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.
By Rev. Alexander E. Sharp s we launch the website for Clergy for a New Drug Policy, perhaps I might be permitted a personal note. What do we intend with this project? Why do we think it is necessary? The main purpose would seem to end the so-called War on Drugs. We have spent over $1 trillion since 1970 to fight a failed war that has turned us into a prisoner nation, divided us by race, and failed to reduce drug use or availability. So, yes, ending the War on Drugs is what we are about. But there is a more fundamental purpose. We need to transform the culture of punishment that has afflicted our nation since its earliest days.
A January 2015 report by the Vera Institute of Justice entitled “End of an Era? The Impact of Drug Law Reform in New York City” examines the early implementation of 2009 reforms to the Rockefeller Drug Laws, finding both successes and areas to improve.
Sign this faith community letter to President Obama on the addiction crisis. Together, we can create a movement letting our nation know that addiction is preventable and treatable, that far too many of those affected have been incarcerated, and that people can and do get well. To learn more about this issue, visit our Take Action page on Harm Reduction.
Sign this online petition sponsored by The Foundation for AIDS Research to end the ban on the use of federal funds for syringe exchange programs. These programs prevent the spread of infectious diseases for drug users and help them get into treatment. To learn more about this issue, visited our Take Action page on Harm Reduction.