Addicts belong in rehab, not prison
We need to face the facts – the drug war is not working.
A step forward from the drug war is California’s Proposition 5, an initiative that would help drug offenders get the treatment they need. Proposition 5 will keep non-violent drug offenders out of jails and in rehabilitation. This includes those on parole or probation. If Proposition 5 is passed, it will, in all hope, show the U.S. government that the war on drugs is a failure and rehabilitation is a much more suitable alternative.
An argument against Proposition 5 is that with the rehabilitation sentence substance users will not be accountable for their actions, because it makes drug addicts less serious about rehab. These are ridiculous assertions. They operate under the assumption that prison is a suitable place for people who have not physically hurt anyone else. It also assumes that prison will deter drug users from usage once they get out.
Prison should not be a place for people who are recreationally using drugs or are genuinely addicted. It only serves to make non-violent offenders violent. Prison is not a universal deterrent for crimes, it actually makes criminals even better at what they do.
The drug war disproportionately targets minorities to be locked up. After President Ronald Reagan toughened the war on drugs, the incarceration rate for minorities went to 1,500 per 100,000 from 600 per 100,000, while the incarceration rate for whites stayed the same.
Discrepancies between the incarceration for those using crack cocaine and powder cocaine are striking. This uneven distribution of punishment only indicates that "justice" is racist.†
Not to mention rehabilitation is much cheaper than incarceration. The National Institute on Drug Abuse conservatively places each dollar spent on addiction programs to a $4 to $7 reduction in crime, prosecution and theft. The average cost to house an inmate for a year is $20,000. In comparison, the average cost of treatment to the taxpayers has been estimated at under $3,000.
If some drug offenders are truly addicted, then they need help and not punishment. It is utterly preposterous that we should throw someone who needs help in prison.
Treatment is also a part of several steps that can bring drug addicts back into society and help them function like anyone else. Job training and education along with treatment would be highly effective.
Since this ignoble experiment of incarcerating drug offenders has not worked, the only option is to rehabilitate them. Not only will it keep families together, but it will be less costly and easier for society. Initiatives similar to Proposition 5 should spring up across the nation, since "tough on drugs" has not worked and never will.
Corgey, a political science senior, can be reached via [email protected]