Search This Blog

Saturday, May 10, 2014

The war on drugs is a war on children

There have been two publications in the past week or so that have struck me as profound evidence that the war on drugs is an utter failure. Let me say up front, I see addiction as a health issue.

The first report is from The National Academies and is a report titled, The growth of incarceration in the United States: Exploring causes and consequences.  It points out that the USA incarcerates more people than any other country in the world and that drug issues are the prime reason.  The report concludes:

The change in penal policy over the past four decades nay have had a wide range of unwanted social costs, and the magnitude of crime reduction benefits is highly uncertain (p.7)

The report also brings into question mandatory minimum sentences and long sentences. They note that incarceration is used when there are less intrusive and more beneficial options.  If imprisonment is not reducing crime, then why use it as the prime response pattern. Insanity is defined as doing the same thing over and over expecting different results.

The second report comes from the London School of Economics titled Ending the drug wars. It concludes:

The pursuit of a militarised and enforcement-led global ‘war on drugs’ strategy has produced enormous negative outcomes and collateral damage. These include mass incarceration in the US, highly repressive policies in Asia, vast corruption and political destabilisation in Afghanistan and West Africa, immense violence in Latin America, an HIV epidemic in Russia, an acute global shortage of pain medication and the propagation of systematic human rights abuses around the world. 

These reports tells us that, despite over 40 years of prohibition and interaction as the prime social policy approach for which literally billions of dollars have been spent, we have not been successful in even reducing the problem. The LSE report notes that prices have been falling while purity has been increasing.

What neither of these reports talk about directly is the impact that the prohibition approach has on children:

  1. When a parent is incarcerated, the child essentially loses the parent. When incarceration is for long periods, then the child must go through a grieving process that leaves the child with an emotional hole. As the Adverse Childhood Experiences research shows, incarceration of a parent has long term impacts;
  2. The child is more likely to exposed to violence when a parent has an active addiction as the parent must go through illegal channels;
  3. The family system lives in fear when the addiction is present but health resources are seriously underfunded;
  4. Incarcerating a parent is more likely to impact the child's economic survival;
  5. More chance of being brought into care
We also know that untreated addiction has long lasting impacts on a child. Thus, if we shift our focus to one where health resources are enhanced, then the impact on children will be more intact families and more present parents. As well, rehabilitation is likely to be much less expensive.

No comments:

Post a Comment