Robin Shellow Attorney | Letter to the Vice President.
Letter to vice president Joe Biden. Signing of 21st Century Cures Act.
american cancer society, drug addiction, Joe Biden, 21st century cures act,
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thoughts on current issues

Thank you, Joe Biden

In what could end up being the most significant contribution to their administration’s legacy—and possibly the last piece of legislation from their 8 years in office—President Obama and Vice President Biden signed into law the 21st Century Cures bill on Tuesday following a Monday night vote dramatically presided over by the VP himself, a move indicating just how close  The bill focuses on increased resources and initiatives targeting cancer research and drug treatment, specifically for the opioid addiction crisis currently ravaging communities across the country. In the wake of this momentous occasion, and with the encroaching end of his second term as our nation’s favorite Uncle Joe–a kindly and charming figure, though sometimes gruff and rough around the edges, whose commitment to and love for all of us, his countless nieces and nephews, was never in question—it seems a fitting time to say “Thank You, Mr. Vice President”.

An Open Letter to Vice President Joseph R. Biden, Jr.

Dear Mr. Vice President:

First and foremost, I am sorry for the death of your son. The magnitude of such an unfathomable loss goes beyond political affiliations, cuts through the chatter of 24-hour news cycles, to a nation unified in its shared grieving. When an adult son dies, parents are forced to endure the memories of a fully-realized life cut tragically short, haunted perpetually by the chirping little boy’s voice seeking his parent’s attention to the warm familiarity of the grown man’s voice seeking his parent’s advice. Amidst the full spectrum of emotion is the fear that one will forget how he sounded, that details of his life will recede as his friends and family move through the trajectory of mourning. With the passing of the Beau Biden bill—in the form of the 21st Century Cures Act–on Tuesday, December 13th, 2016, you have honored the memory of your son in the best way possible and ensured that the passing of Beau Biden–cherished son, husband and father–on May 30th, 2015 will not soon be forgotten.

By way of introduction, my name is Robin Shellow. I practice criminal defense law out of Milwaukee, WI and, for the last 29 years, my practice has centered on helping Courts find a public health solution for clients throughout the country whose addiction has brought they and their families to the doorsteps of America’s Courtrooms, and entire communities to the threshold of utter ruin. In June of this year, I wrote a series of pieces titled “Heroin Holocaust” where I said if there is a cure or a way to live with addiction, I bet whoever discovered it would be welcome on your rocket ship to the moon. For reasons known and unknown, I have always associated you with hope. That elusive condition, part blessing and part curse, which Emily Dickinson described as “that thing with feathers”, and which Woody Allen proposed, by extension, taking “to a specialist in Zurich” in search of curing it. However, before the cure, there is mourning. The business of mourning is complicated. Some days the pain inspires an eloquence we scarcely knew we possessed, while on other days the grief is terrifying, isolating, and steals our very breath like a thief in the night. I have spent many long nights grieving in private along with my incarcerated client-addicts. Yet, on Tuesday the 13th, upon reading the headlines on the day’s Journal-Sentinel, for the first time in a long time I felt as though I had some allies in my three decade fight for alternative sentencing for addicts where oftentimes my clients and I have felt surrounded on all sides by nothing but adversaries.

Cancer and Addiction are at once different and the same. By combining addiction management and cancer management in the same bill, you and a quietly empathic congress elevated the disease of addiction. You could have just as appropriately named the bill the 21st Century CARES Act, as you have gone a long way towards erasing some of the stigma attached to the illness of addiction. While it may not visit upon as many households as cancer, the insidiousness with which addiction infects lives and the present opacity of its root causes is every bit as dire for sufferers and their loved ones. Whereas there is a level of dignity conferred upon those facing down cancer, the same cannot be said for those engaged in an equally unrelenting battle with addiction-based illness, who often must confront their disease on one front while fighting on an additional front against the public scorn stemming from misinformation and ignorance. Would we tell a teenager with leukemia to “suck it up and stop complaining” because we believe they brought it upon themselves? Would we close the door on someone with brain cancer in need of a warm bed and a safe place to spend the night?

Often times, when I write, I do not know how I know what I know or why, on a particular day, I take pen to paper. I certainly had no way of knowing that the 21st Century Cures bill would contain the potential for a cure to a disease that, in some places, claims a frightening amount of lives, according to data released Thursday by the CDC. What I do know is that my clients count every day as a blessing—a blessing they are not holding their breaths in the back of courtrooms as I try to guide judges through the maze of dizzying statistics where prosecutors often argue if users didn’t use, dealers wouldn’t deal. A specious argument if there ever was one, which I have come to call the theory of trickle down addiction.

The twin demons of cancer and addiction impact millions on a daily basis, and it is my most ardent hope that December 13th, 2016 marks a turning point on both fronts. Perhaps, in the years to come, it will be called Beau Biden Day, a national holiday where everyone takes off work to spend time with someone battling illness, or simply takes a quiet moment to remember those we have lost.

Thank you, Mr. Vice President. You will be missed in the coming years, though surely not forgotten.

With gratitude, I remain


Very Truly Yours,

Robin Shellow

The Shellow Group
324 West Vine Street
Milwaukee, WI 53212


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  • Gary L'Hote

    Thank you for your feed back and as I read your post – I have many questions to this day about drug addiction. As a adult of parents of drug addiction and a brother also of drug addiction, I can say I seen enough in my life to know what and how people feel when they have to deal with these problems. The courts / law enforcement do NOT help or solve the problem – they are the problem. The sentencing of people dealing with drug addiction is a CRIME in it self – no help – just lock them up. I ask myself many times – how does that HELP anyone – wait – I figured it out – the PRIVATE prison system is the answer. When you MAKE money off of HOW many inmates there are and put them to work for .10 a hour – well I see how that HELPS.

    As a person goes to the airport / cross the border – one must ask – how in the world does anyone get heroin into this country ? You cant pass gas without having them probe your back side for content ? As a engineer – and just a normal person walking around – I have been stopped – questioned – arrested – stalked – spied on and the list goes on – well welcome to big brother – is all we talk about today. More to the point – who is bringing in TONS of drugs and GETTING away with it ? I don’t read anything about some big BUST of truck load / plane load getting caught – and once in awhile you may.

    The cost is cheaper today then ever before and the grade are higher as well – again I ask myself – how and who is bringing these drugs into and getting away with it ? Drugs are big business and tax free and unreported etc – my point as well as many others = GOVERMENT is behind it all – you can call me crazy or what ever – nothing makes sense to me with big brother ever where and some one telling me TONS of it is everywhere and the cost etc worst today then the past 50 years ago.

    I have been a activist for awhile and what I call awake and have been subject to the government ” GANG STALKING ” program for over 10 years and I know – when they WANT to spy on you and dig into your life – they spare NO COST to MANUFACTURE A CRIME and pin something on you and force you to go thru their IN JUST US system. The Judges / D.A.s / C.A.s / Law enforcement departments have a bottomless pit full of resources – just to MANUFACTURE a crime – and NOT A DIME to help anyone whos NEEDS help.

    What is wrong with the picture here – more money for private prisons / law enforcement / and not a dime to help the needed. We cant fix a program that is DESIGNED to destroy every one and every thing that has been created on the face of this planet and call it progress. Really – as a engineer – the cost to build bombs – planes – ships – and the foot solider are all good on the outside of the box – what about the inside of the box. The system is design for failure on every level and people cant or wont see how the system was designed that way in the first place. The government designs into the system = failure and say we don’t understand why so many people fail !

    I have followed you and your cases for years and have always wanted to write you a letter and thank you for the work you have done for the city of Milwaukee. I never have before and today was a good day to do so. I say THANK YOU for your support and Merry Christmas and a happy healthy New year to you and ALL your family and friends.

    Gary L’Hote

    December 21, 2016 at 9:20 am

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