I have seen or heard about person after person spending prolonged amounts of time in jail or prison on the account of their drug addiction. These are nonviolent offenders inflicted with what even the country refers to as a “disease”, yet we incarcerate them at the enormous expense of taxpayers. Even worse, this “War on Drugs” is still going strong even with the shape of the economy.
Now, before I get any comments, I know we are past the point of eradicating this “war” and although expensive, much of that money is keeping Americans employed. There needs to be a lot done, not only to cut back the spending and therefore help the economy, but mostly to help those suffering everyday with the deadly disease of addiction.
Did you know that the Federal Government spends $500.00 per second, or over 15 billion dollars every year on the so called “War on Drugs”? This seems outrageous enough, but then there is also the State Governments which spend in excess of 25 illion dollars per year. As of the time I am writing this article, October 21, 2001, 11:21pm, we have spent $12,169,523,904 in Federal spending and $20,742,247,709 in State spending, totaling over $32,911,771,613 before Halloween! (Source: Office of National Drug Control Policy, Source: Jeffrey A. Miron & Kathrine Waldock: “The Budgetary Impact of Drug Prohibition,” 2010.)
As for how this money is spent, I have more intriguing statistics for you to ponder over. People arrested for Drug Law Offenses this year numbers 1,343,477, yet are expected to exceed the 1,663,582 arrests of 2009 which surpassed 2010. 2009 was in fact the highest year so far for drug abuse violations with a staggering 13% of the total arrests being for violating a drug law. That is 1 person every 19 seconds that is arrested for violating a drug law. (Source: Uniform Crime Reports & The Federal Bureau of Investigation)
As if that is not bad enough, one must look at the “People arrested for Cannabis Law Offenses” this year. The number so far, 693,234. In 2009, police arrested an estimate 858,408 persons for cannabis violations. Of those charged with cannabis violations, approximately 89 percent were charged with possession only. That is one American that is arrested for violating cannabis laws every 30 seconds. In my mind a pretty petty and victimless crime?? (Source: Uniform Crime Reports, Federal Bureau of Investigation)
To sum it all up, is the numbers regarding the actual incarcerations for these arrests. This year, 8,734 people have been incarcerated for drug law offenses. Since December 31, 1995, the U.S. Prison population has grown an average of 43,266 inmates per year. That is almost 50,000 more inmates per year taxpayers have to fit the bill for. That is a lot of bologna sandwiches and jail capacity that we already lack as it is. Of that, almost 50,000, 25% are in their solely for drug law offenses. That’s almost 12,000 more inmates a year for drug offenses! (Source: U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics)
In summary, the enforcement of the War on Drugs is an extreme mistep on behalf of the U.S. Government. The laws revolving around drugs began due to actual racism. The opiates with the Chinese, and so on and so forth. Yet, we let the “War” get out of control. It is an unwinnable war and not only places an extreme strain upon our economy, especially with it in the dire straits as it is now, but also does little to combat the actual issue with drugs and addiction. We do practically nothing to help out the addict, yet continually incarcerate them for longer and longer periods of time. Not to mention the great idea of “minimum sentencing laws” which is for a whole other blog post! While we should be offering these individuals the help they need, we instead “punish” them for what in most cases is a completely victimless act, and is not caused by the person being a “bad” or “dangerous” individual, but instead struggling with an extremely hard to beat disease that kills thousands upon thousands of people yearly.
I have trouble comprehending how we have come to the point as a society that while starting to agree that drug addiction is a disease; so much so that the American Health Association, upon dozens of other National Medical Associations have declared it a disease; yet we punish those inflicted by this terrible disease. Would we place individuals with diabetes in jail because they still had the disease and hadn’t got rid of it? No! We as a society feel the need to offer health care for free to those who can’t afford it so they may live long, healthy and prosperous lives. Yet, with the stigma that surrounds addiction, we deny most of the people infected with this disease the proper care and help to control it so they may live normal, happy, and productive lives. Instead, we consistently punish them for their behaviors (i.e. using drugs) that are associated with this disease. Does incarcerating an individual for 90 days for “Under the Influence” help an addict? (This is the mandatory sentence for this charge in California! Kind of hard to explain how being hammered on alcohol driving a 4,000lbs vehicle, or in essence a weapon constitutes an 8 hour stay in the bullpen, yet walking down the street high deserves 3 months hard time.)
Yet, do these long stays incarcerated help the addict? One might think so as they do “dry” up in jail. Yet, statistics show time and time again that the addict goes back to the same old lifestyle of using and abusing chemicals after they are released, only to get caught up with the law again and repeat the vicious cycle. It seems we are spinning our wheels while addicts are dying, and it isn’t right!
If this bothers you as much as it does me, please comment and let us know your view on the matter!