“Let’s lock up all the drug addicts” has long been the unofficial policy in our country.
There has been a debate in our society for decades on how to treat people that get arrested for the use, abuse, or possession of narcotics and alcohol. There are millions of people that are locked up in our jails and prisons for crimes relating to drugs. In 2014, 1.5 million people were arrested for drug law violations. Of those 1.5 million, 83% were for possession of a controlled substance.
We do not wish to portray that we believe all these people shouldn’t be in jail, but what about those inidividuals who have been locked up for long periods of time and never offered the chance at treatment and the process of recovery?
The number of people that overdose and die on our streets has never gone down. Our government started a “war on drugs” many years ago; we are losing that war. In the United States, it is estimated that 23 million people need, but do not receive, treatment for substance abuse. There are some states that have begun to cut their budgets that provide funds for people who do not have insurance or the means to pay for a drug rehab. In Illinois, for example, the governor is aiming to cut $27.6 million from the current allotment of $127 million. That equates to a 22% cut in funds. Last year in the city of Chicago alone 47,000 people were afforded the opportunity to go to a treatment center through government assistance. With a cut like the one proposed that would mean that 7,473 people would have never received that chance next year.
Housing an inmate in the state or federal system is very expensive. It has been estimated that for every $1 spent on drug and alcohol treatment the states would save $4-$7 in housing someone in prison.
As always, we respect people’s opinions on these topics that can be controversial. It is our belief is that our society would be better served both socially and monetarily by offering more of these individuals treatment and rehabilitation, instead of punitive prison sentences alone. Locking up all the drug addicts can’t be the answer…