The War on Drugs

Sol Duc rainforest at Olympic National Park, Oregon Coast

Sol Duc rainforest at Olympic National Park, Oregon Coast

Surprisingly enough, law enforcement members are suggesting a new solution for repeat drug offenders: lighter sentences. For years’ drug offenders have been thrown in jail, only to be released and repeat the same cycle of addiction. Realizing that this form of punishment is ineffective, authorities are working together to seek change. Instead of charging addicts with felonies that will further ruin their lives, a new project is in the works.

Kimberly McCullough is a representative for the American Civil Liberties in Union, Oregon and has a strong opinion on the controversial topic. “We know that the drug war has been a failure, and that resources have been spent criminalizing people, instead of investing in things like treatment for drug addiction.” With both the police chiefs and sheriff’s association in agreement with her beliefs, change can be made. They would like to reduce charges to misdemeanors, freeing more resources to fight actual crime. Their next goal is to allocate more money for drug education and rehabilitation services.

District Attorney, Rod Underhill of Multnomah County has one suggestion: no criminal charges at all. There is no need for these individuals to serve jail time or be penalized for missed court dates. They are unhealthy people that need help and there are people that can give it to them. Rod Underhill wishes to set the drug addict up with a counselor or caseworker that can help arrange treatment for them. This method seems radical when compared to our current justice system, but it is not new. Seattle has been employing this law for over 5 years.

Rod Underhill is serious about change in his community. He stated: “Let’s back this up,” said Underhill. “Let’s work with the folks that we’re talking about. Let’s help them with their addiction and collateral impacts.” The program already has a name and is referred to as “LEAD.” LEAD is set to begin on the 1st of January, 2017 in Multnomah County, Oregon. This program is going to save the court system and state money while helping victims of addiction reach recovery. Our current system is not designed to help people, but keep them down. LEAD is hoping to change the system while bettering the community and those affected by drug addiction. The war on drugs so far has been a complete failure, it is refreshing to see authorities that wish to change that.

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