Americans want to believe that sending people to prison for drug-related crimes are the best opinion for keeping the streets clean for American. However, people going 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.
So does this increase mean that law enforcement as improved their methods of finding and arresting criminals who do these offenses? 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, it is believed that the traffickers are rarely put in federal custody, about 11% according to Pew, which makes easier for traffickers to get their supplies to the necessary people. Not to mention, crack cocaine and meth are getting easier to make and there are several suppliers.
Making the sentencing 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. Yet, people are still getting drug-related convictions on a regular basis.
It’s easy to say that we should have better parenting, or increase the price of these drugs, or even find ways to stop using them altogether. The truth is, those are not possible solutions. Parents could give their children all the correct values in the world, those children will do what they want. The prices of drugs are created by the market and demand for such drugs and changes 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.
I believe the solution is actually to legalize drugs and put the money for prisons that house and prosecute drug offenders into drug counseling and recovery programs. If my idea works, this would keep strong men and women in the streets, allowing for these individuals to have jobs and contribute to the community. It would also create more jobs in the social works areas. It would also make it so that only the most violent offenders would go to prison. The non-violent offenders would get the help they need.
However, I do believe the tide is changing in this direction. Colorado and other states have legalized marijuana, which has reduced the drug arrest in that state. I just hope that in my lifetime I could see these changes on the federal level.