Diversion: The Quiet Revolution

rforan8 Diversion

By Rev. Alexander E. Sharp

There is a quiet but growing revolution in how we respond to drug addiction in this country.And it is starting in some places – would you believe it – with elected law enforcement officials and the police.

Diversion” is the technical word. The idea is to keep people out of the criminal justice system whenever possible. It makes no sense to recycle low-level, non-violent drug users off the streets, into jail, and back to the streets again, at huge public cost. This is foolish. When the user has serious mental health issues, it is downright immoral.

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HB 218 Marijuana Decriminalization Bill Passes Illinois Senate

sarahbest IL, Press Release, Uncategorized

On Thursday, the Illinois Senate approved a bill to remove criminal penalties for simple marijuana possession, replacing the threat of jail time, a criminal record, and a lifetime of collateral consequences with a $125 fine, similar to a ticket for a traffic offense. The measure, which was approved by the House of Representatives in April, will now be sent to Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) for his signature.

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Civil Sanctions Not Arrests in Illinois

rforan8 Collateral Consequences, Decriminalization, IL, Opinion

By Rev. Alexander E. Sharp, Project Director of Clergy for a New Drug Policy
The following letter is being distributed to all Illinois State Senators on Tuesday, May 19 in anticipation of a vote on HB 218.  Please call and urge their support. 

The Illinois State Senate will most likely vote this week on a bill to substitute civil sanctions – a fine, much like a traffic ticket – rather than criminal penalties for possession of very low levels of cannabis.   Why should this bill (HB 218) pass? Because it reflects the truth that arrests and jail are the wrong way to respond to those who use drugs. Punishment is not the answer.

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Needlessly Ruined Lives

rforan8 Collateral Consequences, Decriminalization

By Rev. Alexander E. Sharp

Last December, I travelled to Vermont to engage clergy in ending the War on Drugs. The Episcopal Bishop had generously agreed to convene a group of colleagues in his Burlington office. They listened politely and offered constructive responses as I outlined why treating drug use as a crime, rather than a health problem, is morally wrong.

When I mentioned that our current drug laws mean that individuals are “marked for life” – with barriers that keep them from ever getting jobs, housing, education and, if they are poor, public assistance and food stamps – the conversation jumped to a whole new level. “I didn’t know that,” the Bishop exclaimed. “We’ve got to educate people about this.”

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