MADD con­tin­ues work­ing closely with law en­force­ment

Cherokee County Herald - - VIEWPOINTS -

Since our in­cep­tion, Moth­ers Against Drunk Driv­ing has had a spe­cial bond with law en­force­ment.

For good rea­son: We both have as our core mis­sion pro­tect­ing the public and sav­ing lives.

As our name in­di­cates, MADD’s fo­cus is pre­vent­ing drunk driv­ing and sav­ing fam­i­lies from the pain, heartache and grief from driv­ing-un­der-the-in­flu­ence crashes.

We work di­rectly with state troop­ers, sher­iffs and po­lice de­part­ments to as­sist vic­tims and their fam­i­lies, to dis­cour­age drink­ing and driv­ing, and en­cour­age re­spon­si­ble public poli­cies that re­duce the oc­cur­rences of DUI crashes.

MADD Alabama also has de­vel­oped a spe­cial bond with the Alabama Al­co­holic Bev­er­age Con­trol Board and its “Un­der Age, Un­der Ar­rest” ini­tia­tive. For the past four years, MADD moth­ers and other vol­un­teers who have lost loved ones to drunk driv­ing have trav­eled the state with the “Un­der Age, Un­der Ar­rest” team to share with stu­dents the dan­gers of un­der­age and binge drink­ing and the ter­ri­ble toll they take on fam­i­lies.

There is an­other part­ner we count as key in the fight against drunk driv­ing. That is our court sys­tem, in­clud­ing the lo­cal pros­e­cu­tors who work hard to bring jus­tice to vic­tims of drunk driv­ing.

As you know, Alabama faces very se­ri­ous chal­lenges with its Gen­eral Fund. Across the state, district at­tor­neys and their staffs — the peo­ple whose job is to pros­e­cute and hold ac­count­able those who drink and drive — are find­ing it more dif­fi­cult to do their work be­cause they sim­ply do not have suf­fi­cient fund­ing.

That is why I, on be­half of Moth­ers Against Drunk Driv­ing Alabama, sup­port badly-needed ad­di­tional fund­ing, par­tic­u­larly for our district at­tor­neys and courts, to more ad­e­quately pro­tect the public.

Cur­rently, the state is con­sid­er­ing a mod­est five-cent in­crease in al­co­hol rev­enues, all of which would be ear­marked to pro­tect the public.

As vic­tims ser­vices co­or­di­na­tor for MADD Alabama, I work reg­u­larly with district at­tor­neys and judges. Our in­volve­ment in a drunk-driv­ing case be­gins im­me­di­ately af­ter a crash. We meet with vic­tims and their fam­i­lies — we call them “vic­tim’s sur­vivors” — to com­fort and sup­port them as they go through what of­ten is a dif­fi­cult, emo- tion­ally drain­ing le­gal process.

We are with them at trial, at sen­tenc­ing and at pa­role hear­ings. Per­haps one of the lesser-known roles MADD vol­un­teers play is speak­ing di­rectly to drunk-driv­ing of­fend­ers, hope­fully be­fore their ac­tions claim lives. Work­ing with judges and pros­e­cu­tors, MADD vic­tim sur­vivors speak at vic­tims im­pact pan­els for which DUI of­fend­ers are re­quired by courts to at­tend.

They tell their sto­ries: like that of a star col­lege bas­ket­ball player whose life was cut short by an in­tox­i­cated driver trav­el­ing on the wrong side of the road; a wife who lost her hus­band and nearly her life and the life of her son when a speed­ing drunk driver crashed into their ve­hi­cle; and a mother who wakes up ev­ery day cry­ing for the son she see will never see again.

These “vic­tim’s sur­vivors” live with pain ev­ery day. They vol­un­teer to help prevent other par­ents, spouses, broth­ers and sis­ters, grand­par­ents, un­cles and aunts from hav­ing to ex­pe­ri­ence the same pain.

Their work is dif­fi­cult. So, too, is the work of our pros­e­cu­tors. Many strug­gle to meet pay­roll. Oth­ers don’t have the money needed to pay for ex­perts or for wit­nesses to travel to en­sure that jus­tice is served.

Al­co­hol isn’t just a prob­lem on our roads. It plays a ma­jor role in many other crimes.

For ex­am­ple, al­co­hol is a fac­tor in 40 per­cent of all vi­o­lent crimes, ac­cord­ing to the U.S. Depart­ment of Jus­tice.

In fact, 37 per­cent of the nearly 2 mil­lion con­victed of­fend­ers in prison to­day re­port they were drink­ing at the time of their ar­rest.

The re­al­ity is al­co­hol is more as­so­ci­ated with vi­o­lent crimes — mur­der, rape as­sault, child and spousal abuse, etc. — than any il­le­gal drug.

That’s why the measure to raise ad­di­tional funds for our district at­tor­neys and the court sys­tem through liquor rev­enue is so crit­i­cal.

Al­ready, two coun­ties ben­e­fit from sim­i­lar fund­ing mea­sures thanks to lo­cal bills passed in re­cent years. Sev­eral other coun­ties are push­ing mea­sures to do the same.

It makes sense for this fund­ing to be avail­able for all district at­tor­neys. The best and surest way to make that hap­pen is for the ABC Board to sup­port ad­di­tional fund­ing that goes to our law en­force­ment com­mu­nity. All of the funds raised will go to DAs and the courts.

On be­half of MADD Alabama and our sup­port­ers, and for the cause of jus­tice, I urge the board to take this small step to en­sure our pros­e­cu­tors have the re­sources they need.

Pamela Mor­ton of Mont­gomery is state vic­tims ser­vices co­or­di­na­tor for Moth­ers Against Drunk Driv­ing Alabama. “Just Plain Neat in­for­ma­tion” sup­plied by lo­cal reader

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