I have concluded that inactivity is at the root of drug use and mental health issues. Contrary to popular opinion these are not the same. Having practiced criminal law for some time now, it is apparent that many people simply don't have enough to do. Now I am not one to say that life is about work or that work should be the primary source of one's satisfaction in life, but a job would certainly help some of these people. I am also not suggesting that the government cut these people off from what little income they have through disability payments or whatever, but I have seen a half dozen people within the last few days that need something to do with themselves other than sit in front of a television for most of the day, get bored, and then do something stupid.
Its not the money; its the time. If a person had a job, it would at least subtract some hours of the day from the time they have available to get high or do something stupid. And, if these people were actually doing working at something, they not only would have less time to get high or do something stupid, they might not have enough energy left over for the stupid part. One of the problems with this problem is that no one will hire these people. For any job that requires regularity, consistency, or an alarm clock, these people are not good candidates--not much different from working toward their GED or the alternate school.
I think we should bring back public works. I am not speaking of forcing people to work for little or nothing. There is plenty of things that need to be done that the government could pay people to do. The work would be available if anyone showed up to do it. No schedules, no deadlines, just something to do with a paycheck if one wants one. Examples could be picking up litter, shoveling snow or mowing grass, filling cracks in the sidewalk, running errands. Paying these people some money for actually doing something would be cheaper than housing them in jail or putting them on probation which they can't successfully complete in any event. Doing a little work would be healthier than sitting around the apartment getting high or being forced into inactivity in the county jail. It would put a little money in their pocket and would cut down on the time spent with their friends drumming up mischief.
These are positive steps that not only would make it a better place for us, but also for them. Telling someone who has nothing to do all day not to do drugs is futile; and those with mental health issues, explanations are like so much air passing over their heads. Give these people something to do!