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Thursday, September 28, 2017

"War On Drugs," Lives On...

war on drugs
The previous White House administration made concentrated efforts to undo some of the wrongs of past administrations. Wrongs, what wrongs you might find yourself asking? Specifically, criminal justice that had run wild. For decades, ever since President Richard Nixon declared a “war on drugs,” drug sentencing laws have been used to unjustly punish Americans for possessing “illegal” drugs. Essentially the only infraction such people committed was the crime of mental illness—specifically addiction.

There is a good chance that in previous posts of ours you’ve ‘read, you became aware of some startling figures. For instance: The United States makes up roughly five-percent of the world's population, but there are more incarcerated adults in the U.S. than in any other country. The most disturbing figures of all: The majority of people in American jails and prisons are not doing time for rape or murder. No, our penal institutions are home to mostly nonviolent drug offenders.

This problem is systemic, which means that without a paradigm shift in societal beliefs progressive remedies are hard to come by. For starters, doing away with draconian drug sentencing laws, which typically come in the form of mandatory minimums.  Secondly, commuting or granting pardons for people affected by such laws. Thirdly, providing the option of addiction treatment services rather than jail for drug possession.


Commuting Sentences of Nonviolent Drug Offenders

The past eight-years showed great promise, with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle taking a more enlightened stance toward nonviolent drug offenders. A change which can be partially due to the opioid addiction epidemic. It becomes harder and harder to support draconian drug laws when a politician's own family is being affected. What’s more, former President Obama commuted the sentences of 1,385 prisoners before the end of his tenure. It’s fair to say that if the President had more time he would have given more people a new lease on life. Even still, he signed more commutations than any other president in history.

All of that was good and well, and needed to be done. However, the Federal arm of authority could only go so far during that time period. In fact, FBI data indicates that every 25 seconds a drug arrest occurred in 2016, ALTERNET reports. The Uniform Crime Report indicates that U.S. law enforcement officials made more than 1.57 million arrests for drug law infractions. Up from the previous year (2015) and more than 3 times the combined number of all arrests for violent crimes. Here’s the breakdown:
  • 84.6% (1,330,401 arrests) were for simple drug possession.
  • Despite legalization in some states, marijuana arrests increased in 2016.
  • Roughly 41 percent of all drug arrests were for marijuana (again, mainly for simple possession).
  • 29 percent of people arrested for drug law violations were black people.
  • 35 percent of those incarcerated in state prison for drug possession were black.
It’s worth pointing out that 13% of the population are black people, and they consume drugs at rates on par with other demographics, according to the report, Yet, they are arrested for possession more than those using drugs at similar rates.


We Are Not Winning the War

Good intentions or not, one thing is for certain. This war has created far more societal and economic blow-back than it’s worth. What’s more, Americans by and large do not agree with sending people to jail for using drugs.

Those living with an alcohol or substance use disorder are far better served by addiction treatment, compared to jail and prison. The country as a whole is better for it, too. Families are not split up; economic loss would not be as profound either. The fewer nonviolent “offenders” in jail, the better. Addiction treatment works, but people need to be given the option.

There are ominous signs that the current White House administration has no plans of letting up on the war on drugs. With that in mind, seeking treatment for your addiction preemptively mitigates the risk of going to jail for a mental health disorder, needlessly. Please contact Whiteside Manor to discuss your treatment options, we can help.

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