Most rational people can agree that the war on drugs is a massively failed social experiment that is rife with discrimination, has failed to reduce drug use, and has led to the “land of the free” housing approximately 25% of the world’s prisoners. Proponents of the war on drugs indicate that it protects vulnerable, young people by “taking drugs off the streets.” However, these draconian policies have actually created the perfect storm for more children to be abused and for abuse to be ignored by the criminal justice system.
When a non-addicted parent occasionally uses drugs while not in the presence of his children, it is very possible for these children to be unaffected by and unaware of their parent’s drug use, just as a parent can go to a bar and drink alcohol, so long as his children are in the care of a responsible, sober individual at the time. However, a parent who leaves her children with a babysitter for a couple of hours to go to a party and smoke marijuana with her friends can end up being imprisoned, while her children land in foster care. Such children are incredibly traumatized by this unneeded, unwarranted separation from loving parents, and are three times more likely to be abused while in foster care than in their own homes.
Prisons are terribly overpopulated due to the massive number of nonviolent drug offenders, which creates an environment that is difficult for corrections officers to control and, often, leads to extensive violence against inmates- particularly, against young, nonviolent offenders who already have trauma histories. It is horrifying that it seems to be culturally accepted that sexual assault is a daily part of prison life, but many people see it as another form of retribution against the most serious offenders. While certain categories of violent offenders, such as child molesters, are vulnerable to being attacked while in prison, the groups that are most often targeted are children housed in adult prisons, individuals who have already been sexually abused, and LGBTQ inmates. There can be no perceived benefit of continuing the war on drugs when it exacerbates this ongoing human rights crisis. Prisons also massively fail to actually rehabilitate anyone, and lead to a revolving door of imprisonment for addicts who could have recovered in their own homes and achieved sobriety, had they been provided adequate support, or, at the very least, not had to avoid seeking help due to the potential legal repercussions of acknowledging their drug usage. Creating an environment in which individuals with drug addictions cannot feel safe seeking support in their recovery gravely endangers the children that these individuals are responsible for, as drug use can amplify violent tendencies in many people. Forcing such individuals to cycle in and out of prison, just to end up returning to drugs after having received no effective treatment or support, is not conducive to preventing drug use or violence.
Approximately 92.5% of rapes that are reported to law enforcement do not lead to the perpetrator spending even a day in prison. Meanwhile, over half of federal prisoners are serving time for drug offenses. Our criminal justice system has misappropriated its limited resources to the war on drugs, while allowing our children to be raped and abused. Until our criminal justice system learns how to effectively protect victims of abuse and prevent its detainees from becoming victims, can we not agree that it is worth allowing people to use the substances of their choice and safely seek help if their drug usage progresses into an addiction?
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