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'Toward a policy on drugs' by Elliott Currie - Essay Example

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The assigned essay is entitled "Toward a Policy on Drugs," written by Elliott Currie, a lecturer in the Legal Studies Program at the University of California in Berkeley, and vice chairperson of the Eisenhower Foundation in Washington, D.C. …
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Toward a policy on drugs by Elliott Currie
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a call for a new approach to fighting the drug crisis: a critical essay on elliott currie's "toward a policy on drugs" The assigned essay is en d "Toward a Policy on Drugs," written by Elliott Currie, a lecturer in the Legal Studies Program at the University of California in Berkeley, and vice chairperson of the Eisenhower Foundation in Washington, D.C. This essay first appears in the journal Dissent in 1993, and is a modification of the first chapter of Mr. Currie's book, Reckoning: Drugs, the Cities, and the American Future, also published in 1993.
In the essay, Mr. Currie talks about the need "to shift from an approach in which discouraging drug use through punishment and fear takes central place to one that emphasizes three different principles: the reintegration of drug abusers into productive life, the reduction of harm, and the promotion of community safety" (636). Mr. Currie says that there is a limit to the effects of the criminal-justice system on the drug crisis.
Mr. Currie's purpose for writing this essay is to call for the decriminalization of drug use. While he recognizes that such an act will not truly end the drug crisis, it will bring down "the irrationality and inhumanity of our present punitive war on drugs" (640). He hopes to enlighten his readers by giving them all the sides surrounding the debate on the drug crisis and the weaknesses inherent on each side. And by presenting to them these weaknesses, Mr. Currie hopes to persuade them that a more humane treatment is needed to address the drug crisis.
Mr. Currie probably addresses this essay to his peers in the academe, which can be inferred from the fact that it was first published in a journal. It is also possible that he also intends to share his views on the policies relating to controlling the drug crisis to politicians and policy makers who are involved in the debate surrounding this concern. The simplicity of the way the essay is written, however, makes it easy for a layman reader to understand what he is talking about.
The debates held over the problem surrounding the drug use crisis, says Mr. Currie, have not taken into consideration the social realities surrounding drug abuse. According to Mr. Currie, there are two sides to this debate. One side of the debate claims that harsher sentences should be imposed upon those convicted of dealing with and using drugs. However, Mr. Currie argues that the essential weakness of this approach is that it "would dramatically increase the social costs that an overreliance on punishment has already brought" (637).
Why would putting more zeal into catching drug dealers and drug pushers and placing them behind bars fail The main reason Mr. Currie gives in his essay is that the number of hardcore drug users alone is huge. "[T]he pool of serious addicts and active dealers is far, far larger than the numbers we now hold in prison," says Mr. Currie, "even in the midst of an unprecedented incarceration binge that has made us far and away the world's leader in imprisonment rates" (638).
The other side of the debate, on the other hand, involves a form of legalizing drug use. One form is to fully deregulate the sale and use of drugs; another is controlled dissemination for medical purposes, wherein hardcore drugs will be made available only through pharmacies and clinics. A third form is the decriminalization of drug use, where the production and sale of drugs will still be considered a crime, but not its usage.
Why is decriminalization of drug use seen as more effective than incarceration or deregulation Mr. Currie cites that the social strata most vulnerable to drug abuse is among the poor and the near-poor, where "offsetting measures like education and drug treatment are the least effective and where the countervailing social supports and opportunities are least strong" (644-645). As stated above, the sheer number of people who have succumbed to drug addiction is far too large for incarceration to address the problem properly. Mr. Currie points out that the inmates of correctional facilities who were convicted of non-drug crimes can also be drug users themselves. Also, there are studies showing that while there is indeed a relationship between drug use and crime, it does not automatically translate that a person addicted to drugs will be lead to committing criminal acts. In fact, the same studies show that drug users who were involved in such activities started on that path before they were introduced to drugs.
As for deregulation of drugs, Mr. Currie says that legalization of drugs will lead to increased availability, and therefore to increased consumption. Increased consumption will only worsen the plight of those living in areas where drug abuse is endemic.
What can be noted in reading the essay is that Mr. Currie does not truly posit much detail in defense of his call for decriminalization of drug abuse. What he has done is to present other means of addressing the problem and then explain why this means will not work. As it is, his essay is indeed convincing, but it would be more thus if he had also given more detail in his explanation of why decriminalization is the best policy to implement.
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Currie, Elliott. "Toward a Policy on Drugs." [name of the book] Publisher: Place of Publication, Date. 636-645. Read More
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