In 2010 the U.S federal government spent 15 billion dollars on the War on Drugs. This equals a rate of nearly 500 dollars per second and does not include state spending or housing costs for those jailed in this failed War. Despite all the money spent and harsh drug sentencing policies, drug use in America has been on the rise for several decades. With increased drug use comes increased drug related crime, increased HIV infections and of course the ever increasing costs involved in a war that simply cannot be won in the traditional sense. While it is true that the War on Drugs as a policy is fundamentally broken, there is currently a trend towards new types of policies which could offer more effective solutions.
The War on Drugs has created more problems than it has solved. While effectively filling our prisons over capacity, it does nothing to address the source of the problem leaving those incarcerated with the threat of going back soon after release. From 1980 to 1996, incarceration rates in America grew by 200 percent. The reasons for this appear to be dominated by drug offenses, which grew by ten times during this time frame. As a country we incarcerate people at an extremely high rate, the cost of which is neither cheap financially nor does generally lead to rehabilitation. In Alabama for fiscal year 2010 the annual total cost of state prisons ran a total of 462.5 million, with an average annual cost per prisoner of 17,285 dollars. The prison population in Alabama consisted of 51% serving time for non-violent and drug related offenses, and those numbers stay similar no matter where you look in the United States. With recidivism rates similar to other offenders, nearly 51.8% will return to prison within three years. This creates an continuing problem for which few solutions have been given by the current policy makers. (Blumstein)(The Price of Prisons)
HIV infection rates among IV drug users in countries with stricter drug policies are also tend to be higher. In America, a CDC study showed that nine percent of those IV drug users tested from urban areas had HIV. While these numbers are down since the 1990’s, American users are still four times as likely to contract HIV as British IV users and seven times more likely than Swiss users. There are still very few needle exchange programs operated in the United States, this lag behind other European countries is a major contributing factor to the higher infection rates in America. Since 2001, the number of new HIV infections reported among IV users in Portugal has dropped significantly every year. This is because of the easier acess to treatment and the drug education campaigns that are funded by the money once used to incarcerate and prosecute. (Steenhuysen) (Greenwald)
In stark contrast to these other countries, Portugal recently made drastic changes to its drug policies in an effort to curve its drug use epidemic and prison overcrowding. In 2001, Portugal introduced new policies that...