For a long time now, it has been clear that criminalizing drug addicts for their problems is not something that truly creates reform. When the United States Government first declared war on the drug epidemic in our country, the hope was that the threat of jail time would dissuade people from abusing drugs. Several decades later it still doesn’t work.
There are more drug addicts now than there ever has been in our history and the amount of people trying illicit drugs continues to grow as new trends emerge. Policy makers in California are looking to change the way they deal with drug addicts by making drug use a misdemeanor, instead of a felony. This action would allow drug addicts to receive treatment instead of jail time. The initial campaign was successful with the voter approval of Proposition 47 back on November 4th.
In addition to looking out for the people suffering from a substance abuse problem, the change in policy is designed to benefit the prison system. The overcrowding of the California prison system has long been a problem the state government has been looking to correct. By allowing drug offenders to enroll in long-term treatment, instead of spending their time in prison, the jail system gets a much needed reprieve from the growing drug population.
“We can divert the money we save and redirect that money into mental health systems, rehabilitation, and restorative services,” explained Sonya Shah, an associate professor at the California Institute of Integral Studies.
Imprisoning those who are struggling with an addiction problem is not effective. Funneling money and resources towards treatment seems to give a better chance to addicts. While some people are concerned that this change would illicit more crime, supporters of the bill disagree. By treating those with addiction problems and giving them the attention they need, the crime that is generated by drug use should decline as well.