If you watched the recent special, “Dope Man” on A&E Network, you might have heard Tim Ryan say, “We can’t arrest ourselves out of this problem.”
But what does that mean?
According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, 46.2% of the current prison population is incarcerated on drug offenses. This percentage is a stark contrast to other populations, with the second highest offense, Weapons Explosives and Arson, following far behind with only 17%.
I want it to sink in that almost half of the US prison population has been convicted on a drug charge. Almost half.
Although addiction may cause individuals to commit acts that warrant consequences, it is saddening to know that close to 80,000 people will not be receiving the treatment they desperately need for their progressive and chronic disease – addiction.
I contribute this mainly to the stigma of addiction. Many people believe addicts need the structure and adversity of prison. While this may work for some people, it is a gross misstep to believe that putting an addict in prison will “heal” them.
As Tim Ryan said in “Dope Man,” If you lock a cancer patient up in a cell would you expect them to be released in a month cancer free?”
We need to start looking at addiction in the same way.
Addiction IS a progressive and chronic disease. Illinois alone saw a 7.6% increase in overdose deaths from 2014-2015, according to the CDC.
We need to urge lawmakers to start looking at addiction in this way, and to stop punishing people for their illness.
I believe if we started actually rehabilitating addicts instead of throwing them into a prison cell, we would save our towns from the crime that go hand-in-hand with addiction.
The war on drugs has largely failed, and it is up to future generations to repair the damage that this mass incarceration of drug addicts has caused.
Addicts need help, not jail cells.