There are 2.2 million Americans behind bars, another 5 million on probation or parole, the Justice Department reported on Nov. 30. We exceed Russia and Cuba in incarcerations per 100,000 people; in fact, no other nation comes close. The biggest single reason for the expanding numbers? Our war on drugs — a quarter of all sentences are for drug offenses, mostly nonviolent.
This is really a pretty depressing piece of information. While I was in the service in the early 70's I spent some time as a drug counselor and got the opportunity to witness first hand the things in peoples' lives that lead them to try and solve them with drugs. It didn't take me long to realize that the "War on Drugs" was a joke. Punishment and incarceration addressed none of the problems that enabled drug use. It didn't even remove the subjects from exposure to drugs as they were just as available in jail or prison. We, as a society, are doing a great disservice to those in our society who turn to drugs for answers when we ignore the root causes and think that punishment is the answer. This is stupid. We could probably save ourselves a lot of tax money if we shifted our focus to the societal pressures that lead to drug abuse and addressed some of the fundamental causes instead.