Ex-addicts discuss drug scene

From left, Hiram Curtis, Angelia Jones and Curtis Franklin talk about the city/county drug scene, especially in east Gainesville, and staying sober during the November meeting of the Black on Black Crime Task Force.

CLEVELAND TINKER/Special to the Guardian
Published: Wednesday, November 14, 2012 at 2:21 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, November 14, 2012 at 2:21 p.m.

A panel of three former drug addicts told the Black on Black Crime Task Force about their paths to recovery and answered several questions about the drug scene in Gainesville, especially in east Gainesville.

Hiram Curtis, 50, Dennis Franklin, 61, and Angelia Jones, 35, all of Gainesville, calmly and plainly answered questions last Wednesday from task force member John Alexander, executive director of the Reichert House Academy after-school program for boys.

The meeting, which served as the November monthly meeting of the task force, began with the panel introducing themselves.

What is the drug scene like today in Alachua County, especially east Gainesville, was the first question Alexander asked, as nearly 75 task force members and others waited to hear from the panel.

Curtis, who plans to begin pursuing a degree in psychology next year so he can counsel others on the perils of drug use, said drugs are not as easy to find today as they were in the 1980s and 1990s.

"You have to go deep underground to get drugs in Gainesville today," said Curtis, adding that law enforcement has done a great job fighting the problem in Gainesville and Alachua County.

Jones, who graduated from Santa Fe College in 2007 and the University of Florida in 2010, said she sees more young people on drugs today than when she was on drugs about 10 years ago. Jones, who plans to attend law school, said she had to stop her son from catching the city bus because young people were smoking marijuana at a bus stop in Duval, a neighborhood in northeast Gainesville.

Franklin, a native of Harlem whose mother was born and raised in Gainesville, said the drug scene hasn't changed much. He said the younger people know how to get drugs because they know the "lingo."

"If you knew the lingo of the younger kids, I bet you they could tell you exactly where the dope man is," Franklin said.

When asked if the drug scene is getting better locally, Curtis said yes, and he said it has a lot to do with offenders having to complete 85 percent of the prison time they receive today from courts as opposed to being able to earn "gain time" years ago, which allowed offenders to get out of prison early because of good behavior.

Franklin said the situation is not getting better because there are not enough places for addicts to go to get help to stay sober.

All of the panelists said it is up to the individual to get off drugs and stay sober.

The Rev. Freddie Hickmon of Miracle Temple Church in High Springs said, "That is it, That is it," when Jones said it is her relationship with the Lord that is keeping her clean.

Tony Jones, chief of the Gainesville Police Department, told the task force that the panel illustrated something he has been emphasizing for a long time.

"They can tell you we are not going to be able to arrest our way out of this problem," Jones said.

The task force meets at 5:30 p.m. the first Wednesday of the month at the Kirby Smith Center.

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