Laws exist within societies to deter and restrict people from harming one another and trampling on others’ inalienable rights. Crimes such as recreational drug use and prostitution do not directly harm other people, yet in the eyes of the law they are villified due to the possible consequences associated with a lifestyle filled with drug use and promiscuous sex. Should these supposed “victimless” crimes be allowed to go on unpunished even though they may still cause collateral damage? More importantly, does the government have the right to intervene with one’s behavior if it does not affect others? A better way to look at it would be to examine the efforts made to decriminalize these acts and the effects it has had on society.
Prostitution is one of the oldest professions in the world and it is not likely to go away anytime soon. Just like any other job, it is a way for people to make a living and it has a supply and demand. Unfortunately, sex workers have terrible work environments. They are subjected to working in unsafe neighborhoods and the threat of violence is always near. Many are raped, abused and murdered while working on their own. If prostitution were decriminalized and regulated, we could decrease the negative consequences of being a sex worker. Legalized brothels in Las Vegas control and monitor their workers and customers much like other businesses. Sex workers are regularly tested and contraception is employed to avoid the transmittance of sexually transmitted infections and diseases. Services are also conducted in safe environments to eliminate the risk of violence. Although prostitution is certainly a less than ideal profession, it has and will continue to exist. Regulation of sex work would greatly reduce the harm inflicted upon its customers and workers.
Another criminal act which does not necessarily effect anyone else but the criminal is recreational drug use. Like prostitution, recreational drug use has gone on for hundreds of years and there does not seem to be an end in sight. Were recreational drug use to be decriminalized and regulated, the government could monitor dosage, reduce adulterants to reduce the risks involved with the consumption of said drugs. Decriminalization would also decrease activity in the illegal trade of drugs which is known to fund terrorist groups. Even on the street level of drug trade, much of it is associated with other violent criminal activity which could decrease if users had another way of obtaining what they would eventually seek out anyways. In 2001, Portugal radically changed their drug policies to include the decriminalization of possessing small amounts of drugs for personal use. They implemented needle exchange programs to reduce the spread of HIV and put more effort into finding treatment for users instead of putting them through the penal system. Ten years later, studies showed that their efforts paid off and drug abuse rates had fallen to half of what they were before the policy change (Kain.) This should be evidence enough that the penal system does not help drug users in our society, it only puts them in a destructive cycle of jails and institutions that we as a whole end up paying for.
Jail and prison sentences are not enough to stop or decrease taboo behaviors nor will they ever be, which is evident in almost all modern nations. These behaviors will continue to spread and the lifestyles associated with them will continue to effect all of society unless something changes. The “War on Drugs” has cost us billions of dollars and placed many non-violent offenders in prisons, when they should be in rehabilitation centers. We as a society need to accept that what we’re doing is not working and we should follow what has worked in other places.
Kain, Erik. “Ten Years After Decriminalization.” Forbes Magazine. Forbes, 5 July 2011. Web. 25 Mar. 2014. .