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This is the time for change.  An opportunity to expand treatment and recovery options.  The ONDCP will complete their strategies this year and Webb’s National Criminal Justice Commission Act of 2009 is coming to a head at the end of 2010.  Here are Webb’s main points:  The USA has 5% of the world’s population and houses 25% of all prisoners  •  Incarcerated drug offenders grew 1200% since 1980  •   Four times as many mentally ill people are in prisons than in mental health hospitals  •  A million gang members and drug cartels operate in 230+ communities across the country  •  Post-incarceration re-entry programs are haphazard and often nonexistent, undermining public safety and making it extremely difficult for ex-offenders to become full, contributing members of society.   READ A FACT SHEET ON THE BILL HERE

Community input on the bullet points in this fact sheet are critical.  We can look at addiction and mental impairment screening of new offenders and inmates with immediate diversion of addicts to venues of compulsory treatment.  Costs can be covered by the same funds we already waste.  We can look at re-categorizing criminal charges based on successful diversion of  non violent offenders.  Right now, diversion options for drug addicted offenders to treatment misses most addicts because of their crime category.  When jailed, untreated addicts are released and continue to use.  This is the revolving door of jails and drugs.  We can also expand and fund drug courts.   Addicts not yet criminalized could have the threat of jail removed by de-criminalization of drug use, accessible treatment, alternative replacement drugs, safe detoxification with follow-up post acute withdrawal treatment and so on.  We can’t ask to legalize street narcotics, but we can  own the reality of the horrific impact drugs and trafficking has on us and reduce demand and jail populations at the same time.

In order to make an impact that helps young addicts and families, reduces drug demand, and better spends tax dollars, we need to impact law makers at all levels.  Maybe our elected officials don’t listen to activists but an America full of families affected by the scourge of addiction can convince their lawmakers.  Thanks to Senator Jim Webb for getting the ball rolling.   Lets help him.

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January 2010