Nonviolent Drug Offenders Should Not Be Imprisoned

Prisons, certainly, are essential. In all areas hosting people, there will always be crime, as well as conflict, thus a need for prisons. Even then, no nation should draw pride from establishing prisons. An oddly high number of correctional facilities in a country signal that the country is defined by curiously high levels of criminal activities and excessive punishment (Stone & Stone, 2003). Particularly, America has over the years put up more and more jailing facilities to incarcerate more and more nonviolent drug offenders (NVDOs). Apparently, the incarceration of NVDOs in America brings about more damage than benefits to individual offenders, their families, and the society in general. NVDOs should be committed to appropriate healthcare or related facilities rather than being imprisoned.

Why NVDOs Should Not Be Incarcerated  

  1. Incarcerating NVDOs is Unjustifiably Expensive

Jails are rather expensive compared to alternative facilities for holding NVDOs accountable. The alternative facilities, when run correctly, occasion greater possibility of the restitution of crime victims and public safety. Most importantly, the alternative facilities are cheaper to manage than prisons. Various states commit resources worth close to $60,000 in the incarceration of just one NVDO (Caulkins, Kilmer, Kleiman, MacCoun, Midgette, Oglesby, Pacula & Reuter, 2015, p.23). That figure is significant, and policymakers should, ideally, scrutinize public expenditure on the jailing of NVDOs just as they scrutinize public expenditures on various social programs.

Notably, many leading conservatives, including Grover Norquist, Bill Bennett, and Newt Gingrich are convinced that jails are rather expensive compared to alternative facilities for holding NVDOs accountable. They promote the view that criminal justice is effective when anchored on limited-government thinking. There are cheaper alternatives to jailing NVDOs. Serendipitously, technological and research developments in recent years have generated novel, cheaper strategies than imprisonment for dealing with NVDOs with the appropriate types, as well as levels, of public supervision. The strategies include actuarial needs along with risk appraisals, problem-solving courts, and electronic monitoring (Stone & Stone, 2003).

For instance, in Hawaii, the HOPE (Hawaii Opportunity Probation with Enforcement) Court that utilizes commensurate, sure, and swift sanctions against convicted NVDOs has proved to enhance markedly compliance with their probationary terms and drug test terms than imprisonment. In the court, it is decreed that every convicted NVDO be assigned a given color. The NVDO is required to place a call to the court’s registry daily to establish whether the color has been arbitrarily chosen. If so, the NVDO is obligated to move to the court and take a particular drug test. If he or she fails the drug test, he or she remains behind bars for some days. Owing to the court, Hawaii is now reporting marked declines in probation failure and substance abuse as regards NVDOs (Hess, Orthmann & Cho, 2012).

  1. Ruin of Families

The needless incarceration of NVDOs ruins their families and societies in general. Incarcerated NVDOs are less likely to marry not only because they may in prison but also since rap sheets are unsupportive of family-supporting and decently paying jobs. Obviously, communities that are defined by high levels of NVDO incarceration as well are characterized by numbers of troubled children and single-parent families that are strikingly higher than normal. That, consequently, gives rise to dysfunctional societies that mistrust the extant criminal justice resources, including police. Notably, in America, children are encouraged to ask for assistance from police. Even then, in some neighborhoods, children are discouraged from engaging police. That worsens the extant cases of recidivism, maladjusted families, and ruined families.

  • High Recidivism Rates

As indicated earlier, high rates of NVDO incarceration worsens the extant cases of recidivism among NVDO populations. NVDOs that are imprisoned have a quite high chance of reoffending compared to NVDOs who are not imprisoned. NVDOs who are imprisoned have a quite high chance of suffering unemployment compared to NVDOs who are not imprisoned (Stone & Stone, 2003). The oddly high recidivism rates among NVDO populations occasions cyclic burdens on states that are obligated to commit resources to the housing, feeding, monitoring, sentencing, and re-arresting of convicted NVDOs after completing their jail terms.

  1. Imprisoning NVDOs Defeats the Aims of Wars Against Drugs

The tough punishments decreed on NVDOs to do many years of imprisonment in hard conditions only motivate those criminally dealing with banned drugs to venture into more ethically disgusting markets such as sex slave business and human trafficking. They are motivated by the realization that the penalties for sex slave business and human trafficking are as grave as those of trading in the drugs (Kleiman, 2009). NVDOs realize that and resolve that they should into the most profitable crimes since the attendant risks are as severe as the ones they shoulder when pettily trading in drugs.

As well, the drugs that eventually land NVDOs in prison have the same effects as alcohol, whose usage and business are largely legal (Stone & Stone, 2003). Alcohol heightens the risk of persons becoming addicted and alcoholics just as the drugs handled by NVDOs pose health-related risks. In America, the government finds wisdom in not banning alcohol and not jailing alcoholics. It should employ similar reasoning when dealing with drug user as well as drugs. In that way, the government will be using reason consistently, hence becoming philosophically unswerving.

Counterargument

Those supporting the imprisonment of NVDOs contend that all criminal acts should be viewed similarly; thus all should attract similar punishment terms, including incarceration. Even then, that argument is unconvincing since obviously, every criminal act is handled uniquely by courts. For instance, a person convicted of murder is handed a graver sentence than a person convicted of perjury. When the same reasoning is adopted, it is logical that NVDOs should be handed less severe punishments, preferably to serve them outside prisons, than persons convicted of violent criminal acts (Stone & Stone, 2003). While NVDOs pose no violence-related threats to the larger community and thus should not be kept behind bars, the community is only safe when violent criminals are incarcerated.

Conclusion

From the mid-1980s, America has put up prisons at a seemingly incensed pace. Presently, America has the leading rate of incarceration among all developed economies. Especially, in America, the rate is far higher than that of Wales and England, Canada, and Australia. Notably, the incarceration rate of Australia is almost five-fold lower than that of America despite the fact that the former started as a jail colony. Even then, Australia registers fewer criminal acts than America annually. The pointless incarceration of NVDOs ruins their families. As indicated earlier, high rates of NVDO incarceration worsens the existing rates of recidivism among NVDO populations. The tough punishments decreed on NVDOs to do many years of imprisonment in hard conditions only motivate those dealing with banned drugs to venture into more ethically disgusting markets. NVDOs pose no violence-related threats to the larger community and thus should not be incarcerated.


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