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Fourth Amendment

Essay by   •  November 30, 2010  •  2,241 Words (9 Pages)  •  1,771 Views

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DRUGS AND THE PRISON SYSTEM

The highest prison population in the world can be found in the United States. The United States has a higher incarceration rate than that of the former Soviet Union or South Africa. There are more people in prison than there are in some of the smaller states. This has been an on going issue in this country for some time. The national prison population has risen nearly 500 percent since 1972. This is far greater than the 28% rise in the national population during this time. The scale of imprisonment has come a long way since the institution was first introduced. There have been many changes in the system, but we still see many factors which seem to influence the increase in the prison population. One important factor can be the introduction of harsher laws such as the "three-strikes you're out law." Judges have become less lenient for women offenders as well as juveniles. Our courts are seeing more and more youthful drug dealers and abusers. This only adds to the large population that already exists within our prisons. We can find that most drug crime occurs due to economical obstacles, minority discrimination and the break out of various illegal/legal drugs. About 67 percent of convicted drug offenders were involved in either the trafficking or the manufacturing of illegal drugs. Research has shown that there is a strong link between substance abuse and criminal behavior. Offenders with a substance abuse problem commit a high percentage of violent crimes. Drug addicts commit more crimes while they are under the influence, some four to six times more than while they are sober. Offenders with active drug abuse problems are likely to continue their criminal behavior throughout their lives. It is clear that there is no easy solution to this country's drug problem. Throughout this paper we will examine the statistics of drug offenders and crime, drug abusers in the prison population, and investigate how the prisons deal with the issues of drugs in the prison system. We will also look at the success rate gained in the battle to stamp out drugs in prison by random and mandatory drug testing in our prison system. (Criminology Theory, Research and Policy - Gennaro F. Vito - Ronald M. Holmes)

During the 1980s, the war on crime was primarily focused on the war on drugs. In January 1985 there was only a 2% statistic which identified drug abuse as the most important problem facing the country, but by November 1989 that percentage had risen to 38%. Laws like RICO (Racketeer-Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) and CCE (Continuing Criminal Enterprise Act) came into effect and gave the government new powers to seize the personal property and assets of drug traffickers. Law enforcement agencies devoted a great deal of time and effort to drug eradication. Illegal drugs have been accused as the primary reason for the increasing crime rate in this country. Research evidence shows a strong link between substance abuse and criminal behavior. Offenders with a substance abuse problem commit a higher percentage of violent crimes and do so while under the influence. Some proposed solutions at this time included education, interdiction and treatment. The government started spending more money to educate and treat criminals with the intent of the non-violent offenders never going to prison.

The business of selling drugs is very lucrative. The underground economy in illegal drugs is worth billions of dollars each year. It appears that interdiction is ineffective in stopping the flow of drugs in society. Treatment seems to be a more effective method in reducing drug abuse and the crime that is associated with drugs. There needs to be a more balanced approach toward solving the problems of substance abuse and crime. The Dutch take the approach which features "flexible enforcement" that seeks to ensure drug users are not caused more harm by prosecution and imprisonment than by using drugs. Addicts are viewed as patients who cannot be helped by being put into jail. Arrest is reserved for traffickers and those associated with violent crimes because of drug use. This could decrease our prison populations and offer better treatment centers for substance abusers, but it would not deter the abuse of drugs. (Criminology Theory, Research and Policy-Gennaro F. Vito - Ronald M. Holmes)

Maryland's prisons, built to hold fewer than 12,180 inmates, are now vastly over-crowded and hold more than 19,799 prisoners. In every state there has been a massive emphasis on the imprisonment of drug offenders. The commissioner of Maryland's Department of Corrections estimates that at least 40% of those coming into Maryland's prison system are there due to drug activity. The strategy of trying to control drug use though imprisonment does not work. In contrast, taking one drug dealer off the street does not diminish the availability of drugs. As fast as one drug dealer moves out, another takes his place. As prison over-crowding increases, the states are looking to alternatives to incarceration. Some alternatives include the electronic home detention device, intense supervised probation and boot camps. These alternatives have merit in certain cases, but have not reduced the percentage of the prison population. Two periods in American history have seen such growth in this population, one is the present and the other was the era of alcohol prohibition. (www.bureauofjustice.com)

My brother is a correctional officer at the Maryland Correctional Institute in Hagerstown, Maryland and feels there are a substantial amount and a wide range of drugs being used in the prison system. The most heavily used drug is marijuana. It seems to be extensively used within the prison. It's more of a social drug and generally the prisoners use the drug at night in their cells when they call "lights out." There are also places outside the cell where drug use is taking place. Blind spots and exercise yards give the prisoners a degree of privacy so they can use or purchase drugs. Drugs have always been in prisons, but there are more hard drugs coming in. Heroin is easily available and widely used among prisoners. The other concern of drug use in prisons is the risk of HIV and Hepatitis B. Events within the prison, for example, sharing needles and unprotected sex have a direct bearing on the spread of the HIV virus within the prison systems.

Some of the officers feel that if you were not a drug user going into prison, you are certainly entering into an environment that will promote the use of drugs. Some start using drugs because they are bored or just want to fit in with

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