Actor Johnny Lewis, who was on the TV show Sons of Anarchy has died in what is a most tragic and yet predictable ending. Not only did Johnny die, he sadly took the life of an 81 year old woman as well. First let me say that I knew and worked with Johnny. In fact, I stopped working with him when it became obvious that I could not help him He needed very strict MENTAL HEALTH care.
The tale of Johnny Lewis should be a lesson to everybody in our criminal justice system and to those who profess to work in rehab and treatment. The past year was not a good one for Lewis and his family. He was in a custody battle, he was not working and most telling, he was arrested several times. These arrests, and his subsequent jail time were all indications that things were very out of balance in his life. What is very misunderstood is that this was NOT a simple rehab/addiction matter.
Despite being sentenced to “treatment”, Johnny received anything but. This is where I hope his death, and the death he caused can be used as example of how the system failed. I often write that judges need to sentence people to Community Service along with a jail, probation or treatment model. I also write that rehab is NOT the solution to everything that ails us. The Johnny Lewis I knew was not addicted to drugs nor does being addicted to drugs mean that one will act in such a violent way.
The simple truth is that Johnny Lewis had been held on the 7th floor of Los Angels County jail for a period of time. Any of us who works in alternative sentencing knows that only those with a severe psychiatric disorder are held there. The judge should have known that. But, Johnny was ordered to a “treatment” facility and program. This is often the case and yet these “programs” are one size fits all and there simply is no such thing.
Mental Illness is not the same thing as addiction. A 12-step program will not work and often gives false hope to the participant and society. In this case a lack of understanding has led to the death of two people. How tragic and senseless. It is time for our courts and judges to practice what they preach and take responsibility for their actions and look towards solutions.
For now RIP Johnny Lewis and his victim. Let’s not allow this to happen again.
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 The Today Show, The CBS Early Show, Fox News, NBC News, CNN, NPR 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