As the drug epidemic continues to grow and drug offenders continue to pile up in prison, we are faced with the undeniable truth that sending addicts to jail is not going to solve the drug problem. The “War on Drugs” specifically focused on eliminating the supplier while completely ignoring the addicts and the depths of addiction. What we should have focused on was prevention and treatment for drug addicts, but instead of treating the addict as the sick and vulnerable human being they truly are, we punished them for having a problem. As new research comes to light about the brain and addiction, I hope it will change people’s opinions about addicts and the right way to heal them. In the article, it states that when a person becomes an addict, it physically changes their brain chemistry and make up. Instead of receiving signals that they need food or water, they get a message that they need their drug to satisfy the physical dependence. Without proper treatment and counseling for addicts they will go straight back to the thing that makes them feel better; their drug.
How many times are we going to arrest and release a drug offender until he or she passes away from this harrowing health problem? When people are sick, we provide them with care. It is irrational to believe that locking up a sick person will cure their disease, so why do we believe this is true for drug offenders? The scariest part of releasing a drug offender is knowing that their need for their drug grew stronger every day they sat in that jail, but their tolerance for the drug was decreasing at the same time. For some, the drug becomes stronger than them. And for the unfortunate, the drug wins. It’s time to stop letting the drug win and stop letting it overcrowd our prisons.
Link to the Article
For more information about prisoners and drug treatment, please visit:
The Anonymous People Documentary Website
Justice Policy Institute
Shanesha Taylor is just one of the thousands of single mothers struggling to make a suitable living for her and her children in the United States. It was during this struggling time that she, without child support or child care, had to bring her two children with her to a job interview. Shanesha left them in the car for no longer than 45 minutes, and she is now facing up to seven years in prison. Does this sound fair? At first it would seem as if Shanesha acted irresponsibly, but then again as the article suggests, we have to consider the structural policies and governmental factors that are contributing to single mother poverty and the tough choices they have to make regarding their children. Also, separating the children increases their chances of suffering developmental delays and emotional issues. Instead of wondering how Shanesha could have left her children in the car, we need to ask the question that could prevent more single mothers from having to face this horrible decision: how and what can be done by policy makers to help single mothers in America climb out of poverty in order for them to provide a safe and sufficient life for their children? This isn’t about what type of parent one is, it’s about the tough choices these single mothers are forced to make when they receive no help.
Advocates say that Congress has all agreed on wanting to scale back on the high mass incarceration rates. Both Republicans and Democrats are coming together for the greater good. Congress is handling the matter one reform at a time, and all new developments are underway. All previous bills and laws that were passed before Obama’s administration are being taken into account and are still being used. A recent bill that is projected to result in the number of inmates being housed in federal prisons to decrease is omnibus spending bill. The FY2014 omnibus spending bill includes a federal prison reform panel that will have discretion on which aspects of the system they would like to focus on. In particular, non-violent offenders make up more than 90 percent of the federal prison population, fairer sentences are being figured out, because it costs more than $30,000 to house an inmate for a crime that could have been taken care of with various treatment programs. There is hope for the future of prison reform, it just takes positive steps and help from everyone.
Three inmates at the Angola Louisiana State Penitentiary in Louisiana are suing the state’s department of public safety and corrections for the prison officials rejecting requests of relief for those suffering in death row cells that trap heat reaching as high as 195 degrees Fahrenheit. These cells have little to no ventilation, where inmates spend more than 23 hours a day inside, sometimes sleeping on the floor where its somewhat cooler, but have to endure fire ant bites in the process. Various organizations have begun investigations into the matter and have found the conditions horrifying, and a fundamental violation of Constitutional protections. The lack of climate control places the inmates in a dangerous situation, and the ability to maintain in good standing health very limited; such circumstances can often result in the death of an inmate(s). The lawsuit is asking that the temperature be controlled so that the heat index doesn’t exceed 88 degrees and that ice water is distributed to the inmates on a regular basis. After 6 months of deliberation, Judge Brian A. Jackson ruled that the high heat levels were in violation of the inmate’s 8th amendment rights, which were housed in the death row cells.
US federal prisons are overcrowded and are housing more than 40% of inmates than they were designed to hold. The number of inmates held in federal custody has increased by 500% and continuously increasing. The majority of inmates are serving sentences for drug-related offenses. Attorney General Eric Holder has proposed his ideas on how the criminal justice system should change and would reduce the number of sentences served because of a non-violent crime committed. Holder devised a plan that would free up prisons and limit the number of non-violent offenders in jail. Rather, prosecution will avoid using the “mandatory minimum” as a form of punishment, but direct offenders to drug treatment and community service programs. Attorney Holder gave a speech back in August speaking on his views of the vicious cycle of the criminal justice system that is weakening communities. He believes that the criminal justice system is doing nothing in its power to alleviate the problem. Read More.
Senator Rob Portsman of Ohio has been significantly making strides with reforms in the US prison system. Prison overpopulation has been a topic of constant debate since the 1980s when the amount of inmates has grown tenfold. Senator Portsman acknowledges a failure in the criminal justice system that is challenging, but he is hopeful that reform(s) will be the solution for the problem. A repeated theme of prisoners being released back into society and are back behind bars in less than a year. It has been argued that the ever-growing prison population is a budget problem, but it is a social problem that involves not only the offender but families that are broken up. Senator Portsman authored The Second Chance Act to the senate, which was approved and helps to establish and support reentry programs for newly released inmates. The next step is to bring the same programs to the federal prison system. By cosponsoring The bipartisan Recidivism Reduction and Public Safety Act with the help of other US senator’s federal corrections now can offer the same programs to inmates. Also, the act provides drug and mental health treatment and job training programs for individuals who seek to change their lives for the better. Incentives are offered too. Read More Here.
As an assignment for a thesis project, Glen Santayana, a student at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design, designed a prison/school hybrid that can be a possible solution needed for lowering recidivism rates. Santayana’s thesis stems off of the “war on drugs” that took place during the 1970’s but still plays a significant role in the increase of inmates throughout the United States prison system. It was designed precisely for the non-violent offender that struggles with repeat offending. The design of PriSchool takes a look at the current US prison system from a completely different perspective, which may come off as a radical idea. PriSchool is a prison that is integrated with a school of criminology and is set in a community environment. The complex is split into four buildings, a “pre-release” building, a community center, the school of criminology, and the prison itself. The buildings are linked together by bridges that show how each intertwine based off of the specific functions. The classroom technique allows prisoners and students to take classes together, which can be empowering and hands on. The “pre-release” building allows prisoners nearing the end of their sentence to gain access to new and employable skills. Also, the community center will serve as a liaison for curious and skeptical members of the community, and a “safe haven” for individuals to deter from potential crimes. Read More Here.
Although not common practice in most jails and prisons in the United States, experts point to evidence that methadone treatment programs can lead to more stable inmate populations and a lower rate of drug use after release. Read the full article here.
A December 11th New York Times article shared the story of Stephanie George, who is is serving a life sentence after an ex-boyfriend hid cocaine in her attic. Click here to learn more about Stephanie.
This video features American teens that have been held in solitary confinement telling their stories.
“If I would describe isolation to another person I would tell them it’s bad. We didn’t do anything wrong to be put in isolation. They say it’s to protect us but I think it puts us in more danger… [H]ow could we be charged as men but be separated from men. It makes no sense. If that’s the case, keep our cases at juvenile if they want to protect us.” – “Charles O.,” Pennsylvania, April 2012.
Ian Kysel, Aryeh Neier Fellow with Human Rights Watch and the ACLU and author of the report stated, “Locking kids in solitary confinement with little or no contact with other people is cruel, harmful, and unnecessary.”
Read more from the Human Rights Watch article here.