Why Are We Filling Our Jails with Non-Violent Offenders?
- The War on Drugs distorts our criminal justice system. Millions, disproportionately people of color, are jailed just for using something that harms no one. The war hurts the very people we should be helping. It diverts resources from prosecuting crimes that do hurt people.
- The drug war has prompted massive expansion of police powers and eroded civil rights. Military-style raids, no-knock warrants, seizing assets based merely on suspicion, and mass imprisonment of non-violent offenders have damaged confidence in law enforcement and our justice system.
- Only actions that hurt people should be crimes, and should be prosecuted and punished. Behavior that doesn’t involve force or fraud and hurts no one should be legal.
Stop Filling Jails with Non-Violent People
Too many resources are wasted fighting the War on Drugs and locking up people for non-violent offenses. The money saved decriminalizing marijuana can be used to tackle the opioid epidemic and save the lives of Americans rather than locking them up.
The War on Drugs Has Failed
The war on drugs has been a failure that has ruined lives, filled prisons, and cost a fortune.
The criminalization of marijuana has not only resulted in a startlingly high number of arrests, it also reflects the devastating disparate racial impact of the War on Drugs. Despite ample evidence that marijuana is used more frequently by Whites, Blacks and Latinos account for a grossly disproportionate percentage of the 800,000 people arrested annually for marijuana use and possession.
These convictions make it harder for a person to get and keep a job, to vote, or to get gain affordable housing. These hard-to-shake consequences – as bad as they are – fall on a group of people who actually use marijuana less makes our current policies toward marijuana all the more unfair, unwise and unacceptable.
Drop the Politics and Focus on Real Solutions
Drug policies should be based on science, compassion, health, and human rights – not fear and stigma. The goal should be to reduce the harms of both drug use and drug prohibition. Don’t punish people simply for what they put into their bodies.
The United States spends more than $51 billion every year on the drug war.
Evidence shows that marijuana legalization is working so far. States are saving money and protecting the public by comprehensively regulating marijuana for adult use.
This success has likely contributed to the historically high levels of public support for marijuana legalization which has steadily grown to an all-time high of 64%. The majority of Americans – including 51% of Republicans – now support marijuana legalization.
Arrests for marijuana have plummeted in places with legal marijuana, saving hundreds of millions of dollars and sparing thousands of people from being branded with a lifelong criminal record.
We should decriminalize, at the federal level, small-scale marijuana use.
- Decriminalize the small-scale possession of drugs for personal use, to end the flow of nonviolent drug addicts into the criminal justice system.
- Create well-staffed and first-class treatment centers where people are willing to go without fear of being prosecuted and with the confidence they will receive effective care
- Consider alternatives to incarceration. The current justice system sets inmates up for failure on the outside, denying them easy access to jobs and forcing them back to a life of crime.
- End the militarized expansion of police powers which leads to high potential for violence and disruption.