The U.S. has a prison problem. This country has had a 790 percent increase, according to the Congressional Research Service, in the number of inmates entering the prison system. More specifically, the number of inmates jumped from 25,000 to 219,000 over the last 30 years.
Most of that jump is credited to the criminalization of drugs. As much as college students like to think of issues on a rights versus authority basis, like most libertarians, there is a clear rational solution to the issue that goes far beyond civil liberties.
The government should stop incriminating people for a victimless crime.
The cost is far too high. The price tag for housing an inmate varies from state to state. For example, in a report, “The Price of Prisons,” many states appropriated $31,307 for one inmate during the 2010 fiscal year. States like Connecticut, Washington and New York spend somewhere between $50,000 and $60,000 for a single inmate in a year.
The most frustrating part of this system is that the prisons don’t work. Recidivism is a serious problem. Those who commit a crime and are sent to jail are more likely to repeat that crime. Rehabilitation, which involves requiring a criminal to attend counseling rather than spend time with inmates who committed much more serious crimes than a drug offense is a much better approach.
This leads to the question, why do we have a “War on Drugs”?
The “War on Drugs,” after all, is a victimless war. The government only encourages more crime by making victimless criminals into violent individuals, controlled by a gang mentality and a completely unlawful environment. Our government should prevent people who truly don’t deserve jail time from ever stepping into a jail.
Our government should decriminalize all drugs. The Drug Enforcement Agency should not prosecute states like Colorado and Washington that just legalized drugs. The Constitution does not give the federal government the right to intrude on crimes committed on an individual, case by case basis.
The Tenth Amendment guarantees individual states have a say on issues not delegated by the U.S. Constitution. The government’s authority over drugs is not mentioned in the Constitution. Federal bureaucracies like the DEA must abide by the law instead of executive privilege.
Complete federal legalization of drugs is an imprudent solution, however. Legalization is a step too far for many states. The over-nationalization of drug enforcement laws is as wrong as the complete opposite. States should be able to legalize, and other states should be able to analyze whether legalization was right for the people.
Federalism allows for smart statecraft. Our government should allow states to do what they want and decriminalize nationally. It’s a matter of money and efficiency. It’s clear from the past week that the federal government is prone to oversight.
The Obama administration showed the public that it’s difficult to handle many agencies at the same time. The three scandals such as the Benghazi misinformation, the IRS issue with targeting conservative groups and the Department of Justice tapping the phones of the Associated Press reporters prove that the government is too bureaucratic.
There is no reason why drug enforcement should not fall under the same kind of criticism. The government should become more decentralized and respect the power of the states.