Article Provided by Elon Berk
Mark Leno, the Democratic lawmaker from San Francisco, recently passed a new law meant to ease overcrowding in prisons. It’s expected to save about $2 billion each year for ten years, and there’s a hefty campaign arguing that it will release drug dealers and users back onto the streets.
What dangers does the public face?
The central question is this: do long-term sentences deter drug users? There are two arguments involved here:
- Long term sentences act as a scare tactic to younger potential offenders, who see the risk of addiction as well as their lives on the line.
- Long term sentences keep users away from drugs, and they won’t want to go back when released.
The first argument relies on the idea that kids have the foresight to consider long-term sentencing as a deterrent. Some do, but this idea is questionable. Kids have shown themselves to be both impulsive and resourceful, implying addictive tendencies can fuel violent behavior.
If discipline in the home is not a deterrent, why would prison have a different effect?
This plays into the second argument: the user will be away from the drug, and in a harsh punishment that will teach him or her discipline and fix the problem. Except those same prisoners are released without employment, sometimes having cut family ties and in exactly the same situation as when they were picked up.
California needs to do more to educate and treat patients of addiction. These prisoners are breaking the law because of a disease that drives their behavior. Doing less is akin to throwing money at the problem.