that incarceration played in their movement toward healing and wholeness. Being arrested stopped their cycle of self-destruction and gave them a chance to reflect. This time, they decided to accept services and help for their problems. It's not magic. The claws of addiction sink deep, and they are pried loose slowly and through many tears. But I could fund my non-profit if I had money for every time someone told me that jail time played a meaningful part of their decision to pursue change."

Johnson is hoping lawmakers make a real change this legislative session

"This week, the Law & Justice committee of our State Senate considers several options for “fixing” the judicially-rendered loss of our state’s law against “simple possession” of illegal drugs. These options range from restoring criminal penalties to complete decriminalization. Incarceration is often viewed as serving only to increase a person's barriers to success.This may be true for some, but jail has played a positive role for many others."

 He says the result is obvious in Washington's largest city of Seattle.

"We may not be able to predict which time will be The One for which person to begin their journey of freedom, but we can certainly predict the effects of doing nothing to interrupt the cycle of addiction. Washington needs only to look at Los Angeles, Seattle, and San Francisco to see the future of people left to die on the streets. Our own consciences must not become seared to the point that we no longer care enough about these suffering people to tell them, "No."

Johnson says we must value the lives of everyone

"Our values are not seen only in what we support, such as recovery services. Values are seen as much or more in what we refuse to allow. We must value the lives of people enough that we can no longer passively allow their slow-motion suicide on our streets.  We would not sit back and do nothing if we stood before any other attempted suicide. We must value these lives enough to do what we can to save them. If we do not, the death that comes for them will come for our consciences as well. Who knows what new horrors follow that?"

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