Clergy for a New Drug Policy opposes the harsh mandatory minimums that have radically increased the number of Americans in prison for non-violent offenses. We are excited to report that a bipartisan group of senators has crafted legislation that would reduce mandatory minimums. The Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2015 would help reverse the “tough on crime” policies that have dramatically increased the nation’s prison population and disproportionately incarcerated people of color.
On October 4, 2015, under the banner of UNITE TO FACE ADDICTION, over thousands individuals from around the world gathered on the National Mall in Washington, D. C. to shine a light on the addiction crisis in this country.
The rallying cry was: “Addiction is preventable and treatable. Far too many of those affected have been incarcerated. People can and do get well. For too long, a great majority of people connected to addiction have remained silent. The time is now to end that silence.”
CLERGY FOR A NEW DRUG POLICY (CNDP) joined over more than 450 organizations as participating partners. We look forward to supporting the agenda of Facing Addiction, the rally’s parent organization. Our goal must be adequate funding for treatment rather than stigmatizing and incarcerating those struggling with drug use.
By Rev. Alexander E. Sharp
So what happens when troops start questioning the assumptions of the war they signed up for? We’re seeing the answer now with the War on Drugs. This war is going to end because those on the front line realize that most of it doesn’t make any sense.
Nationally, an organization called Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) is dedicated to the proposition that the War on Drugs is a failure. Its speakers bureau of former police officers has been making this case across the country for over twelve years.
Now local voices are coming forward. Two months ago we wrote about the police chief of Gloucester, Massachusetts, who last winter experienced four deaths in his district due to heroin overdose within two months. He couldn’t take it anymore. He announced that if addicts needed help and came into his office, he would not arrest them. He would get them into treatment.
By Rev. Alexander E. Sharp
It’s not surprising that one of Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner’s first acts upon taking office almost a year ago was to create a special commission to help him reduce Illinois’ prison population by 25% within the next ten years.
Reducing prison costs has become a national issue transcending the deep divisions between political parties. In a politically gridlocked state, it is an area in which he might achieve something. With a $4 billion current-year budget deficit looming, the potential savings in reduced costs of incarceration could come in handy.
What are the prospects for real reform? Recent actions by the Governor raise serious doubts. Six months before the Commission is scheduled to produce his final report, he is blocking the kinds of changes essential to achieving its stated goals.
“Clergy for a New Drug Policy” seeks to mobilize clergy across faiths in opposition to the War on Drugs, and in support of treating drug use as a health issue, not a criminal one. Here Rabbi Elliot N. Dorff, Rector and Distinguished Service Professor of Philosophy at American Jewish University, presents a Jewish perspective on drug policy reform.