It’s time to make peace with the longest-running war in our society today. How can our society be aware of such a problem, have access to resources, yet still implement punishment over treatment? When comparing treatment versus punishment, it is evident that treatment saves money and lives while punishment most often creates a cycle of repeated abuse and incarceration.

Substance abuse is not a war to be won – it’s a reality that it’s time we face. The war on drugs has been going on for 105 years (with the passage of the Harrison Narcotics Tax Act). In that time we have seen drug availability, drug use, overdose rates, incarceration for drug crimes and costs to American taxpayers increase. So what exactly have we done in this war but be defeated time and time again? The cost to provide treatment over punishment is significantly less and has a much greater effect in reducing an individual’s chance of re-entering the criminal justice system and overcoming substance abuse.

There is a bill before the Legislature, L.D. 1492, to reform drug sentencing laws. This bill would reduce or eliminate sentences for some individuals convicted of drug possession or furnishing and ultimately reduce the cost to taxpayers. The current sentencing for drug offenses often does not fit the crime and only creates a path to future incarceration. It’s time to ask ourselves what we as a society can do differently to fight this war, and realize that incarceration has done nothing.

Kayla Bailey

New Gloucester

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