New Tucson police program will refer opioid addicts to treatment, not jail
On a Tuesday in late May, Albert Flores, 63, appeared in Pima County Superior Court for sentencing on his most recent in a decades-long string of drug arrests.
Flores was arrested in October with 0.13 of a gram of heroin and was charged with felony possession — his fourth drug-related felony in Arizona since 1995.
Flores took a deal, pleading guilty to one charge of attempting to possess heroin, and the Pima County Attorney’s Office sought a sentence of a year in prison, but Judge Howard Fell said he felt the sentence was too harsh for a man who displayed a clear pattern of addiction.
Flores told the judge that he wanted his life back and knew he needed help but had never been able to get it.
Fell sentenced Flores to six months in prison, saying he recognized the man was ready to make a change, and urged him to take advantage of the treatment programs during his incarceration.
Situations like Flores’ have become common in Tucson, as the opioid epidemic continues to engulf the community. Nationwide, overdose deaths are on the rise, and jails are being filled with addicts, who either aren’t ready or lack the resources to kick their addiction.
But starting Monday, some people will have a new option to reclaim their lives and avoid arrest, as the Tucson Police Department rolls out a program it hopes could change the way drug addicts are dealt with by the criminal-justice system here.
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