America’s efforts to reduce illegal drug traffic is not reaping big benefits. It is chewing up 20% of U.S. spending. Here is one idea that for some reform that can turn this around. Its text from a letter I sent to the Drug Policy Alliance who is pushing support for Senator Webb’s work.
“A big part of my concern is a costly prison system, where SUD/MH (Substance use disorder/ mental health) gets little or no address, which with screening could be a good place to start treatment for jail bound addicts. Here’s what I see.
- Proactive judicial and prison systems that screens offenders and inmates for SUD/MH treatment diversion.
- Re-classification and/or dismissal of non-violent petty crimes stemming from SUD/MH, based on the success of treatment and victim restitution.
- Re-classification of narcotic drug “use” related offenses to a civil status and a re-designation of marijuana “use” to civil or a “no offense” status.
- Public funding and treatment of SUD/MH outside the prison system based on a sliding scale of client financial contribution and/or contributing service.
Broad reform has a realistic possibility of showing how cost is assimilated. Regarding drug and alcohol abuse, N.I.D.A. estimates 480B is already spent on incarceration, judicial work, demand reduction and general societal damage. A 1/3 of that goes directly to prisons. These expenditures are firmly entrenched in federal and local penal budgets. If a third of inmates are SUD/MH identified by screening, then that part of the job has begun. We have them. We keep them. We treat them. If we don’t, we know they will be back to impact to the system. The cost doesn’t go away. This is also known as the revolving door.
If the same energy spent criminalizing addiction is transformed into treatment, funding is already there! The more we de-criminalize and treat, the less need for incarceration. This reduces demand for an illegal drug market. The message needs to go to the ears of lawmakers from voices from American’s impacted by the scourge of addiction” dadonfire