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Prison Reform: The War on Drugs

 

Over the summer, President Obama became the first sitting United States president to ever visit a federal prison.

This is shocking considering there is roughly 2.4 million people incarcerated in the U.S. With such staggering numbers you would think that prison reform would be something everyone should care about. The sad truth is that a lot of people tend to not care about our prison system. Why should we care about the people who are arrested? They are the bad people who deserve no respect, right? False!

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 13% of all arrests are drug related. In recent years, 4 out of 5 of those drug arrests were f or possession, not sales. It is time we humanize nonviolent drug offenders. This is where the war on drugs comes into play.

Some of Obama’s first words on prison reform were: “We should not be tolerating overcrowding in prison.” All of the money that goes to paying for the millions of nonviolent drug offenders could be spent somewhere else. We could be paying for those people to get help through rehab and be able to live normal lives, instead of treating them like stone cold criminals. Someone who has an addiction problem and has been arrested 3 times for drug possession can serve a sentence longer than a murderer or rapist. There is huge difference between those crimes.

There needs to be a clear separation between them. We need to stop thinking of people battling drug addiction as dangerous criminals. They are not the real criminals here. With marijuana on the verge of becoming legal nationwide and many other illegal drugs going through trials to see if they can be used for medical reasons, it is clear to see that the war on drugs is coming to an end. Society just needs to catch up a little bit.

President Obama has recently achieved some steps to reform prisons. In fact, between October 30th and November 2nd 2015, 6,000 nonviolent drug offenders in federal prisons will be released. Now, what will happen when these people rejoin society? Well, unfortunately many will relapse, remain unemployed, and become homeless. This happens because once you have been arrested and/or gone to prison you now have a huge stigma to battle.

Nobody wants to hire someone who has a criminal record, therefore you can’t get a job, which means you can’t support yourself. This leads to you becoming homeless. With now being homeless and jobless, many resort back to their drug habits. It is a vicious cycle. This could be avoided if they were put into rehabilitation programs where they could learn how to battle their addiction and hold a job. It is time we care about these people, stick up for them, and end the stigma. The 1.8 million people arrested for drug abuse are among us, and they are not evil or dangerous.

They are addicts, just like alcoholics who are addicted to drinking. Alcohol is legal, yet it is proven to be more harmful than the drugs that will land you in prison for life just for simply possesing them. The National Center Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse said “Alcohol is a bigger culprit in connection with murder, rape, assault, and child and spouse abuse than any illegal drug”.

Imprisoning people in the drug ring does not solve the issue, police have admitted that for every drug dealer taken off the streets, another dealer will quickly fill that place. If you imprison an addict and give them no resource for help, then they will continue to abuse the drug once they are free and will feed into the system which will keep the drug dealer position occupied which will keep the need for the drug alive. If you really cared about keeping the drugs off the streets then you would surely care for prison reform and realize the steps that need to be taken. If there is no addict then there is no demand for the drug supply. The war on drugs needs to be turned into a war on addiction and also a war on the criminalization of nonviolent addicts. We need to end the stigma. We need to acknowledge the reality. Addiction is not a crime, it is a disease that nearly 25 million Americans suffer from.

 

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Lou Rambeau
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Lou Rambeau is a young writer, photographer, activist, and artist currently located in New Orleans, Louisiana. Contact via email at mrambeau@lourambeau.com, Twitter/Instagram @lourambeau, or website lourambeau.com.

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