Early this week the American Civil Liberties Union, alongside amfAR, Criminal Justice Policy Foundation, the Drug Policy Alliance, National Association of Social Workers, National Black Police Association and Physicians for Human Rights put together a conference of legal scholars, advocates, law enforcement officers and health expert to find a new approach to the war on drugs. The goal of the New Directions Conference was to find more effective ways of dealing with over-incarceration, drug treatment and prevention.
It’s a problem that is long overdue for a solution. Laura W. Murphy, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office summed up the crisis facing our criminal justice system. “Our jails are bursting at the seams with prisoners service massive sentences for non-violent first time offenses. Our judges have their hands unfairly tied by mandatory minimum sentencing and are forced to give one-size-fits-all sentences to individuals regardless of circumstance. It’s tragically clear that we need a new and effective drug policy that protects our citizens’ constitutional rights from overzealous, ineffective and misguided policy”.
The ACLU is not the only group asking Congress to take action. Last April members of the Department of Justice testified to Congress that it was time to end some of these practices. Congress has before it a proposal to revise specific mandatory minimums tied to crack cocaine offenses. The law currently penalizes five grams of crack as harshly as 500 grams of cocaine has been routinely attacked as racially biased and unnecessary. Were Congress to tackle this specific issue it would be the first and necessary step in creating some justice around our drug laws.
This is a cause Care2 members are passionate about. We’ve put together a petition, in connection with the Drug Policy Alliance, asking Congress to support the National Criminal Justice Commission Act of 2010–legislation that would create a bipartisan commission to fix America’s failed drug policies and broken criminal justice system. Sign the petition and send a message to Congress that it is time to start addressing drug use with reason and science rather than fear and misinformation.
photo courtesy via Foxtongue via Flickr