It’s Time to Stop Punishing those with Mental and Substance use Disorders.
Prison populations in the United States have been growing since the 70s. Today we have over 6.8 million people under correctional supervision, about 2.2 million are incarcerated and 4.6 million are under community supervision probation and parole. War on drugs, mandatory sentencing, three- strikes laws, and zero tolerances by the police are few of the policies that contributed to the prison population growth. .
In recent years, there are several steps taken to stop mass incarceration and to reduce its collateral consequences. Recent legislation reducing the sentencing disparity between the use and distribution of crack versus powder cocaine in California, Missouri, and at the federal level are examples of efforts to tackle sentencing inequalities. Reclassifying low level offenses from felonies to misdemeanors will lower prison time; and eliminates felony records that prevent employment, housing and other services. There are nationwide efforts to reform mandatory sentencing and abolish three strikes laws to reduce prison population. The reform efforts are few and far between, communities cannot wait till legislature’s makeup their minds. We need to start fighting for our children, brothers and sisters that are stuck in the criminal justice due to addiction or mental health problems.