In the current war on drugs, the criminal justice system is over-eager to arrest drug users and send them to jail. In an attempt to reduce the drug abuse problem in our country, police and prosecutors want to get users off the streets and into jail. This is not, however, the most effective way to go about solving America's drug problem. Overcrowded prisons, high recidivism rates, and a continually rising drug related arrest rate all go to show this is true. If drug offenders are put into programs where they can cure their addictions instead of being sentenced to jail time, then there will be improvements in the war on drugs. In addition, this is a more cost effective solution that allows police resources to focus on violent crime and public safety.
Section One: America's Drug Abuse Problem.
It is very clear that America has a problem with drug abuse and it is not getting any better as of late. According to the United States Census Bureau, the drug arrest rate for possession of illicit drugs in 2009 was 490.9. This was up from a rate of 464.4 in 2005. Neapolitan, Jerome L. (2010). In 2007 America's law enforcement agencies made a combined number of over 14 million drug related arrests. The most shocking fact, however, is that over 40% of these arrests were for possession of marijuana; one of the least harmful drugs on the streets. Nearly half a million people are in state or federal prisons for a drug offense, compared to 41,000 in 1980. Among those prisoners, 32% reported drug use at the time of the offense and 53% met the medical criteria for drug dependence or abuse. Farrell, Graham. (2011). Police are cracking down on illicit drugs in what seems to be a futile attempt to reduce the amount of drug abuse in America. What they are accomplishing, however, is a mass incarceration of criminals.
Section Two: America's Incarceration Problem.
Along with the increased arrest rate, American prisons have seen a substantial increase in inmates. In 1972, America had about 300,000 people in state prison. In 2011 that number had increased to over 2.3 million and about 48% of these inmates had been sentenced for drugs. Neapolitan, Jerome L. (2010). One would think, as the criminal justice system obviously does, that this would reduce the drug problem. Despite these most valiant efforts, however, the statistics continue to show rising drug arrest rates, and a continued drug related crime issue. Not are the current methods ineffective, but they have lead to an overcrowding in America's prisons and jails. The increasing amount of inmates in prisons in the U.S. is outpacing America's ability to house offenders so drastically that this September America's prisons were 39% over capacity. Specter, D. (2010). As more and more inmates are forced into small areas, the violence rates observe a similar spike. Inmates get frustrated by limited resources and cramped living conditions and exhibit more violence towards each other as well as prison staff. Approximately 15.6% of correctional officers have been the victim of an inmate assault and 21% of inmates reported being victims of violence in prison. Schenk, A. M., & Fremouw, W. J. (2012). Amongst dealing with an excess of inmates and increased violence rates, prisons must also deal with a tight budget. These are tough economic times and government programs are not exempt from the money issues that are plaguing the world.
Section Three: What it Means for The Economy.
It is not cheap to incarcerate criminals by any means, and the budgets of the U.S. cannot cover all the costs. In 2008, federal, state, and local governments spent about $75 billion on corrections, the majority of which was spent on incarceration. The average cost of incarcerating one criminal for a year has been calculated at about $31,000. This number is about 13.9% above the budget allotted to the criminal justice system. Christian H. and Ruth D. (2012). This means that the remaining costs of...