Saturday, October 31, 2015

Demographics, crime, punishment and heroin--the changing war on drugs

According to the NYT and other sources:
"When the nation’s long-running war against drugs was defined by the crack epidemic and based in poor, predominantly black urban areas, the public response was defined by zero tolerance and stiff prison sentences. But today’s heroin crisis is different. While heroin use has climbed among all demographic groups, it has skyrocketed among whites; nearly 90 percent of those who tried heroin for the first time in the last decade were white."  Now that more affluent and influential people are being affected,  the tune has changed.

"And the growing army of families of those lost to heroin — many of them in the suburbs and small towns — are now using their influence, anger and grief to cushion the country’s approach to drugs, from altering the language around addiction to prodding government to treat it not as a crime, but as a disease."
“Because the demographic of people affected are more white, more middle class, these are parents who are empowered,” said Michael Botticelli, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, better known as the nation’s drug czar. “They know how to call a legislator, they know how to get angry with their insurance company, they know how to advocate. They have been so instrumental in changing the conversation.”
One of the sad things about many people is that they don't care about issues that have great consequences for others until they themselves are affected.  When those effected have few resources, change is unlikely.  When those affected have greater resources, change starts.  Although the problem may have racial, ethnic and religious roots, resources is the difference.  We all know that resources are not equally distributed across racial, ethnic and religious groups.  I'm not calling for the elimination of economic inequality, just a greater concern for others who are less affluent.  Reducing long sentences for non-violent, small-quantity offenders is a step in the right direction, but we need to keep looking at these issues.

If like me, you sometimes have difficulty with "affected" vs. "effected." see this site.

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