A study conducted in the year 2002 revealed that the state of California alone spends at least $900 million every year for the maintenance of prisoners in its jails (Segura, 2009). According to Segura: “As states across the country confront historic budget shortfalls, more and more politicians are looking toward long-overdue criminal justice reform as a way to cut spending. ” The author refers to this change as the “silver lining to the economic crisis” (Segura). It was only last year that the Pew Center had reported that one in one-hundred Americans are behind bars.
However, politicians were unwilling at the time to take the need for prison reform seriously (Segura). America’s prisons are not only overcrowded but also “dysfunctional” (Segura). Now that the states of America realize how tremendous the scale of the economic crisis really is, at least Virginia, Michigan, and Kentucky are deliberating release of thousands of prisoners and “deep reforms” in the criminal justice system (Segura). Clearly, legalization of marijuana, a soft drug, should top the list of these reforms across the country.
The United States jails more individuals than any other place in the world, “perhaps half a million more than Communist China” (Kemp, 2000). It is not surprising, therefore, that American prisons are overcrowded. Illegal drugs are one of the six main reasons for people entering jails and prisons (“Prison and Prisoner Management”). In Canada, almost eighty percent of the people entering jails have a history of substance abuse (“Drugs in Correctional Facilities”). Statistics in other parts of the world are not quite dissimilar.
Thus, prison management is required to help drug-addicted inmates deal with the problem, whether the inmates are able to find drugs in prison or not. Programs that prison management is generally required to run in this context include counseling, psychotherapy, education, as well as medical treatment (“Prison and Prisoner Management;” “Treating drug users in prison,” 2003). As far as education is concerned, experts believe that jails and prisons must seek to teach diverse skills to prisoners so as to divert their attention from drugs (“Prison and Prisoner Management”).
Leisure activities are understood to have a similar effect on inmates (Uchtenhagen). But, jails and prisons do not always stop people from using drugs (“Treating drug users in prison”). Hence, prison management must allocate resources not only to meet the healthcare and educational needs of drug-addicted inmates, but also to stop the supply of drugs into jails and prisons. It is believed that the need for drugs increases among drug-addicted inmates because of the stress that they experience in the prison environment (Uchtenhagen).
If drugs are trafficked into jails, some of the inmates who mildly abused drugs before entering jail may turn to severe abuse. Likewise, inmates with no history of drug use may turn to drug abuse as a method of coping with stress. Therefore, prison management must also consider allocating resources to routine urinal analyses of all inmates with or without a history of drug use (“Managing Drugs in Prison”). Then again, jails and prisons do not have the resources available at present to perform all of the above mentioned tasks to stop drug trafficking.
Since marijuana is a soft drug, one of the ways to reform the criminal justice system at present is to legalize the drug. This would not only resolve the issue of overcrowding facing the prisons of United States today, but also lower the high cost of prison management across the country. Moreover, the new law would be a deterrence to drug addiction. After all, those who enjoy marijuana as a soft drug would not have to experience stress in jails that increases their need for the drug if the law of the land were to grant them perfect liberty to use it mildly.
The example of the Netherlands shows it is possible to trust marijuana users as law abiding citizens. Thus, marijuana must most certainly be legalized. References Drugs in Correctional Facilities: A Dangerous Situation. Correctional Services Canada. Retrieved Mar 17, 2009, from http://www. csc-scc. gc. ca/text/pblct/drg/drugsGuide_e. pdf. Kemp, R. B. (2000, Mar).
The U. S. Penal System: Restorative and/or Retributive Justice. Woodstock Report. Retrieved Mar 17, 2009, from http://woodstock.georgetown. edu/publications/report/r-fea61a. htm. Managing Drugs in Prison. Government of Western Australia. Retrieved Mar 17, 2009, from http://www. correctiveservices. wa. gov. au/_files/Drugs_in_prisons. pdf. Prison and Prisoner Management. Government of South Australia: Department for Correctional Services. . Retrieved Mar 17, 2009, from http://www. corrections. sa. gov. au/prisons/. Segura, L. (2009, Jan 22). A Silver Lining to the Economic Crisis: Less Money for Prisons. Alternet.
Retrieved Mar 17, 2009, from http://www. geocities. com/three_strikes_legal/prison_reform_articles. htm. Treating drug users in prison – a critical area for health promotion and crime reduction policy. (2003, Jan-Feb). Drugs in Focus. Retrieved Mar 17, 2009, from http://www. emcdda. europa. eu/attachements. cfm/att_33706_EN_Dif07en. pdf. Uchtenhagen, A. Drug Prevention Outside and Inside Prison Walls. Retrieved Mar 17, 2009, from http://www. drugtext. org/library/articles/97817. htm.