From The ACLU: https://www.aclu.org/blog/speak-freely/its-time-decriminalize-personal-drug-use-and-possession-basic-rights-and-public
By Tess Borden, Aryeh Neier Fellow at the American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights Watch October 14, 2016
arrest more people for drug possession than any other crime in America.
Every 25 seconds someone is arrested for possessing drugs for their own
use, amounting to 1.25 million arrests per year. These numbers tell a
tale of ruined lives, destroyed families, and communities suffering
under a suffocating police presence.
For the past year I have been
investigating how the law enforcement approach to personal drug use has
failed. The resulting report, “Every 25 Seconds: The Human Toll of Criminalizing Drug Use in the United States,”
calls on state legislatures and Congress to decriminalize personal drug
use and possession. It comes at a time when the country is recognizing
that the so-called “war on drugs” hasn’t stopped drug dependence and
that we desperately need to address the problems of mass incarceration,
race, policing, and drug policy.
For personal drug use, it is time to replace our criminal justice model with a public health one instead.
consequences of arresting, prosecuting, and incarcerating people for
personal drug use are devastating. I met people who were prosecuted for
tiny amounts of drugs, in one case an amount so small that the
laboratory could not even weigh it and simply called it “trace.” That
man was sentenced to 15 years in Texas.
On any given day, nearly
140,000 people are behind bars for drug possession, while tens of
thousands more are cycling through jails and prisons or struggling to
make ends meet on probation or parole. Still others are serving
sentences for other offenses that have been lengthened because of a
prior conviction for drug possession. A conviction for drug possession
can keep people from accessing welfare assistance and even the voting
booth. It can also subject them to stigma and discrimination by
potential landlords, employers, and peers.
I met a woman I’ll call
“Nicole” in the Harris County Jail in Texas. Nicole was detained
pretrial for months on felony drug possession charges for residue inside
paraphernalia. While she was in jail, her newborn learned to sit up on
her own. When the baby visited jail, she couldn’t feel her mother’s
touch because there was glass between them.
Nicole ultimately pled
guilty to possession of 0.01 grams of heroin. She would return to her
children later that year, but as a “felon” and “drug offender.” She
would have to drop out of school because she no longer qualified for
financial aid. She would no longer be able to have a lease in her name
and would have trouble finding a job. And she would no longer qualify
for the food stamps she had relied on to feed her family.
years after the “war on drugs” was declared, rates of drug use haven’t
significantly declined, and criminalization hasn’t stopped drug
dependence. In fact, criminalization has driven drug use underground,
making it harder for people who use drugs to access the help they
sometimes really want and need. The “war on drugs” has caused enormous
harm to individuals and families — harm that often outstrips the harm of
drug use itself. And it has made communities less safe by deeply
corroding the relationship between police and communities of color and
focusing precious law enforcement resources on nonviolent drug use
instead of violent crimes, less than half of which result in an arrest.
research also reiterates that enforcement of U.S. drug laws and policy
discriminates against communities of color. Although Black and white
people use drugs at equivalent rates, a Black person is 2.5 times more
likely to be arrested for drug possession. In many states that ratio is
significantly higher. In Manhattan, a Black person is 11 times more
likely to be arrested for drug possession than a white person.
Continue reading at: https://www.aclu.org/blog/speak-freely/its-time-decriminalize-personal-drug-use-and-possession-basic-rights-and-public
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