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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Keep Drug Offenders Out of Jail and Into Treatment

It is well known that the United States puts more people in prison every year than any other country. Sadly, the majority of those locked up have been deemed drug offenders; drugs are illegal, having them is against the law, so then it stands to reason that those caught with drugs would go to jail. The problem with putting millions of people in jail for drug offenses has to do with the fact that drug offenders are generally sick. They suffer from a disease that transcends the boundaries of right and wrong, in many cases free will has been thrown out the window. Drug addicts who are sent to prison time and time again are not criminals and addicts do not deserve to be treated like criminals. Science has taught us a lot about the disease of addiction, giving us a better understanding of what is operating inside the addict's mind. Addicts are not morally corrupt and certainly are not short on willpower.

Lawmakers in Colorado are working hard to pass a bill that was presented at the Capitol Tuesday, in an attempt to keep drug offenders out of jail and into treatment. Both Republicans and Democrats are supporting the bill, even the district attorneys are on board. This bill is a wonderful prospect for the citizens of Colorado who are afflicted with addiction, nearly a quarter of 22,600 people in prison in Colorado are doing time for drug offenses. Those inmates who were charged with possession should be released to the custody of certified drug treatment facilities; prisoners sentenced for drug distribution would not be allowed to escape their sentence by going to rehab. Drug addicts and drug dealers need to be separated inside the minds of society, they are a completely different and do not deserve the same punishment.

When addicts are imprisoned it hardens the common misconception that an addict is a criminal, adding to the long lists of stigmas that already accompany an addict. States drain their coffers every year keeping addicts imprisoned; every inmate costs the tax payers $30,000 a year. That money could be channeled to education programs to help people better understand the disease of addiction, especially teenagers and young adults. Pete Hautzinger, the Mesa County District Attorney said, "Treatment can work and it's a far more just and effective use of resources. I have no interest in locking up someone who is an addict. I would much rather get them un-addicted and make them a productive member of society again".

The more states that realize prison is not effective rehabilitation, the better...

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