Teen mom star Amber Portwood is making headlines for telling an Indiana judge that she would rather do jail time than more rehab. Does this make sense? Yes and no. First of all many media reports are that Portwood will serve out the remainder of a 5 year jail sentence in actual custody per her request. This is only partially true. On Thursday Portwood was being held in an Indiana jail on a contempt of court charge stemming from her testing positive while in a drug diversion program. Portwood told the judge “she was a bad girl” and couldn’t comply with the original court order and drug treatment. In February Teen Mom was sentenced to five years in an Indiana prison on drug charges, but the judge in the case said that all charges would be dropped if Portwood completed a drug diversion program.
Breaking it down it is obvious that Portwood needs a quality TEAM. If she were my client I would insist she saw a quality psychiatrist and an addiction specialist while completing her court mandated rehab. Yet Portwood seems convinced that serving 5 years in jail is the only way to get and stay sober, and the only way to stay out of legal trouble. Is this rational? Of course not and yet why would we expect a person in severe crisis like Amber Portwood to be able to make good choices?
The fact of the matter is that I work with people like Portwood every day. People who find themselves in legal trouble are also often dealing with addiction and mental health issues. I take into account the entire picture when helping clients and their families handle an arrest and potential jail time. The truth is that nobody is better off in jail than in a quality treatment program and it is likely that Portwood will still be able to make a pitch to the court for an alternative sentence. This, even after Portwood has failed drug tests and lied to her caseworker in order to get out of “required” meetings and testing. But of course!
Portwood’s brother Shawn told E! News that the system has failed her. The truth is that the system is not responsible for the choices of Amber Portwood- She is and yet is unable to make good choices due to her condition. What now needs to happen is a version of in-patient treatment that includes drug rehabilitation, therapy and community service. A true ALTERNATIVE SENTENCE. Why all three? I believe that everybody in crisis benefits from community service, as if the type of service fits the need, it will empower the person in trouble while also helping society. That is the key- EMPOWERMENT.
For now all we can do is hope that there is time for a quality and long-term outcome for Amber Portwood and her child. Remember that families are the forgotten consequences of crime. Change is possible Amber- never give up.
Wendy Feldman is a criminal justice expert, insider and family legal coach. She is available for private consultation on how to prepare for a successful incarceration, probation and re-entry. She is also available for media commentary and has appeared on shows from Today, CBS Early Show, Fox News and Nancy Grace. She is a weekly featured guest in the syndicated America Now radio program. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.