It seems as though the war on drugs has been going on forever and that while the government has tried to take a stand I wanted to try to understand what the new policy will mean. More importantly, the number of people incarcerated due to non-violent drug-related crimes is mind blowing. The United States has 25% of the world’s prison population but only 5% of the world’s population... do you see a problem with this? I definitely do, and once someone goes through our legal system they get tagged with “felon” or are unable to find employment without a struggle.
Much of the reason for this problem stems from over-criminalization related to drug “crimes” and failed public policy and public ignorance. Illuminating these problems is the first step towards a more fair justice system that would ensure better results on the drug war. The Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) has created a guide that is called, “An Exit Strategy for the Failed War on Drugs” and was created by two Congressmen who were adamantly fighting for drug policy reform before they made it into Congress. The point is, we know what doesn’t work - what we have been doing doesn’t work. Incarcerating people over and over again because they use drugs only eats away at resources and provides them no hope for the future.
The United States has had a heavy hand on drug enforcement law since the days of President Nixon and have continued with Reagan on into this Administration. The federal resources that are going to inmates that have committed drug offenses could be used in so many more ways, so much more effectively. President Obama’s Administration promised to look at drug policy and move it in the right direction which would have included more prevention programs and more evidence-based treatment, which I am all for. However, red tape and bureaucracy later, the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) is still deep in criminalizing substance abuse.
Creating a more comprehensive plan to deal with the problems that drugs and alcohol cause would be much more effective and provide a long-term solution that would sustain itself if done correctly. Similarly to a 12-step program, those who have successfully removed themselves from harmful situations could teach others how to do the same thing. Right now, there is no pay it forward system when it comes to drug and alcohol recovery and prevention. Wouldn’t it make sense to create one since we already know it works?
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Cindy Nichols is the founder of 411 Intervention, a full-service intervention resource that helps individuals with addiction issues find treatment solutions. You can see an interview with Cindy here on Recovery Now TV.