The State of New Jersey is funding several reforms in the name of abandoning the failed “war on drugs.” These reforms include forcing Drug Court (DC), funding re-entry services and retrofitting jails as treatment centers. There is only one problem; these reforms actually fund the “war on drugs.”
The key tenet of the “war on drugs” is criminalizing people who use drugs and stripping rights from them via arrest, incarceration and institutionalization. These “reforms” are all post-arrest, post-incarceration, and leave failed drug criminalization in tact.
This approach reinforces the belief that the criminal justice system is an appropriate institution for people with substance use disorders. The criminal justice system is a dangerous place and it consumes resources.
The FY 2016 State Budget proposes another $8.5 million to expand forced Drug Court to Monmouth County. The DC program cannot answer simple questions like how many people have died in the program or how many are there for marijuana use, meanwhile people suffering from heroin cannot get help in the community. In 2012, two thousand Monmouth County residents could not get treatment for substance use – making this is a dangerous appropriation.
At best this policy continues a hurtful cycle where people who need help cannot get it unless, or until, there is an arrest. At worst this is intentionally continuing the “war on drugs” which is a war on people. Stop arresting and forcing treatment, offer Help Not Handcuffs.