Criminalizing Addiction Doesn’t Make Communities Safer

GRAND RAPIDS, Michigan. According to U.S. News & World Report, approximately 46.3 percent of federal inmates are in jail due to drug offenses. Why? The logic would seem to be centered on the idea that punishing drug users will result in fewer people using drugs and fewer people begin addicted to deadly drugs. Yet, it has been shown time and again that the punitive model doesn’t work to help people climb out of addiction, and only serves to further disenfranchise Black and Latino communities.

Fortunately, the government has been working to treat addiction as a disease rather than as a crime. However, we still have a long way to go. According to the Nation, Blacks are two and a half times more likely to be depicted as criminals in the media. And Latinos are five and a half more times likely to be shown as criminals. Black males are seven times more likely than white males to be incarcerated. This creates a problem that begins with drug enforcement and trickles down into all aspects of the criminal justice system. To make matters worse, as many as 65% of prison inmates may be suffering from substance abuse addiction. Unfortunately, the prison system is not always equipped to treat addiction or give prisoners the tools they will need when they are released.

According to Psychology Today, many of the tactics used by the criminal justice system fail to properly treat addicts. Jails may be more likely to use shame-based approaches to get addicts to quit. However, psychologists have found that addicts do a better job staying off drugs when they understand the underlying reasons of their addiction. Harsh sentencing and “three strikes” policies lead to more people being incarcerated which means that taxpayers are footing the bill.

Drug sentences can also bring with them collateral consequences. Individuals might lose access to welfare for life, meaning that they won’t have the safety net they need to escape the cycle of addiction. Individuals may not be able to access student loans to get an education. And sometimes they may even face eviction from their homes.

Penalizing individuals facing drug crimes is a bad idea. It doesn’t end the cycle of addiction, and only serves to further stigmatize and hurt families plagued by addiction. Instead, individuals need treatment and compassion.

Now, more than ever, we’ve seen more national and local programs whose goal is to help support addicts and help them beat their addictions. If you are facing drug charges in Grand Rapids, Michigan, you may need assistance, not jail time. Consider speaking to Gordon & Hess, P.L.C. criminal defense lawyers in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Our legal team can investigate the circumstances of your charges, determine whether police and prosecutors followed proper legal procedure, and fight to get you the best possible outcome under the law. You are innocent until proven guilty if you are facing drug charges. Contact our firm today to learn more about your rights or visit us at

By | 4:09 pm | Categories: Legal News | 0 Comments

Leave a Reply