Taking psychoactive chemicals is not inherently dangerous, and can be done responsibly. Non Violent drug offenses, by definition, are victimless crimes, and people are catching on to the reasons why putting people in jail for victimless crimes is counter productive. From Medical Daily:
Two-thirds of Americans would like to see illegal drug offenders enter programs that focus on rehabilitation rather than incarceration, a recent Pew Research Center poll reported… Such a survey reflects the wider issue of whether public perceptions about drug abuse are shifting.[…]
The public’s shift from jail to rehab also highlights another possible shift: drug abuse seen as an issue with brain biology rather than a crime. It was in 2011 that UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said at World Drug Report launch, “Drug-dependent people should not be treated with discrimination; they should be treated by medical experts and counsellors. Drug addiction is a disease, not a crime.”[…]
In 2012, New York University Psychiatry Professor James Gilligan makes the argument that prisons must be made places not just for restraint, but also for recovery. “The only rational purpose for a prison is to restrain those who are violent, while we help them to change their behavior and return to the community,” Gilligan said in The New York Times. Gilligan said in The New York Times. He says there’s a difference between “punishment” and “restraint.” Punishment is the infliction of pain on a criminal, which only teaches them to inflict pain on others. Restraint is more nuanced — it involves separating offenders from society, but in a place with the therapies (like psychotherapy, substance abuse treatment) to help them get better as future members of the community.”
Jails that focus only on punishment become basically like factories for crime. Non violent offenders go in, and a certain percentage of them tend to end up having the scales tipped in more violent directions. Likewise, when drug related ‘offenders’ are offered treatment and help, they tend to not commit violent crimes. From Urban Times:
Prison is rarely the best answer in the case of most drug offenders. These individuals do not get the same rehabilitative benefit from prison that they may be able to get from entering a substance abuse treatment program, and even if they’re only given a relatively short sentence, they’re often set up for failure upon their release. Because of their criminal record, they may have difficulty finding a job, entering educational programs, or even getting housing. With few other options, many quickly return to drug trafficking and substance abuse.[…]
On a local level, many Vermont communities have been diverting those accused of drug-related crimes into treatment-related programs and have reported that at least 80% of participants remain conviction-free after a year. Not only is this good for those accused of drug crimes, it’s good for taxpayers as well: while incarceration for one prisoner in Vermont costs around $1,000 a week, drug treatment costs only about $136.
Overall, keeping these people in jail is a bad idea, for almost every reason you can think of. This Gawker piece puts the argument succinctly:
Attorney general Eric Holder has come out in favor of reduced sentences for thousands of people currently imprisoned on nonviolent crack cocaine convictions.[…] California has already been ordered to release thousands of people from its inhumanely overcrowded prisons. Why are all of our nation’s prisons so god damn full? Because of the great War on Drugs. Which is officially a failure!
The end of this movie is clear. Let’s skip all the stuff in the middle. Filling our prisons with nonviolent drug offenders is dumb, it doesn’t do anything about the drug problem, it’s unjust, and besides, we can’t afford it. Let’s cut the bullshit. Start cutting nonviolent drug crimes down to misdemeanors, or less. And make the new sentencing laws retroactive, so we can free thousands of people from prisons they never had any business being in. Imprisoning poor people who sell drugs to make a little money creates far more problems than it solves. Leaving aside the fundamental issues of injustice, it creates an entire class of angry unemployable young men with criminal records, who will then be much more tempted to make a career out of crime when they get out. And it’s still as easy to buy drugs as it’s ever been. What the hell is the point?
Let’s open the prisons. In an organized manner. Let the dangerous, sociopathic, violent people stay. Let the nonviolent drug offenders out. With an apology note, from the rest of America. We do the drugs. They paid for it. This movie sucks.