Issue #8 Criminal Justice Reform

Issue #8 Criminal Justice Reform

I support law enforcement and admire their bravery in doing a very dangerous job. Any crime with a victim I believe should be prosecuted. I don’t believe any crime without a victim should be against the law such as illegal drugs and prostitution. I know this sounds counterintuitive to what we’ve been taught. I want to first off say that just because I think illegal drugs and prostitution should be legal, doesn’t mean I don’t think they have a negative consequence. The reason I think they should be legal is that making them illegal has not stopped them all, and any good leader should look at his policies for effectiveness. The enforcement of illegal drugs has cost trillions of taxpayer dollars and destroyed lives, including our brave law enforcement officers, and not made us safer. I believe if drugs are made legal in a controlled manner, then officers would have more time to deal with real dangerous criminals.

Every 25 seconds, an American is arrested for drug possession. The number of possession arrests has tripled since 1980. Arrests for possession are 6 times more than for sales. 456,000 Americans are serving time for possession. Another 1.15 million are on probation or parole for drug offenses. Incarceration shows little impact on drug use, and it shows increased mortality from OD. Once released from incarceration users are 13 times more likely to overdose than the general population. The number one death of the recently released user is overdose. The recently released have a 129% more chance of dying from OD than the general public.

Black people are 4 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana than white people. Black people make up 30% of all drug-related arrests, despite being only 12.5% of users. Black people are 6 times more likely to be incarcerated for drug-related offenses than white people, despite equal substance abuse rates. In federal prison black and Latinos makeup 80% of drug-related offenses. In-state prison people of color make up 60% of drug-related offenses.

In federal prison, a black person convicted of a drug-related offense will serve nearly the same amount of time as a white person convicted of a violent crime. People of color make up 70% of all conventions with mandatory minimums. Prosecutors are twice as likely to pursue mandatory minimums for back defendants than a white one with the same charge, and black defendants are less likely to receive relief from mandatory minimums. On average every addict subject to mandatory minimums spends 5 times longer in prison than those with other convictions. Since the “war on drugs,” the U.S. has spent $1 trillion. In 2015 the US spent $3.3 billion annually to incarcerate drug-related offenses.

State governments spend $7 billion annually. In 2016 11.8 million people were addicted to prescription opiates or heroin. Every 16 seconds a person dies from opiate OD, that’s more than in car crashes. Americans consume 80% of the opiates the world produces. 1 out of every 100 Americans misuse opiates.

The opiate epidemic cost the U.S. $504 billion dollars annually in health costs, criminal justice, and economic impact from premature fatalities. Doctors wrote 259 million in opiate prescriptions in 2012. Among women prescription painkiller OD deaths jumped 400% from 1999-to 2010. Fatality rates jumped 28% from 2015-to 2016 largely in addition to fentanyl, a synthetic opiate that is 50 times stronger than heroin. For the first time in 2016 synthetic opiates were the leading cause of all drug-related deaths, claiming 200,000 lives.

 

The availability and use of Narcan have saved many lives. We were taught that physical addiction or “hooks” is the reason people get addicted, while this, genetics, and other factors do play a role, it’s not the primary cause. The primary cause is mental and social problems, not just physical addiction. If a person is given meaning in their life and a good social environment they are much less likely to use it. This addiction problem needs to be treated for what it is, a medical, social, and psychological problem, not a criminal one.

Safe Injection Facilities have been used in over 60 international cities. The user can go to this facility and get the correct dose from a licensed medical provider. Injecting it while under their supervision, not leaving with the substance or syringe. The site also connects users to social services. These sites have shown a reduction in addiction, and bloodborne pathogens which have saved lives and millions in healthcare costs, as well as a reduction in prostitution, in which most cases are doing it to support a drug addiction. Nationwide there are 3,100 drug courts. These courts refer users to substance abuse treatment, social services, and supervision monitoring instead of incarceration. This has shown a 40% lower rate of reoffending.

Another program LEAD (Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion) refers users to treatment facilities instead of arrest. This program has been shown to reduce re-arrest, incarceration times, improve economic stability and housing, and save taxpayer money in criminal justice system costs. If elected I would propose legislation to make illegal drugs legal and work with the communities, and healthcare systems in implementing clean, safe, and efficient treatment centers that also provide social support like job placement and housing. While I support the legalization of illegal drugs, and addiction treated like the medical condition it is. I don’t support drug trafficking across our borders, especially Fentanyl coming from Mexico produced by chemicals shipped from China. I believe if drugs are made legal under close medical supervision then trafficking across our borders would be greatly reduced due to a reduction in demand. I believe the crime rate would fall as well due to dealers not competing for territory.

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