NIA accelerated its pace and intensity of activism into ‘campaign mode’ early this year. Our CEO and Founder Kate Boccia, her husband Frank and their family lost the battle to rehabilitate and restore their Daniel, where systems had failed. It is a sadly familiar story of too many American families. For the NIA, it became an inflection point, and this letter launched us into that campaign mode.
- Kate Boccia, CEO
- National Incarceration Association
- Alpharetta, GA 30023
September 14, 2021
- The President
- The White House
- 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
- Washington, D.C. 20500
Dear President Biden,
Although many don’t speak to this, I understand how much your family hurts because of the loss of your son Beau. It’s an unspeakable pain when you lose a child, no matter what age or what cause of death. It’s as if there is a hole in your heart.
I speak from experience, Mr. President. I lost my son on August 15, 2021, to the disease of addiction at the age of 30. He left behind his 2-year-old son, Enzo.
Daniel Jay Boccia was a good man who meant harm to no one. But the demons that lived in him could not be repaired with the way society is, and has always been, in relation to mental illness and the disease of addiction.
Daniel’s story is played out every day and in almost every walk of life in our country. He fell into an all too often spiral of addiction after having his wisdom teeth pulled and being handed a 30-day supply of Percocet by a trusted doctor.
Daniel struggled for many years and I fought for him every step of the way, much like I am sure you did while your son suffered. The difference is, no one listened or cared about my ex-con son.
Eventually Daniel ended up in prison in Georgia on a 15-year mandatory-minimum armed robbery charge. He had no weapon and stole nothing, facts supported by video and victim testimony. But none of that mattered to the usual prosecutor of our time on a mission to promote punishment instead of examining facts and causation and recommending a plausible course of correction and cure. None of that mattered to the usual judge of our time who is too often constrained from adjudicating solutions and left with no alternatives but simplistic myopic mandatory minimum guidelines.
The day he was convicted was my first experience of a mother’s grief. That hole never really healed because the trauma he and I went through while he was incarcerated continued to fuel the pain. Too many Americans have been misled for too long by elected leaders who find more political and personal value in selling “law and order” in the face of measured illness, addiction, and desperation.
What I have learned over the last 10 years is that we can do better. We have proven it on a small scale with the work I do with my nonprofit, the National Incarceration Association, Inc. We know how to structure systems that first address if in fact something did go wrong when a crime is alleged and examined before a judge, or if the theatre of the moment more or less plays to the persuasive power of popular emotions. We know how to restructure systems that challenge what then went wrong. We know how to restructure systems that prescribe how to fix what went wrong as the primary and strategic reason for sentencing.
Our families are no different from your family as it relates to vulnerable dependency on information and resources, medical care and treatment, and honest resolute intention from those who have the power to make change happen. But the fact remains, no one cares enough to change things for families dealing with addiction, mental illness, and over-incarceration.
We all felt so much hope examining your platform during your march to the presidency. We felt so much compassion from your display of empathy for families like mine who know unnecessary loss like you do, and like so many Americans continue to silently suffer.
Sometimes ordinary people learn that a certain letter actually got to the eyes of the President of the United States. Sometimes a policy action is imagined and recommendations lead to efforts to change what we have resources, innovation, and will to change. I am left with nothing – nothing but that hope. It is my hope that someone working in your designated interest will respond to this appeal and challenge us to show you in practical ways how you can explore examples of justice and corrections reform befitting the greatness of America in the promise of the 21st Century.
I pray for your attention to this matter, and I pray for your continued healing.
Sincerely, and most respectfully,