President Obama commuted the sentences of 8 Americans as part of an effort to commensurate the great differences in the criminal justice system. As New Hope Recovery Center discussed previously in America's Failed Drug Policy, crack cocaine and powder cocaine held dramatically different sentences, while both substances were harmful and illegal and were essentially the same drug but were different in form. If these offenders were charged with having powder cocaine they would have a much lessor sentence. The law was changed in 2010 to remove these drastic differences, but for those who are already locked up, the change had no meaning as they were sentenced when the law did not stand. Although 8 offenders is a very small amount of people compared to the thousands are that still unjustly incarcerated, we are happy to see any type of movement in the right direction.

The House I Live In is a documentary that points out the many flaws in the United States' "War on Drugs." Most importantly it points out that criminalizing drug users and incarcerating them is not going to help us win the "War on Drugs." The United States has put money towards more prisons (which has become an extremely lucrative business for the private prison systems), bonuses and paid overtime for police enforcement that make arrests related to drugs, and spends little money on education, treatment, and early intervention practices. The House I Live in also shines a light on the unique laws that were put in place for each substance, from marijuana to heroin. It also provides information about what drugs specific races were more likely to use and how the races were treated differently by the criminal justice system.

This year another movie came out called The Anonymous People. This film also provided evidence that the United States needs to change its current methods in trying to fight the "War on Drugs."  It also proved to be a great way to inform people that alcoholics and addicts are not criminals who need to be put in jail to get "fixed." Alcoholics and Drug Addicts need treatment, therapy, support, and fellowship to gain sobriety. These resources cost significantly less than it does to incarcerate someone for years. Incarceration is useful at times, but when non violent offenders are getting numerous years without the chance of getting treatment and help, its useless. We are not treating alcoholism and drug addiction like the disease it is, we are only criminalizing it.

Some interesting facts about the War on Drugs provided by The House I Live In:

1. The U.S. incarcerates more people than any country in the world – both per capita and in terms of total people behind bars. The U.S. has less than 5 percent of the world’s population, yet it has almost 25 percent of the world’s incarcerated population.

2. 1 in every 8 state employees work for a corrections agency.

3. It costs an average of $78.95 per day to keep an inmate locked up, more than 20 times the cost of a day on probation.

4. Even though White and Black people use drugs at approximately equal rates, Black people are 10.1 times more likely to be sent to prison for drug offenses. Today, Black Americans represent 56% of those incarcerated for drug crimes, even though they comprise only 13% of the U.S. Population.

New Hope Recovery Center is located in Chicago, IL. If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, please call New Hope Recovery Center to find out how you can get help or help a loved one. You may also email at Call us at 773.883.3916.

Written by: New Hope Recovery Center