Thursday, April 25, 2013

Prison governors agree that the war on drugs isn't working

The 'war on drugs' is not only destroying thousands of lives in countries around the world, it's also costing UK taxpayers money by packing full our prisons.  The origins of prohibition (in America at least) were founded on good old fashioned racism, partly to drive minorities back south of the border, so not for public protection as is often assumed.

Today the Prison Governors Association (PGA) added their voice to the growing call for a major rethink on drug laws.  The last 100 years of drug prohibition have done a LOT of damage, and there may not be an answer to the drug problem, but this problem was in no doubt partly exacerbated by prohibition fulled scarcity.  Making drugs illegal has made a lot of criminals rich, and a lot of drug users very dead.  The current drug laws have also made criminals out of many who otherwise may have led law-abiding lives:

"PGA president Eoin McLennan-Murray said it believed "a substantial segment of the prison population have been convicted of low-level acquisitive crimes simply to fund addiction".

"The current war on drugs is successful in creating further victims of acquisitive crime, increasing cost to the taxpayer to accommodate a higher prison population and allowing criminals to control and profit from the sale and distribution of Class A drugs," he said."

A common response from law-makers is that 'drugs are illegal because they are dangerous', which is in no doubt, but it's interesting to see the PGA that current laws may also be doing some financial damage.

Some countries are showing the world that there might be another way forward.  The path has been far from smooth, but in the ten years since Portugal decriminalised all drugs there are been some interesting developments:

“There is no doubt that the phenomenon of addiction is in decline in Portugal,” said Joao Goulao, President of the Institute of Drugs and Drugs Addiction, a press conference to mark the 10th anniversary of the law.

The number of addicts considered “problematic” — those who repeatedly use “hard” drugs and intravenous users — had fallen by half since the early 1990s, when the figure was estimated at around 100,000 people, Goulao said."

So why are we still fighting this un-winnable war?  Who is really profiting here?  What is the real motivation and when will our government be brave enough to radically change drug policy?  Hell, when will they be brave enough to even talk about it without coming across like patronising Victorian governesses?

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