Decriminalize drugs to fix the prison system
by Jessica Yusufova
May 10, 2016 | 9710 views | 0 0 comments | 168 168 recommendations | email to a friend | print
With 2.3 million inmates, the American prison population has reached an all-time high. One of the biggest reasons for this mass incarceration is our drug policy.

The laws regarding drug use are strict and can result in felonies that will send people to jail, but jail time for drug users does not help the individual or society.

America spends $70 billion every year on correctional faculties. Of the 2.3 million prisoners, 46 percent are nonviolent and in jail for drug offenses.

If these inmates got treatment and recovered they would be able work, keep a job, and contribute to society like everyone else. The strict drug laws make accomplishing this much harder.

The decriminalization of drugs is a great step to a better and more productive society. This calls for reform where felonies for drug possession and usage are off the table, eliminating the possibility of jail.

If an individual is sentenced to prison for a minor drug offense, that individual comes out of jail with more skills to participate in criminal activity. Even if they are given treatment, the experience of imprisonment will lower the chances of full recovery.

Although the Bureau of Prisons has $115.5 million to develop treatment for inmates with substance abuse issues, treatment while in prison will not be as effective as treatment in a rehabilitation center.

The decriminalization of drugs is not legalizing all drugs. It can still be illegal to use certain drugs that are dangerous, such as heroin and cocaine. The difference would be that an individual found in possession or in use of these drugs would not be given jail time or a permanent record.

Instead, they are forced into a rehabilitation center. The law is not allowing dangerous drug usage, but people found in possession can get help.

And with severe penalties off the table, users of drugs will be more willing to cooperate with law enforcement on information to catch dealers and producers. This can actually stop the root of this problem, the black market.

The huge profit that comes with producing and dealing drugs is exactly the reason people do it. If the brains behind the crime can be stopped, drug use would decline.

Members of society not involved with drugs are still affected. The $70 billion spent each year on prisons comes from the taxpayer. And we should all care about how people are treated because it enforces racial disparities.

Of the 2.3 million inmates, 1 million are African Americans. They are ten times more likely to be imprisoned for drug use than whites, even though blacks and whites use drugs at similar rates.

Our current drug policy disproportionately affects the black population. Decriminalizing drug use can help reduce these racial disparities.

Everyone should be concerned.

Jessica Yusufova is student at Baruch College.
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