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When It Comes to Drug Addicts, a Tough Approach May Not Be The Right One


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I sat in the living room of my Grandmother’s house. The house was anything but clean; the hard hours of cleaning my Grandma put herself through were overshadowed by the roaches crawling through the walls, the rats hiding in the crevices of the house, and the pale-blue tint of the pee-stained carpet whose smell engulfed the small structure of the house. My family had decided to get together for a small reunion, so the compact household was filled with at least 20 people, all inside different rooms catching up on whatever had developed in their lives. Spanish dialects in the Mexican and Salvadoran tongue echoed through the house, as food was being wrapped up in the kitchen to be distributed between every visitor.

I sat in the living room with the rest of the kids who were too young to hold a conversation, but too old to run around outside. We watched episodes of The Walking Dead, trying to find the perfect volume to drown out our family, while still maintaining a level of respect for the fun going on through the house. My Grandma rummaged through the circle of people in the kitchen to get to me, and she arrived in front of me carrying a plate of food, wrapped up in tinfoil. She quietly asked me to do her a favor; to go to the back of the house, a separate room, and give my Uncle the plate of food so that he could eat a little bit.

I took the small walk to the back of the house and knocked on the door, trying to get in and get out as fast as I possibly could. I knocked again, and again, and again, and continued for nearly 10 minutes. When I realized he wasn’t coming to the door, I left the plate of food on the floor and walked back to the party. I had a sinking feeling in my chest that he could quite possibly be dead inside that room, but I didn’t check because I was used to getting that feeling from him. Inside the room I was knocking on was an incapacitated man, high off of a wide mix of drugs-whatever he could afford. There laid a man who I grew up with like an older brother, who taught me how to fight, who taught me how to ride a skateboard, who picked me up from school when I was sick, who was willing to fight and die for me, and I walked away from him because I saw him as a weak drug-addict.

There my Uncle laid, in his unmade bed, wearing only underwear. His hand slumped over the edge of the bed, revealing an elongated pinky finger.

The room he inhabits is a vivid representation of what he has become as a human being. He is unable to leave his bed, too high to even move, too high to really feel anything. He does this so regularly that he has no time to clean himself up, or his room. He has gone months without a shower, so his aroma can carry out through rooms. On the floor of his room lies food, tissues, and toilet paper. And in the corner are his jeans filled with excrement because he can’t make it to the bathroom because of how high he is.

His pain is greater than anything a functional person can comprehend. His father left when he was young, his mother abused him, his siblings abused him, even his friends only used him as a pawn for their own personal gain. As he grew older, he turned to the ghetto streets for some semblances of fulfillment. He was arrested countless times and has gone to prison three times for his troubles. The death of his father hit him with a wave of regret that eventually pushed him into his current state of drug abuse. Even now, in present day, he lays on a couch in my grandmother’s living room, waiting till the middle of the night so that he can get high. His family has lost all hope in him, and I and the rest of the family just pretend he doesn’t exist so that we don’t have to deal with what we’re responsible for.

This is the life of someone who was destroyed by his circumstances growing up, someone who is at the lowest point of his life. This is the type of person being targeted by our government now. Through all the horrible things going on in our society, this is the type of person that our Attorney General Jeff Sessions wants to put in prison, just for having possession of drugs. A New York Times article claims that Jeff Sessions is intent on toughening rules on drug crimes, something he claims the Obama Administration was soft on.

Jeff Sessions has identified people like my uncle, as the criminals who deserve to be in prison. Should Sessions go through with a hard-line approach to drug addicts, he would be going against research that suggests minimum sentences for nonviolent drug charges are completely futile. An article by Time Magazine revealed that 25 percent of prisoners currently incarcerated are in prison for nonviolent crimes. That is 364,000 people who are serving time that could be served with community service, and Sessions wants to make that number bigger.

Not only would Sessions’ proposed idea to give harder sentences for drug abusers be wholly unjust to people, it has proven in the past to not work. When Bill Clinton passed the 1994 crime bill, it created a massive incarceration rate that only ended up hurting the American people. The incarceration rate increased exponentially under Clinton, where both of the past presidents’ incarceration rates combined were not as high as they were under Clinton, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Drug addicts shouldn’t be sent to prison anymore than someone with asthma, seeing as drug addiction has been proven to be a chronic disease, according to The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse. If murderers can claim to be psychotic and go to mental hospitals, then a drug addict should be able to seek the counseling and rehabilitation needed to continue their lives in a happy manner.

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When It Comes to Drug Addicts, a Tough Approach May Not Be The Right One