This morning, while reading the local newspaper, this writer came upon an interesting article relating to some treatment and rehabilitation efforts going on in Baltimore, Maryland.
It seems a Gil Kerlikowske; the director of the Office of National Drug Control was in town visiting a few drug abuse treatment centers in the city.
Interestingly he said, (as a matter of fact), "I ended the war on drugs, if you didn't know this was over," (ah who knew?). He said further, "That was last May", (sorry Gil; never got the memo).
Apparently lost in the furor of the health care debate, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the financial and economic calamity et al, the Obama administration has been, to say the least, obscure in "Promoting a focus on prevention and treatment rather than just arrest and incarceration", (again, who knew?).
As he talked with some recovering addicts one of them revealed, "All I know is drugs. This program helped me change my life". Another man, "choked with emotion" spoke positively of the center staff calling on him daily and staying with him even when he had setbacks.
Accompanying Kerlikowske was Baltimore Police Chief Frederick H. Bealefeld III, whose philosophy (unbeknownst here) was "targeting the most violent criminals rather conducting massive sweeps and arresting lesser offenders", (was this a hallelujah moment?).
One seemed to think, wow, all these progressive initiatives were being undertaken and the absurd "war on drugs" had finally made it to the dustbin of history, buried alongside the Volstead Act of alcohol prohibition enacted in 1919 and thankfully repealed in 1933. Well " not so fast.
Sadly there are thousands upon thousands of non violent drug offenders locked up and languishing alongside the murderers, serial killers, armed robbers, rapists and other assorted predators in our nations prisons housing over two million men and women. Our incarceration rates are the highest than any other country in the industrialized world.
Quite possibly, the economy being what it is and most state budgets undergoing drastic cuts in services, the need to reduce our prison costs is forcing government authorities to consider other (saner) measures for dealing with non violent drug offenders other than locking them up with the predators who are a real danger to society.
In flusher economic times, the right wing measures enacted nationwide by tough on crime legislators forced police departments into arresting and locking up all offenders and forcing judges to issue sentences for all offenders under mandatory sentencing guidelines, including drug offenders as well as violent criminals. That has been the norm (and still is to this writer's knowledge).
Maybe, just maybe, some real sanity is beginning to prevail regarding our draconian drug policy, rehabilitation efforts and limiting the incarceration of non violent drug abusers.
There's a push to make marijuana legal. As to the hard drugs, these abusers need rehabilitation, not incarceration. If offered the alternative between jail time or entering a drug treatment program (which compared to the cost of prison is more cost efficient) it's a no brainer which path the drug abuser would take.
A bad economy does have some redeeming qualities. And prisons are costly enterprises that also have few redeeming qualities. They are essentially warehouses that offer little rehabilitation. Society needs to be protected from the most dangerous offenders of other people, not the drug offenders who are a danger to themselves.
Let's hope what Kerlikowske and the Obama administration is advocating is really the beginning of the end of the war on drugs. A lot more has to be seen and authenticated to know if it's a fact based on reality and not just rhetoric.