Big props to Progressive Jewish Alliance for sharing this story with the public. Lowenthal’s story not only dispels stereotypes, it’s an urgent and harrowing testimony to how incarcerating people with drug addictions is the wrong move. The California Legislative Analyst’s Office has stated that voting Yes on Proposition 5 will save California tax payers billions, yes *billions* of dollars, and that’s just one reason why, according to Drug Policy Alliance, “everyone from the League of Women Voters of California to the California Nurses Association to the California Federation of Teachers to the Consumer Federation of California supports Prop. 5. So does former Secretary of State George Shultz.”

Here’s PJA member Rita Lowenthal’s Story:

My son, Josh, battled with an addiction to heroin for most of his life. Over the years, my husband and I learned that our own ability to help Josh was limited, as heroin addiction is one of the hardest to overcome. I’ll never forget Josh’s response to my help – that I just couldn’t compete with heroin and couldn’t win against his addiction.

Like most addicts, Josh resorted to petty crimes to support his habit and was sentenced to prison numerous times. But, prison is not a successful method of treatment for such non-violent, drug-related crimes. In the end, these individuals are thrown back on the streets in the same condition in which they were incarcerated; still addicted, with weakened potential and still in desperation. After 25 years of battling with his addiction, and after multiple stays in prison, Josh took his own life.

So this November, I’m voting YES on Proposition 5.

Proposition 5 would increase funding and expand individualized treatment and rehabilitation programs for nonviolent drug offenders and parolees. Proposition 5 would reduce the harsh criminal consequences of nonviolent drug offenses by creating a three-track system of probation with drug treatment; providing for case dismissal and/or sealing of records after probation; shortening parole for most drug offenses; and limiting a court’s authority to incarcerate offenders who violate probation. Prop. 5 also changes certain marijuana misdemeanors to infractions and creates a new program for nonviolent youth under the age of 18 deemed to be at risk for committing future drug offenses.

On November 4th, don’t forget my story.

Too many people who suffer from drug addiction are not getting the help they need and are treated as criminals instead. Please support rehabilitation and treatment, rather than punishment, for non-violent drug related incarcerations.

Rita Lowenthal is the author of One Way Ticket: Our Son’s Addiction to Heroin, and a member of Progressive Jewish Alliance

Share this story with friends and family in California, and encourage them to vote Yes on Prop 5!