Nation Is One With Finite Resources Research Paper

Pages: 12 (3640 words)  ·  Style: APA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 12  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Sports - Drugs

¶ … nation is one with finite resources. In the midst of our current economic recession, every tax dollar spent counts. This leads one to wonder why so much money is spent incarcerating low-level and nonviolent drug offenders, who essentially need medical treatment above criminal punitive punishment. In today's judicial system, drug offenders are treated like criminals, and not the addicts and medical patients that they are. Our nation is dead bent on a war with drugs, physically forcing these addicts out of their addiction. However, "Getting tough on drugs may be good politics but inefficient public policy," (Kim et al. 1993:174). Typical solutions tend to gravitate towards either harsh criminal punishments or an increase in drug awareness education, both have their own successes and failures, (Kay 2002). In today's unstable economy, it is clear that changes must be made, not only for the physical and mental health of the addicts themselves, but also for the general taxpayer who is forced to foot the bill of their incarceration.

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Our nation's prisons are filled to the brim, many way overcrowded, many with drug offenders. After the drug induced days of the rebellious 1960s a wave of reformist laws swept over the nation. Much of the legislation passed during the 1970s and 1980s was aimed to stop a new war America had just declared -- the war on drugs. Today, almost half a million of our nation's inmates are incarcerated for drug related crimes (Drug War Chronicle 2008). These offenders take up over one-fifth of the prison space allocated here within the United States (Washington Post 1994). This enforced the idea that drug abuse was a crime, and that the drug user was nothing better than a common criminal. Little attention was turned to the concept that drug abuse was in fact, actually a disease. What resulted from this new war on drugs was "a noticeably disproportionate increase in our prison population over the past three decades" spurred by the "jailing of low-level nonviolent drug offenders who not previously have been incarcerated," (McCormick 2000:508). Offenders receive sentencing based on the nature of the drug they were charged with possession of. The Controlled Substance Act established a tier system which placed various illicit drugs in a hierarchy based on their presumed danger to the body and society. Heroine and crack cocaine, for instance, are one of the most illicit drugs -- and therefore hold greater prison time in sentencing, (Kay 2003). However, what this system fails to realize is that the harder the drug, the greater the addiction and the more the addict needs help to come clean. Harsher prison sentences for harsher drugs do little more but seal the fate of the addict turned criminal.

Drug abuse is a disease. However, using incarceration as punishment for drug possession is not acknowledging such; "the state views discrete incidents of detected possession not as manifestations of an over-arching addiction, but as isolated crimes deserving punishment," (Armstrong 2003:133). This view fails to secure the proper treatment addicts need as true medical patients. Rather than be medically treated as any other individual suffering from a potentially life threatening disease would be, they are thrown in jail for extensive periods of time with little or no support or programs to help them get clean, (Nadelmann 2007). This type of treatment will only lead the addicts to revert to their addictive behavior once back into the real world, leading to high levels of recidivism and suffering on behalf of the addicts themselves.

In many cases, the public is greatly swayed by the promises of politicians stating that they have a real solution to the drug problem through heightened punishments. However, increasing punishments and cracking down only presents media coverage, and not a true solution of the problem. Yes, it is true that many drug offenders do participate in other crimes; however, studies show that they are generally related "to participation in the drug market," (Kim et al. 1993:174). However, once in jail, many potentially harmless addicts are exposed to a greater world of crime and abuse which proves to only doom their future success in the real world.

It also opens them up to other criminal endeavors which they may not have been exposed to if directed towards treatment or other more viable solutions. Overall, prison is no place for a recovering addict.

Imprisoning drug offenders costs the state billions of dollars annually. Both federal and state budgets are strained by the costs of housing and feeding the average 50,000 to 80,000 new inmates coming into our prison systems annually, (McCormick 2000). Entering into an already overcrowded prison system means that more and more funds must be allocated to caring, housing, and providing medical care for the thousands of inmates across America. What are these costs? Research states that the average cost for caring for an adult inmate within a year can range between $25,000 to $70,000 -- almost the average household income per year (McCormick 2000).

Since the 1980's, there has been an increased push to provide treatment for inmates with drug problems. Such treatments include practices such as assessments, support groups, drug education, group counseling, methadone maintenance, and therapeutic communities, (Lemieux 2002). However, the length an inmate spends within these treatments greatly affects the outcome, (Lemieux 2002). Yet, prison sentences have nothing correlated with necessary treatment durations. The end of a prison sentence ay come abruptly and much too early to provide a successful result with the inmate clean and off drugs. Prison sentencing has made no changes in order accommodate inmates with substance abuse problems, leaving many researchers to question the viability of prison funded treatments all together.

Overall, the research is clear -- the current punitive punishment system in place is ill-equip and inefficient to truly fight the war on drugs. In order to establish a more relevant and effective solution, this nation needs to look at the addict not as a criminal, but as a patient in need. Until we re-evaluate how we think of drug addiction, it will continue to cost millions of dollars to the average tax payer.


The disease of drug abuse does not align with the degree of punishment incurred by drug offenders. If any other disease was met with punishment, the tax payer would refuse to foot the bill. The symptoms of drug addiction happen to be vastly different from any other form of disease, but should not be discounted as a true medical condition warranting true medical treatment. Punitive punishment only worsens the case of the addict, both physically and mentally.

Prison does not provide the necessary elements to help an addict out of his or her addiction. According to much research, "The literature suggests that inmates with substance abuse problems have alienated their loved ones and are subsequently isolated from everyone except fellow addicts and criminals," (Lemieux 2002:41). Only one third of prisoners with drug abuse problems are enrolled into a substance abuse program while incarcerated, (Limiuex 2002). Although many prisons across the nation have begun to offer more treatments for inmates, there are limited funds and availability. There are also limited success stories coming out of prison drug programs for a variety of reasons. One is the idea that these programs are ill-equip and insufficient to deal with the entire scope of the mental needs of a drug addict, "Substance abuse and mental health problems have been shown to occur with high frequency among offenders, but the co-occurrence of these conditions is not well understood and treatment often fails to respond to multiple problems effectively," (Johnson 2006:190). In many cases, the mental health problems which either stem from drug abuse or drove the individual to drug abuse are largely ignored, leaving a greater potential to relapse into drug abuse and recidivate back into the state or federal judicial system.

Based on the prison system's inability to truly address the real problem of drug abuse and drug addiction, large numbers of drug offenders seem bound to return to prison based on the potential to fall once again into the depths of their drug use. A prisoner's inability to adjust to the outside world leads in many cases to the return to old criminal habits. When once again caught they are bound to return to prison; this is a phenomenon known as recidivism. In the case of drug offenders, many are more likely to recidivate due to the nature of their crimes, which is essentially a disease, (Kim et al. 1993).

Police crackdown on drug offenders is shown to help deter recidivism. However, in areas which public policy has dictated a stronger police presence and attention towards cracking down on drug offenders show a much higher increase in recidivism; "the probability of recidivism among drug offenders rises when they are released to a county that allocates more of its police resources to arresting drug offenders," (Kim et al. 1993:173). In many cases, states enact mandatory minimum penalties for possession and distribution cases. This means… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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Nation Is One With Finite Resources.  (2009, July 20).  Retrieved July 7, 2020, from

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"Nation Is One With Finite Resources."  July 20, 2009.  Accessed July 7, 2020.