Presidential hopeful Mayor Pete Buttigieg intends to take prison out of the equation for people convicted of possession of drugs like heroin, meth, and cocaine.
In an interview that was held on Fox News Sunday, he believes that treatment is the only route that should be taken with those hemmed up on possession charges.
Buttigieg jumped into his rationale with a portion of his version of criminal justice reform with Chris Wallace recently, and the topic of prosecuting possession of drugs came up.
The South Bend, Indiana mayor indicated that if he were to become president, possession charges would no longer land someone in prison. While claiming that the “war on drugs” has failed, Buttigieg said the only remedy at this point is delivering treatment to those who are in possession of all sorts of narcotics.
Wallace asked the mayor the following:
“You not only want to decriminalize marijuana, you want to decriminalize all drug possession. You say that the better answer … is rather treatment, not incarceration.
But isn’t the fact that it’s illegal to have, possess meth and heroin, doesn’t that in some way — the fact that it’s illegal — act as a deterrent to actually trying it in the first place?”
Buttigeig responded with:
“Well, I think the main thing that we should focus on is distribution and the harm that’s done there. Yes, of course it’s important that it remain illegal.”
The back and forth continued briefly, as the host was confused at Buttigieg claiming that drug possession should remain illegal.
Wallace addressed the confusion by telling Buttigieg that his own website claims that he would “decriminalize” drug possession completely. When the bluff was called on the mayor, he responded with citing how everything else just hasn’t worked up to this point.
When he acknowledged that his campaign website did mention decriminalizing possession charges, he stated:
“The point is, not the legal niceties, the point is we have learned through 40 years of a failed war on drugs that criminalizing addiction doesn’t work. Not only that, the incarceration does more harm than the offense it’s intended to deal with.”
There’s so many issues and questions that could be levied at Buttigieg’s idea on addressing drug crime. What about criminal cases where someone is initially charged with higher crimes, and then signs a plea bargain that only lists “possession”?
Furthermore, what data suggests that delivered treatment programs are more successful than incarceration of drug possession offenders?
According to his own plan online, he aims to enact the following if elected:
“On the federal level, eliminate incarceration for drug possession, reduce sentences for other drug offenses and apply these reductions retroactively, and expunge past convictions.
Research shows that incarceration for drug offenses has no effect on drug misuse, drug arrests, or overdose deaths. In fact, some studies show that incarceration actually increases the rate of overdose deaths. We cannot incarcerate ourselves out of this public health problem.”
So, there’s truth to the mayor’s notion that there’s some studies that show jail or prison hasn’t been stellar in dealing with drug crime and offenses.
Yet, according to the American Addiction Centers, no one has been able to quantify if any rehab programs genuinely works in the long run either.
In fact, the AAC says that any touted success rates of rehab programs can’t be trusted at all:
“Since many treatment centers do not follow up with their patients, the “100 percent” success rate some cite only applies to those who complete the length of their stay.
Even those who boast a more modest “30 percent success rate” only draw that figure from the immediate sobriety rates after treatment, not from six months or three years down the road.”
Considering that many rehab facilities claim that they’re a success by only having someone complete their program – what exactly is the average program length for any given addiction?
According to Advanced Recovery Systems, you could be a success story anywhere from 4 days to a little over 4 months of treatment.
ARS showed that detox programs are on average only 4 days, whereas residential style treatment is around 16 days. Some of the longer programs like expanded residential treatment averages out at 90 days and outpatient treatment is typically 130 days.
Despite rehab programs originating in 1864, when they were called “sober houses”, we still can’t say if that works either or would be even better than jail or prison-time for drug offenders.
Not to mention, where there’s drug possession – there’s usually other crime too. The DOJ has been quite hip to that fact since the well-crafted study published in 1994 showed that where there’s drugs, there’s all sorts of other crimes being committed.
Case in point, while finding the magic cure for addiction would be great – keeping people off the street who use drugs like heroin, meth, and cocaine keeps drug fueled crimes from affecting the population. Clearly, Buttigieg hasn’t thought this one out very well.