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Baltzer now considers son’s guilty plea a mistake
BROW OF MOUNTAIN, NS - A Kings County father hangs on to hope that his son will one day turn his life around but he now regrets not fighting a meth production charge that landed his son in a federal penitentiary.
Andrew Baltzer’s father, Carl Baltzer, and Carl’s partner, Leslie Sweet, reached out to media to share Andrew’s story following his sentencing last year.
In a recent follow-up interview, the couple expressed concern that Andrew, who will soon turn 25, isn’t getting the help he needs to deal with addiction and underlying mental health issues in the federal penitentiary in Dorchester, New Brunswick.
On Jan. 18, 2018, Andrew was sentenced to two years and 30 days in federal custody for unlawfully producing methamphetamine in Kentville on March 10, 2017. He had been enrolled in the Court Monitored Mental Health Program (CMMHP) in Kentville at the time he pleaded guilty to this charge and to a count of mischief.
It was a belief that Andrew would access appropriate programming on the inside that convinced Baltzer and Sweet that pleading guilty to the meth production charge was the right move for Andrew. They understood from what they were told by people working in the justice system that this would be the case but Baltzer said the reality has since hit home.
“If I had of known all of this was going to turn out this way, I would have had him plead not guilty and I would have fought it,” Baltzer said.
He is convinced that if they’d tried, they could have beaten the charge because Andrew didn’t have the necessary ingredients on hand to produce methamphetamine.
Baltzer recalls his son telling him a long time ago that he was using street drugs such as opiates to cope with or quiet the thoughts and voices in his head.
After a visit, having to drive away and leave Andrew behind is a heart wrenching experience. Sweet said Andrew was initially in Springhill and they visited him there once. When they called to arrange another visit, they found out he had been moved but weren’t told where.
They later found out that Andrew had been assaulted in jail and relocated to Dorchester. He was kicked in the face, resulting in a broken jaw, and had to have a metal plate put in.
Baltzer and Sweet make the trip to New Brunswick to visit Andrew for two hours every four to five weeks. From what they can see, he isn’t getting any help for his mental health and addiction issues and he doesn’t have the tools necessary to deal with the problems on his own.
“It’s very frustrating because it’s going to come the day that he is going to be released and we still have to deal with that problem, or he’s got to,” Baltzer said.
“When he gets out, he’s got to find something that he loves more than the drug, whether it be work, a relationship, whatever it may be.”
Sweet said that although Andrew thought it would be sooner, it looks like he won’t get into a program until at least March.
“He’s just walking around, angry with the system,” Sweet said.
Baltzer said that, considering the length of Andrew’s sentence and the amount of time he has served, he probably should have been granted day parole by now. It could be because he hasn’t had appropriate programming or because Andrew’s frustration, mental health issues and behaviour are “working against him.”
Jail is not the place
Sweet said she is convinced more than ever that jail is not the place for Andrew. She and Baltzer intend to continue advocating for long-term, court-ordered rehab for people suffering with mental health and addition problems who get into trouble with the law.
Baltzer said it seems that Andrew is being viewed as just another criminal trying to beat the system, so his problems aren’t being taken seriously and he isn’t being rehabilitated.
Sweet said Andrew gets frustrated because, even when he gets appointments to see medical professionals, it seems that no one is listening to him and his issues aren’t being addressed.
“He’s come into one visitation with us and he was livid,” Sweet said. “I thought, ‘they’re going to take him out of here.’”
She said he soon calmed down enough to sit and talk with them. During their last visit, Sweet said, Andrew “sounded a little off.” Baltzer said that, on the other hand, they’ve also had some good visits.
Baltzer recognizes that his son must be willing to accept help. However, Andrew’s attitude seems to be that he simply intends to serve his time and get out.
Sweet said they also recognize that more could be going on behind the prison walls than they are aware of, such as Andrew incurring institutional charges because of behavioural problems, for example.
She said Andrew did give them permission to speak with his program co-ordinator but “she wasn’t very forthcoming and she didn’t have a lot to share.”
“We’re still going to fight for him, whether he thinks he needs the help or not,” Sweet said.
Immersed in subculture?
Sweet said it seems that Andrew has become immersed in prison subculture as a way to cope with the situation. Andrew appeared so thin on one visit that Sweet and Baltzer became concerned that he might be bartering his food for drugs.
On another occasion, Sweet saw Andrew coming before his father did and she told Baltzer, “Don’t look, Carl.”
Andrew was sporting a large tattoo on his neck . They asked him where it came from and why he had it done. He told them the outline was an Asian letter. He was tattooed in the penitentiary using make-shift equipment.
“I think he probably got it just to be one of the guys, to fit in,” Baltzer said. “It’s a totally different culture.”
Sweet said another eye-opener was when she had to remove her hoop earrings one day before visiting Andrew. The prison staff told her the reason was that the jewelry is considered currency on the inside.
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