Thursday, March 6, 2008

Ludlow prison hangs himself: drug users should not be in jail!

Kevin J. Small of Westfield, Massachusetts hanged himself Tuesday at the Hampden County Correctional Center. Mr. Small's suicide was the third at the Ludlow facility in the last five years.

Don't blame the jail, though, at least according to spokesman Richard McCarthy: Mr. Small's unit wasn't overcrowded, rounds of his unit had been done every thirty minutes as required, and the screening given him at admission did not indicate he was suicidal.

Mr. Small was on the 14th day of a 90 day sentence for possession of drugs.

So much wrong with this picture it's hard to know where to start, but let's start with what should be obvious: drug addiction is not a criminal justice problem, it's a public health problem.

Pro-incarceration supporters point to a drop in violent crime as reason enough to continue with our current "get tough" policy.

But consider this:
  • 60% of federal prisoners are drug offenders.
  • Only 3% are violent offenders.
  • Drug offenders in country jails are not violent offenders.
  • It costs 15 times as much as treatment to run a drug addict through the criminal justice system to achieve the same reduction in costs to society.
  • Fewer than half of the more than five million drug users who desperately need treatment are able to get it. Drug Policy Alliance.

The United States now has the dubious distinction of incarcerating more of its citizens than any other country in the world-- one out of every 99.1 people for a grand total of 2,323,000 individuals. Are we really so much more rotten than the people in Chile, Russia, Pakistan, Switzerland, Turkey, Australia and the Philippines? Do we as a society really so lack imagination that this is the best we can come up with?
Photo by Still Burning.

1 comment:

Windyridge said...

Wow! 1 out of 99.1.
That's a pretty horrendous statistsic