Tough Love From Law Enforcement, Prosecutors and Judges Isn’t the Way to Go When Dealing With Addicts and Small Time Drug Related Crimes

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The stigma behind drug use, primarily drugs like heroin and other opioids is still strong in certain communities across North America. It’s easy for law enforcement and those responsible for dealing with the law when a case inevitably goes to trial, to paint a picture of the dangerous, unpredictable and criminal addict. Yes, some addicts, particularly those in extremely desperate circumstances sometimes do break the law, but in these cases the crime is usually not against a group or individual, nor is it usually violent. When it comes to opiate medications, the most common crime is usually deceiving a doctor, robbing a pharmacy or perhaps illegally selling and purchasing the drugs on the street. Heroin is a slightly different story as many of the “violent” crimes heroin addicts and dealers are accused of are more than likely accidents that have occurred due to overdose. An overdose that is likely related to the unknown strength and potency of the drugs bought, sold and used. To many these seem like tragic incidents, and prosecutors and judges often see them as such, but their opinion on what needs to be done about the problem differs greatly from those in favor of humane and safe treatment of drug addicts. These community activists believe that ridiculously tough penalties and crackdowns on small time offenders is not what’s best for their fellow citizens. Instead, many community leaders and members believe that addicts who commit small time offenses deserve the opportunity to truly be reformed, and not the type of reformed that comes with a harsh prison sentence where the addict isn’t given the chance or even the opportunity to change their ways and truly deal with their addiction that landed them in jail in the first place.

This public health crisis has also triggered predictable but harmful reactions by some local prosecutors and judges, who appear to think they can solve the problem by throwing people into prison. In treating fatal overdoses as lower-level homicides, they ignore decades of experience from the nation’s war on drugs: Overcharging low-level drug offenders is ineffective, inhumane, and costly.

There are so many factors that need to be considered in order to come to a reasonable and effective solution to the drug problem facing many North American communities, small towns and even larger cities. Obviously when it comes to an overdose where an individual has died, appropriate measures should be taken to assure that this doesn’t happen again. Drug dealers break the law every day and deserve to be treated as criminals to the fullest extent of the law, but throwing a heroin addict behind bars for months if not years isn’t going to end the addiction crisis we’re faced with. Not to mention all of the tax payer dollars that will go into prosecuting and penalizing small time criminals influenced by their drug of choice. If the common goal is to treat addicts as people with an illness, then it would make much more sense to send first time and small time drug offenders to some sort of community drug outreach program or to a licensed rehabilitation facility where they can be truly reformed and return to society in such a way that they will contribute positively to their community and become healthy, responsible citizens.



Tough Love From Law Enforcement, Prosecutors and Judges Isn’t the Way to Go When Dealing With Addicts and Small Time Drug Related Crimes