It was “an expensive and hurtful fable.”
And let’s not mince words about it, adds Colorado’s Sentinel magazine in a recent editorial piece that heavily criticizes America’s so-called War on Drugs. That policy initiative has been the decades-long mantlepiece guiding state and federal law enforcers’ response to drug crimes, and the Sentinel calls it a flat failure.
In fact, says a writing team for the publication, the country’s long-term default response to legions of drug offenses has spelled a “totally false narrative” marked by a fundamental mistruth.
And that is this: A punishment-first philosophy defined by a “lock them up and for a long time” rationale – even concerning minor transgressions committed by first-time nonviolent defendants – renders the American public safer.
In fact, precisely the opposite result occurs when convicted individuals who need treatment and rehabilitation are instead housed behind bars for years of their lives and then simply returned to the streets. The predictable effect of that is a recurrent criminal pattern, not a reduced level of crime.
And incarceration in lieu of timely treatment and outreach measures geared toward offenders’ social reassimilation is stunningly costly. The Sentinel stresses that slamming the prison door on individuals with drug and mental health challenges both destroys lives “and costs taxpayers an ocean of wasted money.”
The Sentinel’s Editorial Board strongly urges Colorado’s key decision makers to take imminent actions to materially adjust existing criminal law policies. Federal authorities have recently done so, recognizing that many drug offenses should be responded to by alternative-to-prison strategies and a coupled focus on rehabilitation rather than mere punishment.
It is possible to change and prosper greatly from the effort, states the Sentinel. In fact, one recent report posits that Colorado might realistically cut its state prison population by as many as 10,000 inmates, while simultaneously saving close to $700 million through doing so.