“ Lock Em Up and Throw Away The Keys”
Today in the United States 85% of all people in jail are there for drug related crimes. There are different levels of drug crimes that have resulted in incarceration, ranging from possession charges to charges relating to criminal activities to generate money to buy drugs and then the upper tier behavior of distribution(drug dealers). Is society best served by grouping all these levels of violations of the law the same, in terms of locking em up and throwing away the keys? Or is society better served by providing appropriate treatment and rehabilitative programs for those suffering with disease of addiction? Let me be clear in stating I am not offering excuses for the actions of these people, but rather an explanation of some causative facts that are contributory to their behavior. Also this is in no way a deviation of my support for the rule of law. What I am attempting to do is make a personal differentiation between those suffering from the disease of addiction and enter in a life of inappropriate behavior to support their addictions as compared to those that prey on these people by dealing drugs and therefore benefiting dramatically by making large sums of money. I am certainly in agreement with the rule of law that the dealers of drugs be dealt with a much harsher hand of the law. Actually, my observations in the legal system is that this premise certainly legally holds true. Dealers of drugs certainly do receive harsher sentencing guidelines and therefore longer and harsher sentencing. Also let me qualify that I am not discussing those that have committed violent crimes such as assault with deadly weapons or have committed crimes that extend well beyond low level felonies or misdermeaners. I am discussing those thousands of inmates doing real jail time for multiple possession charges, petty thefts etc that have resulted in some serious jail time. Are we placing society more in jeopardy by imprisoning these people where their new mentors are long term hardened criminals that now can teach them all the new tricks of criminal life? Is this new mentoring system costing society more dollars in the long run by creating a new wave of hardened criminals that over time can cause an already overcrowded prison population to be even more overcrowded? What is the price in real dollars that society will pay for long term incarceration of these people? Would we all be better served by providing those with drug and alcohol addictions a venue for serious recovery and rehabilitation so that moving forward they can become productive citizens in our society and not a judicial and financial burden to society?
What are we really accomplishing by locking up people with a disease as significant as substance abuse. We must ask ourselves, besides short term protection of the citizens of our communities are we moving forward in attempting to deal with this disease and it’s consequential affects in a prudent and cost effective manner.