Debate Magazine

Cocaine, Kids and Compulsory Contraception

By Minimumcover @minimumcover

Jenny’s back in custody again. This was the fourth time this year that she has been locked up for possession. At three o’clock in the morning Chris, her delight of a boyfriend, was picked up on the edge of town with a sat-nav he had just found. He was pretty lucky to find it seeing as someone else had stolen it from a car less than a mile away only 25 minutes earlier – they had obviously dropped it carelessly whilst making good their escape. He was slightly less lucky however, as when Police stopped him and became aware of his recent navigational windfall he also happened to have a window punch and four wraps of coke in his coat pocket – what are the chances eh?

So, on went the cuffs and ten minutes later we started the search of his flat. The Staffie in the flat was the least problematic resident – Jenny was in the mood for a fight despite being nearly five months pregnant with Chris’ child. It turned out that she wasn’t off her face as was first thought, but she still appeared to have demoted the welfare of her unborn child to a level of priority just below giving all the coppers a slap. Eventually she was carefully restrained and the search could continue. Forty minutes later the job was done and she was also under arrest following the discovery of nearly 60 wraps of Cocaine and Heroin as well as other bits and pieces associated with their sale. Nearly £1300 in cash was also found tucked away in the freezer.

The months passed and the investigation was completed. The drugs and phones were all examined and everything passed muster with the CPS – charges for Possession with Intent for both Chris and Jenny were authorised. The court process was straight forward and within four months there were high fives in the office when custodial sentences (although both were suspended – grrr) were passed down to the couple. The court ordered that, as had happened with her previous child, her latest child should pass immediately into the custody of Social Services at birth. This was due to concerns about her standard of living, drugs use and the serious concerns about her ability to take care of her off-spring. Chris was also put on a Drug Treatment order due to his long-term addiction – he failed to comply with the testing element of this last time he was given one but maybe this time would be different!

Now we come to the point of the story. We, as a civilised society, can lawfully impose a raft of restrictions on people through the courts. We can take away a persons right to bring up their children, even before those children are born and we can enforce the taking of prescription medication in respect of a Drug Rehabilitation Requirement (DRR) – substituting Heroin with Methadone for example. These are very expensive steps which focus on restorative or reactive solutions.

The effectiveness of a DRR is very much hit and miss relying on the motivation of the offender to change their own lives. Some make this a turning point and take the opportunity with both hands. Others, like Chris……not so much.

The effectiveness of social services intervention at the birth of a child is something that is almost impossible to measure. Granted, the child will be removed from a parent or parents that have significant issues in their lives and end up potentially being raised in a more stable environment. I have no figures or case studies to support my theory, but I would expect that in many cases their prospects would be dramatically improved. Should we, however, be taking things one step further and preventing the problem in the first place.

I am not going to start a fight with the pro-life campaigners or make any comments on enforced or consensual abortions. That’s a matter for another post – if not another blog entirely! What I do consider to be a potential alternative is a different take on the enforced medication aspect of the DRR. Would it not, in circumstances where there has already been an assessment of unsuitability in respect of parenting, be worth considering compulsory contraception for the offender (either male or female) to prevent a life being created in the first place? I am not talking about mandatory condoms or pills – that would never work, but perhaps consideration to mandatory use of the contraceptive injection or an implant.

The reasoning behind my view is this:

If we already know that a child could be at risk if brought into the world by an offender, and that it is likely that parental responsibility will be taken away from that person, do we not have a responsibility to prevent this birth from happening in the first place. I feel that temporarily (ie NOT permanently) removing the potential for the un-restricted creation of life is a completely justifiable course of action in some circumstances. It is a long way short of enforced sterilisation, which would be a step too far in my view, and simply builds on the legislation allowing other enforced medication. If the courts can have the power to place medical and physical restrictions on people’s lives to prevent offending, can we not take the same stance on child protection.

I suppose, in its most basic form, the debate is about whether a persons right to have children regardless of their circumstances or ability to care for them is more important than the right of the child they create. In a country where more than 6,000 children are awaiting adoption and foster places are required for another 8,000 is it not about time that something is done to tackle the cause rather than the result?

NB: Any contraception order would obviously be time limited like a custodial sentence. It would also take into consideration a raft of medical considerations and other checks to ensure that no harm came to the subject of the order.

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