Americans want to believe that sending people to prison for drug-related crimes are the best option for keeping the streets clean. However, sending people to prison for drug-related crimes doesn’t make the country safer.
According to a report from the Pew Charitable Trusts, there were less than 5,000 people serving federal prison time for drug-related offenses in 1980. That number is now 95,000 today. Does this increase mean that law enforcement has improved their methods of finding and arresting criminals who violate drug laws? No, it means that the drugs are more accessible and more people are using drugs, thus, more people are getting arrested.
According to the White House’s “National Drug Control Strategy” report, drugs are more accessible because the prices for cocaine and crack and meth have dropped since the eighties.
Also, according to the Pew, about 11 percent of traffickers are put into federal custody. This means that there are more traffickers available to the drug using population. This also means that it is easier for traffickers to obtain their supplies and get it to the necessary people. Not to mention, crack cocaine and meth are getting easier to make and there are several suppliers. Making their sentences longer doesn’t stop the problem either. “The average prison sentence for a federal drug offender rose 36 percent between 1980 and 2011, tacking almost 20 additional months onto the average sentence,” according to the report on TakePart.com.
It’s easy to say that we should have better parenting, increase the price of the drugs, or even find ways to stop using them altogether. The truth is, those are not possible solutions. Parents could give their children all of the positive and moral values in the world, but children will do what they want. The prices of drugs are created by the market and demand for each drug and varies from street to street. To stop using drugs altogether would require an increase in trafficking laws to prevent the drugs from coming to the States as well as more drug rehabilitation programs.
I believe the solution is actually to legalize drugs. Then the money used to run prison facilities should be used to give adequate drug counseling and recovery programs to drug offenders. Lastly, I would change the law so that only the most violent offenders would be convicted and sent to prison. The non-violent offenders would get the help they need.
If my idea works, this would keep strong men and women in the streets, allowing the individuals to have jobs and contribute to the community. It would also create more jobs in the social work occupation.
However, I do believe the tide is changing in this direction. Colorado and other states have legalized marijuana, which has reduced the number of drug arrests in that state. I just hope that in my lifetime I could see these changes on the federal level.