Drugs are everywhere, accessible basically to anyone, anywhere, anytime. Is our current war against drugs effective? It doesn’t seem to be. Legalizing drugs, would it eliminate the crime and other problems created by drugs, probably not. As stated by Dr. Elliot Currie, in his essay, “Toward a Policy on Drugs”, we need to shift from current strategies of the criminal system, without pulling drugs out of the justice system through legalization; to a system that emphasizes reintegrating drug users into a productive life, reduces harm, and promotes community safety, and a possible “third way” to fight the war on drugs.
Currie is a professor of criminology, law, society, and served as a consultant to organizations concerned with crime prevention, social policy, enhancement of juvenile and criminal justice in the U. S. and overseas. Currie makes many points in support of his argument. One point he discusses is how the practices of the current criminal-justice system are supposed to work in reducing drug abuse and why they don’t succeed and what we should do.
Let us consider the current criminal-justice system, it is supposed to reduce drug use and drug related crime by punishment or threat of punishment, but neither works effectively for most drug offenders, especially the most heavily involved in the drug subcultures of the streets. There are so many drug offenders that an attempt to put them all behind bars is unrealistic.
More prisons and harsher sentences, more intensive fear tactics are not the answer, for example, according to NIDA (National Institute on Drug Abuse) in 1989 there were 20,000 drug offenders in any given day in New York prisons, there were an estimated 200,000 to 250,000 heroin addicts in New York city alone, that did not include active drug dealers who are not addicts themselves. The cost of many more prisons and or prisoners would add an estimate of 15 billion a year to our current costs. Currie states for if the goal is to prevent the drug dealing and other crimes that addicts commit, the remedy may literally cost more that the disease.
We need to define exactly what we need from the police and the courts to help in the support of drug infested communities to help them to defend themselves against violence, fear, and demoralization. Also to help improve the prospects of drug users who are now caught in the endless vicious cycle of court, jail, and the streets. Another point Currie makes is a discussion dealing with the relationship between the drugs and the crime, and the disparity between the “better off” and “disadvantaged”, which bring him to conclude against the legalization of hard drugs sales.
Currie states that it is argued, that outlawing drugs has the unintended, but inevitable, effect of causing a flood of crime and urban violence. If we legalize the sale and use of hard drugs, the roots of drug related violence in the cities would disappear, not so. As shown in the studies of addict crime by John Ball and Douglas Anglin and their colleagues, show that not only that the most heavily addicted commit huge number of crimes, but also that their crimes rates seem to increase when their drug use increases and decreases when it declines. Increased need for money to buy drugs drives addicts into more crime.
It’s not that simple, it’s not so black and white. It is a recurrent finding that most people who both abuse drugs and commit crimes began committing the crimes before they began using drugs. A federal survey of drug use among prison inmates in 1986 found that three-fourths of those who had ever used a major drug regularly, like heroin, cocaine, methadone, PCP, or LSD had not done so until after their first arrest. Other studies have found that for many addicts, drug use and crime seem to have begun more or less independently without one clearly causing the other.
Having drugs easily accessible to anyone especially to the drug cultures of the cities by legalizing hard core drugs is not likely to cut the deep social roots of addict crime. Currie concludes that a free-market policy applied to hard drugs would produce the same results it has created with the legal killer drugs, tobacco and alcohol-namely, a widening disparity in use between the “better off” and the “disadvantaged”. Before reading these essays I was on the fence as to what side of legalization and non legalization of drugs I was on.
In his essay, Toward a policy on Drugs, Elliot Currie persuades me to see that the current criminal-justice system lacks effective strategies against drug use as well as how legalization of drugs will have a negative effect in the “social reality” (which tends to be ignored), and showed how an alternative “third way”, such as some of the policies of European countries, where they selectively decriminalize some drugs in some amounts and not others and points out that there is a strong argument for treating marijuana differently from the hard drugs, for purpose of medical prescription.
I agree with Currie, this will not end the drug crisis, but it could substantially decrease the irrationality and humanity of our present ineffective war on drugs.