Monday, 18 October 2010

Project Prevention and blackmail from the moral high ground

It appears that an American "charity" has come to the UK in order to bribe drug addicts to get sterilised - that bribe being the grand sum of £200. The move has been condemned by drugs charities, and rightly so. This is perhaps the stupidest idea I have ever heard.

Barbara Harris, founder of Project Prevention, justified herself to the BBC thus;
Mrs Harris set up her charity in North Carolina after adopting the children of a crack addict.

Damage to children
Speaking to the BBC's Inside Out programme, she said: "The birth mother of my children obviously dabbled in all drugs and alcohol - she literally had a baby every year for eight years.

"I get very angry about the damage that drugs do to these children."

After paying 3,500 addicts across the United States not to have children, she is now visiting parts of the UK blighted by drugs to encourage users to undergo "long-term birth control" for cash.
There is a debate to be had about how to deal with the issue of drug addicts who have children. Drug charity Addaction estimates that there are 1.3 million children living with drug dependent parents. And it can be passed to unborn children, causing brain damage and over complications.

But if there are ways to address this, what Project Prevention offers is not it. They may stop a random sampling of addicts from having children, but they have not done anything to stop that group from being addicts. All they have really done is give said addicts the money for a few good fixes which will drive them further into the gutter whilst patting themselves on the back for a job well done.

Project Prevention claims that "unlike incarceration, Project Prevention extremely cost effective and does not punish the participants." But it doesn't help them either. Their true motive is "to reduce the burden of this social problem on taxpayers," and "trim down social worker caseloads."

Or, let them suffer but let us not have to do anything about it.

They claim also to "alleviate from our clients the burden of having children that will potentially be taken away," but unlike serious drug charities, alleviating the addiction isn't even on the agenda. Give them £200, take their nuts, and return to our suburban bubble whilst they rot on the street.

Hence Addaction's verdict that "that there is no place for Project Prevention in the UK because their practices are morally reprehensible and irrelevant."

They offer the following alternative;
Sex education and contraceptive advice is part of drug treatment work in this country. Women who use drugs can access all types of contraception free on the NHS including a number of long term options.

Addaction is one of the UK’s largest providers of drug treatment. Our first-hand experience shows that people can make positive changes with the right support – both for themselves and for their children. In fact, many of our clients stopped using drugs because they became a parent.

It’s certainly true that too many children are growing up with drug-using parents, but working with the whole family – as Addaction does – helps stop drug use and improves a child’s prospects dramatically.
This may not be as quick and easy. But in the long term it allows for the development of effective treatment methods and actually addresses the underlying problem of drug dependency rather than simply snipping at a symptom.

Just as criminalising drugs and locking away dealers only exacerbates the problems of the drug trade being in criminal hands, so bribery and sterilisation will only make the problem of addicts being sucked into destructive lifestyles worse. Alongside the extra money for a couple more fixes, they have tacit consent to continue the downward spiral from people interested only in their loins.

We are long overdue for a sensible debate on the problems around drugs and how to address them. Hysteria, reactionary dogma, and schemes to simply shove the problem out of sight and mind are only making the issue more difficult to address.