Colorado, Washington state, Uruguay, and Portugal… they've all been in the news lately for their approaches to legalizing or decriminalizing certain drugs. Supporters of the new laws say that they reduce crime. But is that actually true? And is jail really the best option for people struggling with drug addiction?
Colorado's Case for Legal Marijuana
Colorado is an ongoing experiment in legalization, and early evidence there suggests that legalizing pot might have actually reduced crime. Of course, there's a huge difference between making pot legal and letting anyone use harder drugs like heroin, cocaine or PCP. The long-term effects of legalization on crime and addiction rates won’t be known for some time.
Drug Policy and Its Impact on Crime
But only 1% of prisoners are in jail simply for using marijuana. How do other drugs impact the prison population?
In fact, the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence makes the claim that, "Most inmates are in prison, at least in large part, because of substance abuse."
The US jails more people per capita than the 26 largest European nations combined. We have the largest prison population in the world.
Treatment Instead of Jail-The Compassionate Option
You wouldn't lock up a cancer victim because of their disease, would you? No, but that's exactly what's happening with drug addiction. Addiction is a disease, and needs to be treated as such. The best option to combat the disease of drug or alcohol addiction is an effective program of treatment.
95% of prisoners return to drug addiction after getting out. Less than 18% got any kind of drug treatment while incarcerated. That's the true tragedy, because rehab is the most effective weapon against addiction.