If you have somehow managed to avoid the news for the better half of a year, you may not be aware – 2016 is a presidential election year. One issue has proven to be rather pertinent across candidates and party lines, and only grows more topical as each day inches closer to November. That issue is the criminalization of addiction. Quite frankly, the more people talking about it, the better. Addiction and those serving time for non-violent drug offenses at the hands of their illness is a persistent issue in need of resolve.
In 2014, over 1.5 million Americans were arrested on drug charges. Yet currently, there are states deliberating on the legalization or decriminalization of the very drugs those offenders were arrested for. Marijuana is legal in Colorado, for instance, while there are prisoners still serving sentences for possession. What is necessary is a reclassification of drug addiction to a brain disease altering behaviors, and in place of apprehension there must be effective treatment.
Currently, the approved course of action is to lock away an offender in the same manner as any other criminal. Yet incarceration does not equate to rehabilitation. Offenders require special attention to their treatment needs in an environment where the disease will actually be combated instead of ignored or ecouraged; drugs are notoriously easy to obtain even while behind bars. Treatment requires respect in a safe environment, and that is ground floor for what can be accomplished.