Drugs have been seen as a problem in American society for a long time. The salacious “Reefer Madness” and other antidrug propaganda pieces worked on the premise of scaring people away from using a drug, out of fear of becoming drug-crazed maniacs.
Of course, for all their negative effects, the unrealistic characterizations tended to undercut the force of the message. In many cases involving drug addiction, the real question is what can be done to end the addiction and allow a person to live drug-free, productive life.
What does not work is incarceration. Fifty years of the so-called war on drugs have had little impact on reducing drug dependency in the U.S., but have filled the prisons and helped to foster an increasingly militarized police force.
As states like Iowa have struggled to cope with the expense of large prison populations, innovations like “drug courts” have been developed. These specialized courts are designed to provide real solutions to the drug problem, such as helping offenders obtain schooling and jobs.
Here’s the problem; the legislature looking for ways to cut the budget and drug courts are an easy target, as some complain that they are not sufficiently punitive. The wrongheadedness of this is astounding.
The choice for the Iowa legislature is spending the money with drug courts and helping individuals become reintegrated into society, which would save money within the criminal justice system and lower prison costs.
Or, it can insist on the old, failed, punitive incarceration model, which costs $33,000 per year per inmate and virtually ensures when the inmates are released with their addiction unresolved and without the skills or tools to succeed, they will quickly return.
Don’t bet on the legislature to make the right choice, as you may need that money to pay the higher taxes they will need to cover their increased prison costs.
Source: desmoinesregister.com, “Editorial: Lawmakers must fund drug courts statewide,” August 28, 2015