The White House believes that the U.S. government's drug strategy should focus more on treating addiction and less on imposing harsh prison sentences. According to CNN.com, drug czar Gil Kerlikowske said, "Outdated policies like mass incarceration of nonviolent drug offenders are relics of the past that ignore the need for a balanced public health and safety approach to our drug problem."
The annual report to Congress calls for a "new national approach," that would include criminal justice reforms aimed at stopping the revolving door of drug use, crime, incarceration, and re-arrest. This new policy reflects the well-supported belief that addiction is a disease, and we cannot simply arrest such a problem away. Treating addicts will not only help reduce crime, but it will also reduce the demand for drugs.
The report "outlines ways to break the cycle of drug use, crime, incarceration, and re-arrest by diverting nonviolent drug offenders into treatment, bolstering support for re-entry programs that help offenders rejoin their communities and advancing support for innovative enforcement programs proven to improve public health while protecting public safety."
The policy office also claimed that overall drug use has declined in the last 30 years, showing figures for a sharp drop in cocaine and amphetamine use. (Although, I would personally argue that prescription drug abuse is at an all-time high, and heroin use is steadily rising, especially among young people.) President Obama warns that young people have changed their perceptions about the dangers of drugs, which could lead to an increase in future drug use.
It is about time that we started to look at treating addiction, rather than simply locking it away.