Column by J1 Reporter Jordan Moser
Your sister has a drug addiction. Your sister has gone missing. Your sister is in jail.
I’ve had every single one of these sentences said to me. I vividly remember getting pulled out of school only to be told that she hadn’t been heard from for two days. That she was in jail. The hours of crying that ensued, just wanting her to be okay.
I’ll be honest, I was angry in the beginning. I was asking myself things like how could she get involved with drugs, how could she do this to our family? That was until I remembered that addiction is a disease and like any disease, it needs treatment.
The criminalization of addicts prevents this treatment. The only thing criminalizing an addict does is perpetuate the cycle of addiction.
Think about the American prison system for a minute. It is not the best compared to other countries, such as Norway who has the lowest recidivism rate in the world. Once a prisoner leaves a Norwegian correctional facility, they’re more likely to stay out. In the United States, it’s the opposite. Many prisoners end up returning to a correctional facility within five years.
The American prison system is faulty because of this, but especially when it’s addicts behind the bars. The facilities are not capable of rehabilitation and providing treatment. If they were, we wouldn’t have a severe opioid epidemic. The state of Oregon realized this and took matters into their own hands.
On Election Day 2020, Oregon voters decided to decriminalize possession of hard drugs. This doesn’t make the possession and use of drugs legal, but fines addicts instead of arresting them. Although controversial, it is a step in the right direction. More funding is also going towards rehabilitation centers and treatment services to give addicts a way out of the cycle.
If other states don’t adopt this initiative, the cycle will continue. The more an addict is arrested and put into prison for however long, the more their record grows. It gets harder and harder to find a job. It gets to the point where the hole becomes too deep and the dirt starts falling in.
I know what it’s like to worry for a loved one, to want them to climb out of the hole. With the right steps, an addict can make it, but that can only happen if states take those steps with them. It’s time to end the burying of addicts.