"Compassion meets Accountability" with District Attorney Joe Peters

November 27, 2022 Joe Van Wie / Joe Peters Season 2 Episode 41
"Compassion meets Accountability" with District Attorney Joe Peters
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Meet Wyoming County District Attorney Joe Peters 

Joe Peters rose from street cop to serving two presidents as a leader in the efforts to
combat drug trafficking and battle international terrorism.

As a Federal Prosecutor, Joe’s accomplishments include the convictions of Philadelphia Mob BossLittle NickyScarfo, his underboss, and 16 mob soldiers in a 3-month trial before an anonymous and sequestered jury. Conducted by Joe and four other Federal Prosecutors, this trial resulted in one of the most significant Mafia family convictions in U.S. history. As a result, Joe received the U.S. Department of Justice’s John Marshall Award. The Associated Press called Joe and his fellow prosecutors the “Modern Day Untouchables.”

Joe has presented and consulted to law enforcement officials and others in Israel, Italy, the UK, Dubai, Kuwait and Qatar and has trained military and civilian personnel in Panama.

A resident of Lake Winola, Joe has devoted his career to public service: he served for more than 15 years in the Pa. Office of Attorney General, rising from an intern to become the state’s top drug prosecutor. In the White House he served as Assistant Deputy Director for State & Local Affairs in the Drug Czar’s office.

Joe’s expertise on terrorism and related intelligence and prosecution issues has been
recognized by Fox News  where he serves as a commentator as well as television
networks as far away as London and Italy which have asked for his expert on-air

He graduated from King’s College and later the Dickinson School of
Law. He is a member of the International Assoc. of Chiefs of Police, where he served on its Terrorism Committee for 10 years. 

Joe is the oldest of five children of Gene and Peg Peters and is the proud father of his son Max. His father Gene served two-terms as a GOP Mayor of Scranton. In 2004 Joe was the Republican nominee for Pennsylvania Auditor General.

For more INFO on LETI visit wyoming county at

Please stop by ApplePodcast and give us a Rating and Review!

Leaders Of Long Term Recovery in Pennsylvania 

We combine proven recovery principles with new, innovative techniques to provide one of the most effective programs for young men in the country.

 Discussions on addiction and recovery. We interview clinicians/researchers, legislators, and individuals that include a variety of means to recovery. Joe Van Wie is a father, husband, filmmaker, and reformed media consultant in recovery. 

Fellowship House
As a treatment center, Fellowship House offers both residential and outpatient treatment services to
Discussions on addiction and recovery. We interview clinicians/researchers, legislators, and individ

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase, I may receive a commission at no extra cost to you.

Support the show

Stop by our Apple Podcast and drop a Review!

Support The Show

Joe Van Wie  0:02  
Hello and thanks again for listening to another episode of all better. I'm your host, Joe van wie if you like what you hear please stop by Apple podcasts. Leave us a rating and review helps us stay relevant in mental health and recovery searches. Today's guest is District Attorney Joe Peters, Wyoming County. Joe rose from street cop to serving two presidents as a leader in the efforts to combat drug trafficking, battle, international terrorism. He's now the district attorney and Wyoming County. As a federal prosecutor. Joe's accomplishments include the convictions of Philadelphia mob boss, Little Nicky Scarfo is underboss and 16 Moms soldiers in a three month trial before an anonymous and sequestered jury. Conducted by Joe and four other federal prosecutors, this trial resulted in one of the most significant mafia family convictions in US history. As a result, Joe received the US Department of Justice is John Marshall award. The Associated Press called Joe and his fellow prosecutors. Modern day untouchables. Joe is presented and consulted to law enforcement officials and others in Israel, Italy, the UK to buy Kuwait, Qatar and his train military and civilian personnel in Panama. Jos a resident of Lakeland hola Joe has devoted his career to public service. He served more than 15 years in the Pennsylvania Office of the Attorney General, rising from an intern to become the state's top drug prosecutor. In the White House, he served as Assistant Deputy Director for state and local affairs in the drug czars office czar. That's a wild word. One footnote czar is from Caesar is Harry. I thought Joe would like that. But Joe's expertise on terrorism and related intelligence and prosecution issues has been recognized by Fox News, where he serves as a commentator, as well as the television networks as far away as London and Italy, which have asked for his expert on air commentary. Joe is pro life and a strong supporter of the Second Amendment. In the past, he has an A rating with the NRA graduated from King's College and later, the Dix Dixon School of Law. He's a member of the International associate Association of Chiefs of Police and he served on its terrorism committee for 10 years. Joe is the oldest of five children of Jean MPEG Peters, and is a proud father of his son Max. His father Jean served two terms as the Republican mayor of Scranton, in 2004. Joe was a Republican nominee for Pennsylvania otter, Auditor General, I read his bio, from Joe Peter Sacco. And Joe has been my friend. I've been a lifelong Democrat, and some would say, you know, a liberal to some degree. But you and I have been friends for over two decades. And though some of our political ideologies have are on the opposite spectrum, we have always been common friends and had civil discourse, and all of these things and even work together on creative projects, such as films and projects that included the screening Cultural Center. I was excited to have Joe on here because of his support of not only my my own recovery, personally, as a friend, and his concern for me throughout the years that was heartfelt. He was doing some really interesting things. As a district attorney in Wyoming County, and we get a chance to talk about these programs that kind of split the difference between serving the public, which is an absolute duty to protect, and then where that can open a small window of understanding and compassion when it comes to addiction and crimes that are of addiction that aren't harming people directly, but the person suffering from addiction. So this is really an interesting program. And Joe explains it quite well. Let's meet Joe Peters. Well, we're here with district attorney Joe Peters from Wyoming County. Thanks for coming in. Joe.

DA Joe Peters  4:51  
It's a pleasure to be here with you Joe and with your listeners.

Joe Van Wie  4:54  
Thank you. Thank you and we have a lot to catch up on Joe and I have known each other for over over a decade. I even more than that. Yeah, absolutely. And we've worked on projects together. And I saw you doing some interesting things up in Wyoming County. And I definitely want it to have yawn. But I don't want to start there. I want people to get to know the Joe Peters I know. And who's my friend, especially in kind of volatile times, that Scranton, Republicans and Democrats are close friends for years. With that kind of tone out there. I think people that don't know your story would be very interested and all the experience you had before Wyoming County. So I guess the first question, Joe, tell me about, you know, your experience growing up and your neighborhood here. Well,

DA Joe Peters  5:51  
growing up was about West Scranton. And it was about my dad who became mayor of Scranton, go figure, the son of immigrants from Lebanon, who had 17 children, my dad being the baby, the only one to go on past high school, to college. And for him to rise to be the mayor of this wonderful city of Scranton and this region, writ large. I was in awe and I didn't even know how extraordinary that was. Here, this Republican mayor gets elected in a three to one democratic city looked a whole lot differently than the rest of the population. But then he looked like you'll Brenner. He would say Omar Sharif, because values his hair, if so, and then he goes on to be elected, reelected with a 75% of the vote. And that embedded in me the value of community and community service, I would see my mom volunteering in so many different community organizations, my dad being mayor, Republican, but who had more Democrats in his cabinet than Republicans. And as a 13 year old, I remember asking him, dad, those Democrats didn't vote for you. But you have more of them in your cabinet than Republicans. You know what he said to me? He pointed out to me, he said, Joey, when I ran for office, I had to run a one party. Now I may or of all the people. Wow. So that imprinted in me the value of service, which has stayed with me to this day, and I look at the third generation, my son Max, who is a lawyer and entrepreneur and filmmaker and cigar maker and has his hands in so many things, but a big piece of him and he does it quietly, is about community service and charitable works. Absolutely. Joe, I

Joe Van Wie  7:57  
want to add if he can before we depart from that little that summary texture, especially for people who don't know or are disconnected from their own heritage. Scranton, were talking about your dad becoming the mayor in the 70s. And your ethnicity coming back was Lebanese and there's there's a flourishing community here. Well, how would you describe Lebanese for people who didn't understand the culture and how it became its own culture first second generation and here is that Lebanese are essentially the Lebanese that settled script more Catholic. Yes. What what was what was that? Not a closed community. But how did the Lebanese community support itself in the 40s 50s and Scranton that would make this scenario possible that a Lebanese man, a Republican, was valued and beloved and saw as a community member to not only, you know, be supportive, but be the mayor of Scranton, and one of the you know, noted one of the best mayors people really still, it was it was a golden age of leadership. Yeah, to get us through the 70s.

DA Joe Peters  9:14  
Well, you're very kind in that's true, I think. I think the culture was self sustaining because like many immigrant communities, New York City, but certainly Scranton, when people would come from, quote, the old country, whatever that was, they would settle with people of like mind, but I think with the Lebanese community in an area called Ninth Street, and their work in the wholesale block, as it was called ban. They really supported one another, and I found similarities in my mom's heritage, her parents from Italy, the Italians and my dad's the Lebanese. They're both there are more similarities than dissimilarities. And, and actually, the one dissimilarity is a great one. And the similarities are loyal, family oriented, religious, steeped in customs and traditions. That's the sustainability. The only difference between the Lebanese and the Italians is the food. And it's a wonderful there Yes, and dichotomy and it's either side of, of the Mediterranean. I, my dad talks often about Ninth Street and he said he didn't know for years that there was any difference between the Italians, the Lebanese and the Jewish people who lived together on that street. Wow. And if we could only get back to that today, and when you say

Joe Van Wie  10:39  
wholesale, it was produce produce produce was the driving labor force for the Jewish population and Lebanese. How do you know any? How did that come about? Why Why was it produce?

DA Joe Peters  10:51  
I don't know. I think I think immigrants and I have seen this around the world, in my in my travels and in my work, that they they go for either something traditionally in which they are involved in about which they have some knowledge, or they seek an opportunity, whatever will make them money to support their families, and to grow a life and a lifestyle. So that's how the Lebanese focus in the wholesale produce industry began.

Joe Van Wie  11:21  
Okay. I want to interject one note, in that sense, so you have a very strong community. It's Scranton. And Scranton, like these ethnicities start to learn, I don't want to say dissolve like Lebanese and Italians, but marriages start happening between Irish Italians, Lebanese, in this melting This is what a melting pot is. And we're all kind of rising the ranks as a social economic status together in our town, Scranton, just trying to go a beat run. At that point, I would say, the 60s or 70s, when your dad's moving towards public service, can you in hindsight, kind of recall what you thought? Addiction was then or what you would call alcoholism or even just maybe a drunk?

DA Joe Peters  12:10  
You know what sad, alcoholism to me. And I'm thinking back as a, as an adolescent. Was something funny? Yeah. It was that foster Brooks, your Sana, if you remember that comedian, who made a career of talking in a slurred way and hiccuping. And acting drunk? Yeah. So from my perspective, as a young boy, somebody who was drunk, was sort of walked home by their brother, or dragged home by their wife. And it was fodder for stories because they weren't getting in cars. Everything, if you remember was about neighborhoods. Yeah. So the focus wasn't on Oh, my God, impaired driving or substance abuse disorder, or substance use disorder. It was very different. It was something that had to be fixed that night, and it was sort of funny. And you went on from that. And it wasn't until, you know, I became a cop and then a chief of police, and then the state's top drug prosecutor, and then a federal mafia prosecutor then worked in two white houses, on the drug issue and terrorism, unrelated, that I realized that no, this is something that's not funny. Yeah, that is fatally serious, in many cases, but that can be addressed and managed.

Joe Van Wie  13:44  
So this evolved in evolves from not only your experience, education keeps increasing throughout your life and the training for these positions. It's a constant barrage of information. What made you so pliable from that early on to change your mind about things of you know, what I think what you mentioned a foster Brooks he was it was the unlost like Sinatra row sleeves. The guy with the jacket was No, exactly. Yep. So it comes to this character starts to dissolve. What kind of qualities did you pick up that allows you to change your mind about because that's powerful, like a powerful statement characters or what we would call stigma today? It's hard to change though, especially if they get into your head before you're 18 or eight. What do you what was the genesis of you allowing evolution better information? Was it just the demand of the positions you were working in?

DA Joe Peters  14:42  
I think it was partly that I think it was partly my upbringing credit, my parents, my religion, where compassion and forgiveness are tenants of mine is Catholic, but whatever your religion combined And with, as you mentioned, a bombardment of information combined with a view to the tragedy that it wrought, whether it was a vehicle accident from an impaired driver, alcohol or drugs, whether it was a family being destroyed by alcohol, or drugs, or addiction of another kind. So it was that coalescence of all of those things that opened my eyes to not only is this an issue that needs attention, but it's an issue that straddles and intersects with every other problem in our society. And not just, you know, even co occurring disorders where you have this intersection of drug and alcohol addiction and mental health, but then the import of that impact of that on the rest of society in every aspect of your life.

Joe Van Wie  15:55  
Yeah, yeah. And I guess firsthand where you're at, and where you're looking at it, I guess you could see such huge failures when you arrive from being a beat cop to the DHS office, which I want to get into more detail. But I guess what would happen is the complexity of, you're studying law, from all different angles, you're, you're a cop, and now you're in law school later on in your life. It gets complex like, because law is kind of based on this idea of justice, which is almost a measured revenge or not retribution or balancing of the scales of something, we all have to be responsible for our behavior. But it has to be parsed and imbalanced with this idea of well, some people don't get to choose their variables, you know, that could be born in some nightmarish condition. Did that? Did that target you while you were learning in law school and as as this idea of addiction evolved? We all have to be responsible for our actions, but to see that some people man, addiction played a huge part in this. There wasn't drug courts back then. Right? Was it hard was Was there a kind of an enlightenment slowly happening in the 80s? When your practice

DA Joe Peters  17:14  
there was an evolution? I think you you touched on the word justice, because in my different roles in in my own education in evolution through those and upward if you could call it upward. That word justice always tugged at me injustice, couldn't be about just arresting somebody because that didn't right, the wrong. That is a critical component. And it keeps drug trafficking cartels from poisoning our youth, but you couldn't arrest your way out of the problem. And that was the evolution with which I struggled. You know, when you're a street cop, you'd have a view, good and bad. You know, I'm one of the good guys. Drugs are bad. They're the bad guys. When I became chief of the entire state's undercover operations, it was the same thing. Now we're looking at these these heinous cartels and what they're doing, and the intersection of drug trafficking and prostitution and human trafficking. And then, you know, as a prosecutor, you want to put the bad people in jail. As a federal mafia prosecutor. You know, I honed in on the drug trafficking of what the mom under Nicky Scarfo and Philadelphia were doing, they were doing murders. They were doing extortion they were doing they wanted to kill me. Yeah, at the heart of what was helping fueling that a fuel that empire was drug trafficking. So it was very black and white to that point in my career. Yeah. When I got to the White House, and when I was fortunate enough to work in the Executive Office of the President as a deputy drugs on

Joe Van Wie  18:57  
the intro, I joked earlier about Tsar czar beaten the Russian pronunciation of Caesar which is an informal title of Emperor, which was Julius Gaius, his nickname, airy, and this name of affection later grew as a title in Rome, as a Cesar an emperor. But drugs are is an informal name for the person who directs drug controlled policies and various areas. The term falls the informal use, the terms are in US politics. The drug czar title first appeared in 1982 news story but the United Press International that reported that the United States senators voted 62 to 34 to establish a drug czar, who would have overall responsibility for us drug policy. Since then, several ad hoc executive positions established in both the United States and the United Kingdom have subsequently been referred to in this manner. But the first US drugs are was Harry J. Anslinger, who served as the first commissioner of the Treasury Board created Federal Bureau of Narcotics from 1930 to 1962. Under the administration's of five president Joe has served under the Clinton administration, and he also served under the Bush administration

DA Joe Peters  20:28  
of the country. And being sort of the on the receiving end of the firehose of information, it all of a sudden wasn't just about the cartels anymore. It was about the Department of Education, in educating kids to preventing, taking that step toward drugs and ultimately, addiction. It was about National Institute of Drug Abuse and and half a billion dollars being spent on research to deal with addiction to develop drugs that may help in that regard. It was about the CIA and the military and the FBI and the DEA on the enforcement side, but one day, and I forget, because I served in Bill Clinton's white house two years in two years, and George W. Bush's in one day, my the drugs are I think it was General Barry McCaffrey, who was a retired four star general came to me and he said, here's a new program over at DOJ. And they think you're the guy to evangelize it. And I said, What is it? And he said, It's called drug courts. So this was in 2000 2000. Me. And it was a brand new concept, and now go around the country and sell it. And I looked at it. And I see this, this drug treatment court concept, where around the same table was the prosecutor, the cop, the judge, the defense lawyer, a treatment specialist, counselors, addiction, behavioral doctors and specialists. And I thought, All these people are going to do is argue, yeah, this will never work. And then this will never work notion was confirmed as I started going around the country. And sadly, I would, I would get pilloried by the cops and prosecutors saying you're a traitor. Oh, man, you're soft on crime? Yeah, we can't. We're not social workers. We're trained to lock up the bad guys. And you want us to coddle people around the table. So it was a journey, but then you know what? It began to click, and it began to work. And now it is there are no silver bullets out there. But it is one of the primary positive weapons that we have to deal with addiction and deal with people's lives.

Joe Van Wie  23:02  
That that is a complex history. And I've never heard a better summarize than what you're saying. Because the reason it's really good, the summary is because you were there. And I couldn't help thinking at least like in a socio logical perspective. You know, we started talking about first generation Americans, and we police ourselves, communities the church did. Well, I think, you know, slowly, at the end of the 60s, you see a decline of that there's more of a, you know,

DA Joe Peters  23:36  
society had to replace the family. Yeah, traditions, and the customs in the family unity and interest, weren't there. So there needed to be this greater, more extended family. And that's what, that's what this community with drug courts being a part of it began to represent. And, you know, the other thing that can there were two things I remembered that helped the program. So itself, the drug court program. One was the fact that you can make the pitch to the cops and chiefs, those that were unenlightened, you know, and there are still those out there. Thank God, not that many, you know, by saying to them, Look, I hear you, you don't want to be a social worker? Well, why don't we deliver people who are addicts who are suffering from this medical, psychological psychiatric condition? Why don't we deliver them to this treatment court, to the people who can help them so you tough guy can go on and arrest the bad guys? Yeah. And that clicked. The other thing that clicked for everybody was the data. Because we began to see that this concept of drug courts this concept of diminishing drug taking behavior or alcohol ingesting behavior, you didn't have to solve it completely. Okay. You had to manage it so people can have positive lives again. And, and by whatever metric you can reduce their drug taking behavior, even if it wasn't to zero or underweight to zero, you had a positive impact, proportionally on other things. So you could say to taxpayers, for instance, you know, if we reduce this mom who's a single mom with two children in the inner city of Philadelphia, hopeless, but if we can help her, and if we can reduce her drug taking behavior by 75%, guess what, she's in the ER 75% less than she was, and guess who's paying for that, she's a better mom 75% of the time, guess what else is happening, she's not missing work. 75% of the time, she's not causing accidents in the workplace. And she's now working and paying taxes and on and on and on. And people got that message from whatever metric and whatever perspective resonated with them.

Joe Van Wie  26:03  
So the data is, you know, there's a turn, data can change, perception, or just things we all hold, and we all have our biases, leaving the 80s 90s 2000 you're seeing this emergence of a DOJ or a court system that is allowing for empathy, and, you know, maybe a social workers influence to not only what could have prevent crimes, curb costs, medical costs, that are all associated with addiction. That's a long way from, you know, to go back to the middle of the Code of Hammurabi, the founding laws of right and wrong, yeah. So it's weird what you said it earlier, it's almost as the court is becoming, not a family, but an extension of just we're all in this together, it's support

DA Joe Peters  26:59  
and the fix cannot be made by any of those individual professionals. Okay. You know, the, the judge can't do it, the prosecutor can't do it, the counselor can't do it. The the medications can't do it, or lack thereof only through the coalescence of it all. And it's a smart on crime versus a tough on crime. In other words, people look to me, Well, you're the mafia prosecutor, you're the chief, you're the cop. You're the undercover. You're this. You're that? And I'm like, Yeah, but I can be smart on crime. Yeah, where the MSW replaces the nine millimeter. And that allows me to be tough on crime and focus those law enforcement resources against the human trafficker and the cartel.

Joe Van Wie  27:49  
And this is me guessing, I don't know data, you would, if, you know, from just the earmark of the little media, I like consuming anymore. But you get to see the 70s in your first kind of venture into employment law enforcement, you see the 80s 90s you see a reduction kind of a violent offenders or curb of trafficking or just violence in the streets from the 70s. All the major cities having extreme murder count. It seems complex. Now we know there's better solutions, but I think the distress of the last three years of pandemic, the economy. Are you seeing data? That is things are on the rise of more violence, maybe to mental health, but not so much drug trafficking? What's it looking like now? Is there an increase in your backyard?

DA Joe Peters  28:45  
There's, there's a rise in violence? I think a lot of that is directly attributable to the mental health situation, being fueled by the addiction situation, and this CO occurring disorder and this perfect storm, so to speak. And then, you know, Joe, every time I thought the drug issue specifically couldn't get worse. Yeah, it did. Yeah, you know, you know, new way in a different way different when I grew up, you know, we're beer was the thing that Oh, my God, you know, stay away from it. You'll get in trouble with your parents. And then came, you know, the, the cocaine cowboy days. And then after that came things like methamphetamine, all of a sudden, meth kind of change the dynamic because now you're looking at something that not only could be made at home, yeah, but causes a violent and unpredictable behavior, psychosis. Exactly. And oh, by the way, it rewires your brain along the way. So you're thinking differently, you're not the same person anymore. Up here. So then you think my God can't be worse than mess and then Krakow Kane came along, you know, and then oh, what what could be? What what now? Well, hello opioid crisis. And then when we thought it can never get worse than the opioid crisis, as horrible as that is, here comes fentanyl. And today, you know what, you know what I was discussing this morning. The fact that ironically, all of our drug education efforts have been working because younger kids are hearing the message that fentanyl is laced in every drug you can buy, including marijuana. Yeah. And what's not an urban myth? It really it really is yes, cheap, and it makes more money for the drug cartels. And they can they can sort of publicize how much more potent this is. Yeah, but here's the irony. So younger kids are looking to avoid street drugs. So what are they doing the 12 year old, the 14 year old, they're getting online. And and they are being sucked into these fake websites that look like a real pharma company got are created by the cartels with real pictures of legitimate drugs like Percocet or Adderall or oxycodone, or whatever. And they're thinking, Oh, I can buy this real pill here. And they're buying it and their parents are finding them the next morning slumped over in their bedrooms, dead, oh,

Joe Van Wie  31:26  
my God, I knew a kid will be sober while and was struggling. And he had a period of sobriety and went home, he had a rough day he was delivered to his house, he ordered weeks prior and a blackout didn't know that it would still be arriving. It was research camps, such as you were describing, but not falsely marketed. He was. But as you were talking again, I see these tears kind of arise of the economics, the motivations of what changed in those decades, or drug period, emergence of new drugs. That if you were to speculate, now, hindsight being 2020, you see the economic kind of precursor, it's cheaper, it's faster, it's easier to hide more domestic products can be used to make it, you can always look back and say that makes sense. I think the hard thing to measure that the courts have started to do when you were talking about the drug court, having more empathy, making the problem approached by different professionals for each case, is to take metrics from culture and the culture that here in the United States that changes so much, that we're losing a sense of purpose, and I'm not trying to be a bleeding deacon or anything. But all these drugs do is treat pain. It's not like they accidentally go if you're willing to take the risk, or it's meeting the need from your sober mind not being able to produce that. That's the hard thing. We're all trying to, you know, settle together. We all come from a different little nuances of culture. But there's an absence of it. And there's a disconnection. And that's why the crisis, I think, is gets larger in ways you can't describe because of the larger need of people to be out of their sober mind.

DA Joe Peters  33:17  
It's yeah, and my latest initiative is to try and deal with that pain in ways that people don't expect. You know, I've I've, we talked about my background, the only place I've haven't worked, is that the county level, ironically, wow. So I saw an opportunity at this point in my life to do something different, you know, like, you and I were filmmakers to Yeah, because I wanted something different Paragon cortex, I'll put a plug in that I put a plug in Netflix or you're listening. Yes. And I ran the Scranton Cultural Center, because I love the arts and the arts are a vehicle for so much food for the soul. And but it was something different. And I thought, how can I do something different at the county level? And what I'm doing is this to address that pain? Because, you know, treating that pain is why people use drugs, and then it starts them down that road. Why not have the cops instead of the hand, they have holding the handcuffs be the hand and excuse me the hand that delivers them to treatment. Now, wouldn't that be an extraordinary thought? And at the same time that's going to change the image we have of police and policing in today's world, where let's define the police. They're bad. Let's kill them. Let's assassinate them and all of that. So what if law enforcement and treatment came together? A hybrid of more social kind of injury. Any Hall in the law enforcement treatment initiative or Leddy, so that both messengers are in one phrase and in one name. And I've done this informally before, but there's a formal program. And actually it comes out of the Attorney General's office where I served 17 years. And I had the Attorney General of Pennsylvania come up to Tunkhannock. Yeah, you know, and I got criticized for that, because I was giving a democratic Attorney General was running for governor, a platform and a Republican area. And I'm like, Are you kidding me? Yeah. This is about saving lives. So this program, which I now have in lon in Wyoming County, called Lenny law enforcement tree treatment initiative, basically allows this a cop who arrests somebody for a minor crime when we're talking about rape, robbery, murder, nonviolent, but I'm buying some 21 year old who's stealing at Walmart to get money to fuel the addiction. Now we can arrest that person. Yeah, we can throw that person in jail and clutter up the system and just make them a more professional criminal once they get out. Or we could have the police officer and equate this to drug court. Drug Court happens after you're through this system. Yeah. And after you've pled guilty, then it's like, let's treat it on the back end. And it's important, and it's good for the future of that person. But what if we, on the front end? Didn't even arrest that person? Now, this is not, there's not a Get Out of Jail Free card? No, it's not hug a thug. It is basically saying, I'm sorry. It's basically saying that, okay, you have this little point in your life is a big place to be. And the cop can either arrest that person, or can say, You know what, I'm not going to arrest you. I'm not going to give you a free ride. Because you just stole something. Yeah. We're gonna hold that arrest over here. And if you let me deliver you to treatment, whatever that treatment is required. Drug and Alcohol, inpatient, outpatient mental health co occurring disorders, let us evaluate and have the professionals do it, and you complete the program. This arrest never will happen. Joe, there's no arrest record, that that kid that person that older, they can go on to be a CDL, driver, cop, a physician, a teacher, a nurse, with never the stain, never the shame. And, and part of the trick here is, there's no shame and addiction. We don't excuse your bad decisions to get there. But we recognize that now you are here. And we're going to take you wherever we find you. And we're going to treat this as the medical, physiological psychological condition that it is. So that's what this program is. And not only is it the cops showing that compassion, but there's another part of the program where anybody could do that for somebody else. In other words, I'm talking to churches, because a church is a place that's neutral. People will talk to their pastor, their minister, their rabbi, whomever, in a way that they will never talk to somebody in government. Yep. The Little League, this school, the school cafeteria lady, and I don't mean that in a condescending way. Yeah. Because she's usually the charm of the whole school. Yeah. But that cafeteria worker might have a relationship with a teacher, one of them may need help, and they confide in each other and nobody else. And one could deliver the other to this treatment. So I'm tearing down the walls between law enforcement and treatment, and then inviting the public to be champions of this compassion, to say, Okay, you're, you're in the Rotary, my buddy, who's the coach in the Little League is having a problem. Hey, Joe, I can help you get in treatment, it won't cost you anything. Nobody needs to know about it. And you come out on the other end, a different person, a better person. That

Joe Van Wie  39:25  
is a brilliant way and I'm looking at it from the funding, respect of okay, you have this culture war, like you mentioned earlier, defund the police, you know, and this and that. So there's this hybrid model, if I'm repeating it right bladdy program where you can find funding not only for training, cops get Human Services kind of ethics and backgrounds and standards to evaluate nonviolent crimes as a way to leverage some it's good call it coercion, but it's an intervention and it's better than the intervention of a court system and a record if you have a chance to reconnect with the community recover. And this lets first responders or law enforcement really fulfill our role that we only used as a motto,

DA Joe Peters  40:14  
I hope it's helping Yeah, my service to others use

Joe Van Wie  40:17  
this as a path to fund it. And to integrate that, you know, let's not just look at power based authority, let's look at, you know, kind of guardians of our community to intervene. So we don't, you know, we don't go down a path of disconnection. Yeah, having

DA Joe Peters  40:34  
we can be champions of compassion, you know, and, and it, it provides it connects people to services they didn't know existed, yeah, that are already paid for. But if they don't know they exist, or how to connect to them. They're already they don't exist. So they're already there. Exactly. So it's not costing the taxpayers any more money. Yeah. And I, I have this mantra and it started with me at the White House when I would would speak around the country and talk to whether it's kids, adults, people in treatment, researchers, cops, whomever, there's no wrong door. Yeah, that however, we can receive somebody, however, they can come through that door. Wherever we find them. However, we find them, we are then going to deliver them to the treatment they need. I did

Joe Van Wie  41:24  
not expect I didn't know all the details. This is this is monumental mean washed over with how large this idea is. I don't wasn't familiar with it. Where can I? How long ago did it did is it in place now it's, it's in

DA Joe Peters  41:38  
place, I kicked it off. And in a little County, like Wyoming, and it's the first in northeastern Pennsylvania, and we're gonna make it a model for the country. That in the nice part is, we had this enormous kick off. And then Okay, after the glitz, yep. We had a training a couple of weeks later, and it was a four hour intensive training. And we invited all of those perspectives, not just the cops and the first responders and the firefighters. But all those people from, you know, the church, the Rotary, the Little League, the school district, the business community, you know, whose dishwasher has a meth problem? Yeah, you know, that the server knows about and one can help the other. And the place was packed for this for our treatment of people just wanting to help.

Joe Van Wie  42:32  
Yeah, well, no, and Wyoming knows addiction, every county does. But as you get to know your areas, and you know, Wyoming County, the pain that could cause in such a

DA Joe Peters  42:44  
community, there are fewer resources we have, and there's less education. Larger stigma may be exact separation. Exactly. That's why the no shame message, you know, reducing the stigma. You know, trauma informed therapies, all of the cutting edge things are brought together in a program like this.

Joe Van Wie  43:02  
Well, you know, maybe Nicky Scarfo would have been more polite to you, if he knew you were going to

Unknown Speaker  43:10  
maybe I'm sorry that I couldn't not go back real quick.

Joe Van Wie  43:16  
They tried to assassinate you. So you've come from such to being a federal prosecutor who was marked, there was a contract on your life, to have that kind of level of play with the villains to sitting now in my attic, we friend talking about measures that makes makes all of our lives more meaningful without having a cold interruption of the law or criminality. that not all of it is the same. There could be intervention, there can be care. And people still be responsible.

DA Joe Peters  43:53  
So well said yeah. So well said. Joe, I

Joe Van Wie  43:57  
hope to find out more. I'm gonna leave a link at the bottom. Any departing ideas of what we could be looking forward to with this program expanding?

DA Joe Peters  44:10  
Just get involved? Yeah. Well help each other. This, your voice and your message. Beyond the the friends and people that know love respect, you adore you. You are now delivering hope to so many people whom you will never meet. And that's, that's kind of the magic people used to say to me, Well, what do you like work about working at the White House. And it was the fact that I might just help somebody that I'll never meet because there are so many people out there in need. And that's what you're doing my friend with this message?

Joe Van Wie  44:45  
Well, you've helped. You've been a great friend to me, in and out of my addiction. I'm very kind. I'm glad to sit down and talk with you that,

DA Joe Peters  44:54  
you know, look forward to it again. Thank you ever I can do. Thanks, Joe. All right, Joe. Thank you.

Joe Van Wie  45:03  
I'd like to thank you for listening to another episode of all better. You can find us on all or listen to us on Apple podcasts, Spotify, Google podcasts Stitcher, I Heart Radio, and Alexa. Special thanks to our producer John Edwards, an engineering company 570. Drone. Please like or subscribe to us on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. And if you're not on social media, you're awesome. Looking forward to seeing you again. And remember, just because you're sober, doesn't mean you're right.

Transcribed by

Introduction to today’s guest
Joe’s story of growing up in Scranton.
Describing the local Lebanese culture in the 40s.
Evolution in his views?
Drug courts are one of the primary positive weapons that we have to deal with addiction
How data can change perception.
What’s changed in the world of drug trafficking?
NEW PROGRAM for Treatment
How to make your life more meaningful without having a tragic interruption.