June 18, 2015

Vermont Prison Chief: Drug Use Should Not Be A Criminal Justice Issue

June 18, 2015
jail prison daniel chong dea

jail prison daniel chong deaThe war on drugs has caused untold harm to American society, far more harm than drugs themselves. Rather than offer to help people find assistance for their situation, and treat addiction as a health issue, America throws drug users into cages. As a result, prisons are overcrowded, and real criminals go free while marijuana users take up the jail beds that should be reserved for violent criminals. Something needs to change. This is not just a belief of mine, it’s a belief that is also held by the head of Vermont’s Department of Corrections. Per Seven Days:

Vermont Department of Corrections Commissioner Andy Pallito recalled spotting a young woman on a prison tour; he knew she was addicted to heroin, but she wasn’t getting treated for it. On another occasion, a former inmate who served five years on a marijuana conviction described his crime to Pallito as “possession of a vegetable.”

Pallito has struggled over the years to rein in a DOC budget that has exploded along with the inmate population.

All of that has led him to a conclusion shared by few in his field: Pallito believes that possession of all drugs should be decriminalized and that the War on Drugs should be declared a failure, he told Seven Days. The man who supervises Vermont’s 1,900 prison inmates believes that many of them shouldn’t be behind bars, and that incarceration sets them up for failure.

“Possession of drugs for personal utilization — if somebody is not hurting anyone [else], that should not be a criminal justice matter,” Pallito, 49, said in an interview at his Williston office. “I don’t think anybody can say that putting somebody with an addiction problem through the corrections system is a good idea.”

Mr. Pallito is echoing something that reformers have been saying for years. America needs to address the treatment side of the equation, and spend less money on corrections. The drug war is a colossal failure, proven by the fact that there are people sitting in jail cells right now for a plant that has been proven to be 114 times safer than alcohol, which is legal. Hopefully more members of the corrections community step up and speak their minds like Mr. Pallito.


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