Saturday, August 8, 2009

Changing Our Drug Policy: Why it must be done

by Dr. Byron Price, Texas Southern University

On his website, President Obama offers us a “seat at the table,” which is the equivalent of citizens offering policy prescriptions to his administration. This unprecedented effort to increase citizen participation in the policy making process has the added benefit of simultaneously empowering citizens in a way that our government has not done and has to be what the campaign meant by “change we can believe in.” The criticism of whom he has appointed misses the mark concerning what I believe his change mantra signifies. Since the president appears to be open to unsolicited advice, I offer the following criminal justice recommendations and justification for these suggestions.
President Obama and the 111th Congress should consider ending drug prohibition.
“Consider the consequences of drug prohibition today: 500,000 people incarcerated in U.S. prisons and jails for nonviolent drug-law violations; 1.8 million drug arrests last year; tens of billions of taxpayer dollars expended annually to fund a drug war that 76% of Americans say has failed; millions now marked for life as former drug felons; many thousands dying each year from drug overdoses that have more to do with prohibitionist policies than the drugs themselves, and tens of thousands more needlessly infected with AIDS and Hepatitis C because those same policies undermine and block responsible public-health policies.”

As the preceding paragraph illustrates, “The War on Drugs” has been a dismal failure and has gifted nonviolent African Americans offenders, especially males a permanent handicap—a lifetime of limited opportunities. The collateral consequences of a drug conviction which limit African Americans opportunities are:
The denial of financial aid and work study .
Felony Disenfranchisement.
Lifetime ban on cash benefits and food stamps.
Lifetime ban on public housing.
Termination of parental rights and ban from becoming adoptive or foster parents.
Remove the felony conviction question on applications of employment.

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