2 votes
Jul 12, 2015

I say yes. But I think low-level drug offences should have a different sentence (conform the 'crime-severity' idea), not necessarily a shorter one. I'm not sure a fine will be enough (as a punishment, it will <- since it will leave them less able to obtain more drugs) to change the offender for the better. Maybe add some community service (would make it more complex because of (bureaucratic) check-ups, but it's literally a better environment than prison), although dealers should face harsher sentences than private users.

There is no such thing as victimless crimes.

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2 votes,
Jul 24, 2015

With the last sentence in my former comment I was venting some personal frustration about ongoing glorification and romanticisation of drug (ab)use (e.g. "naughty boys", "rule-breaking", "sensation seeking" & "mind expanding" vs. mind deterioration, self-harm, depression and other party-pooping realities). I see this constant play-down of drug addiction (either soft or hard) as a form of cognitive dissonance created by a large population (loudmouths and tag-alongs) of people who feel uncomfortable about the subject or want to justify experimenting with it (after the event), but have little to no experience with actual addiction/drug abuse or haven't learned from it - despite valiant efforts from the movie industry. Bear in mind that people who don't do drugs can still have an unpositive opinion (not to be confused with judgement) of it.

A non-violent crime is not the same thing as a victimless crime. This is an arguably irrelevant but persistent distinction that has to be made, since the latter term is being used to absolve but not condemn certain acts. Breaking into an empty house is still violent, committing fraude does yield victims. In my mind, being arrested for the possession of drugs is an intervention, based on the idea that using drugs is a step closer towards committing a crime (than being clean). Drugs influence you. To deny this, is to deny that wearing an extra sweater makes you feel warmer.

This discussion isn't about whether - before putting on the extra sweater (short-term solution) because you felt cold (the problem) - you came up (intelligence) with the possibility (chance) to first close the open freezer (direct cause of feeling cold) in an already drafty house (the underlying problem), or were willing (mental state) to do so in the first place; it's also not about whether you should (what society dictates) or could (overcoming anxiety/swallowing pride) or ask for help (social support) when you were unable (understanding the problem, but feeling/actually being powerless about it) to deal with the source of the problem by yourself (not even talking about whether feeling cold in general is worse than having a freezer that can't close, or whether a freezer is bad and a fridge is more or less okay, or being without a fridge or freezer yet still feel cold - because you're homeless); this discussion is about whether in your opinion, it's the specific amount of time (of being separated from the sweater and the drafty house) that will keep you from wearing the extra sweater once you return home, after staying away from the drafty house (without changing its conditions) for a shorter as opposed to a longer period. <- you can answer with "yes" or "no"

So apparently drug courts [1] exist; this added information alters my standpoint in this discussion (or at least my view on the subject) somewhat, but not fundamentally.

Several sources indicate the effectiveness (measured by "cost variance" (spending more/less on a project than the budget predicted [2]) and redicivism rates per state) of such an intervention program/corrective system, which renders (long) prison sentences for low-level drug offenders a bit obsolete as "drug courts can help reduce the human toll of mass incarceration" [3][4][5].

Some relevant conclusions are:

  • The prison population has expanded, as has the annual cost per incarcerated person
  • Recidivism (in the form of re-arrests, re-incarceration and resumed drug-use) is high (95%) for ex-convicted drug users (level of drug offence not mentioned)
  • In contrast, recidivism rates are lower for those who are assigned to a drug court intervention program
  • Despite relative success, drug courts "have made a surprisingly small contribution to the crime reduction that has occurred over the past twenty years" (an average of 50 clients per year). This can be attributed to the current threshold/eligibility criterium that is set for higher level drug offences compared to the low ones, which (I suppose) are less numerous(?)
  • Heavy users guilty of low-level/minor crimes end up in jail or prison, regardless of the severity of their offence (compared to users of softdrugs)
  • Bluntly said, drug courts cost more than traditional probation and less than incarceration, while being more effective (i.e. showing a higher compliance rate combined with reduced recidivism) than either (or other) type of treatment
  • More drug courts are needed
Some critical side notes are:
  • The drug courts' impact on recidivism varies by year
  • More conclusive evidence needed to research on recidivism rates as current methodologies are not exempted from bias
  • More conclusive evidence needed to determine cost variance (costs-benefit analysis)
  • Drug court policies vary by state (and country)
This still supports my initial opinion that low-level offenders should receive an altogether 'different' sentence than longer or shorter jail-time, as the rate of drug use among criminals is not improved by spending time in prison.

Due to the addictive nature of the imbibed, inhaled or injected substance, I don't think a fine is enough to help a (low-level) drug offender beat their addiction, break their vicious circle and improve their life; but a drug court program (pre- or postcrime <- still unsure if a 'low-level drug offence' means that the person is arrested for using less-stronger drugs as opposed to stronger drugs, or committing a low-level offence while under influence regardless of how influencial the drug) might be.

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