The scourge of drugs is something we need to urgently address. It is a problem that is reaching epidemic proportions in our local communities. Drug addiction destroys lives – the lives of our young people – and does tremendous damage to families.
Drug addiction is a multi-faceted problem. While I do not advocate for the legalization of drugs, I do believe that we need to do all that we can to avoid making criminals of our young people. Incarcerating young people for drug possession has multiple consequences.
First of all, incarceration rates for drug possession are higher for minorities. I am Hispanic and I understand that minorities have been through the legal system in disproportionately larger numbers. Secondly, sending first time youthful offenders to prison for drug possession exposes impressionable youngsters to a criminal element. This increases their odds of becoming a career criminal.
Finally, for every young person that we send to prison, there is a cost.
Instead of spending money on prisons, we should be using those resources to help rehabilitate young people that make the terrible mistake of experimenting with drugs. We should be helping to get them back on the right track, giving families the opportunity to heal and get healthy again.
Conversely, we should be prosecuting those that that would exploit our children by selling them drugs – whether they are legal or illegal drugs. That includes career criminals, as well those that act as conduits for the distribution of legal prescription drugs. Especially since abuse of legal prescription drugs is on the rise.
The problem of drug abuse has been with us for generations. Sadly, we are not winning the so-called “War on Drugs”. We need to find an approach to the problem that works – and doesn’t make criminals of our young people.