Since it started in 1970, American law enforcement has arrested 38 million people for nonviolent drug offenses, nearly 2 million last year alone. The number of people jailed for violent crimes has risen 300 percent, but the prison population of nonviolent drug offenders has soared 2,558 percent.
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A theme that has been running through some of my recent posts and in my classes is that crime is not a problem, but is a condition. This argument is not new; Durkheim posited a similar argument when he pointed out that crime is normal. The important point is that we cannot solve this problem, because it is a condition that must be managed.
The "war on drugs" is a classic case of policy gone wild. Yes, a huge amount of street crime is associated with drugs. But I have to ask - do you think the current policies are working? What if we managed the condition instead of trying to solve the problem by arresting as many people as possible?
Do you think we might have fewer people in prison and jail? Do you think if we had more access to mental health treatment that the frequency of crime might be reduced? Do you think that using the phrase "war on drugs" sets us up for failure?
Clearly, it is time for a new way to approach what is normal in our society and stop making it worse.