Oregon Passes New Decriminalization Bill
Lawmakers have teamed up with law enforcement representatives to pass a new bill
in Oregon, one that will change the face of the criminal justice system forever as it passes into law.
Late last week, the Oregon Legislature passed a bill that moves to decriminalize possession of small amounts of illegal drugs, such as cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine. Rather than face jail time, low-level offenders without a previous felony would receive a misdemeanor charge, instead of the current felony charge. Drug users would be directed towards treatment centers rather than prison beds.
The bill has a dual aim to both support people seeking treatment for addiction issues and relieve pressure on an overloaded and expensive criminal justice system.
This follows a new trend in America; many states
have already passed similar legislation. This new direction indicates a shift away from traditional “War on Drugs” tactics that promote incarceration over addiction treatment for anybody abusing illegal substances.
By treating substance addiction as a public health crisis rather than a criminal matter, states can reduce the amount of time and money spent on criminal justice systems and funnel extra funds toward treatment options.
Connection Between Substance Abuse and Crime
People suffering from addiction often fall into the criminal justice system as they struggle to support their habit. Dealing drugs or committing crimes such as theft or robbery becomes necessary to their survival as they become more and more substance dependent.
If charged with a felony, an addict will be placed in a prison or jail. This has far-reaching consequences that stretch beyond a prison sentence, presenting barriers to housing and employment once a person is released. In addition, studies have shown that minority populations are overrepresented in Oregon’s prisons, negatively impacting entire groups of people from black, Hispanic, and Native American communities.
Connection Between Race, Crime, and Addiction
Separate studies released by the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission
(2015) and the Sentencing Project
(2016) reveal some shocking statistics regarding minority representation in the courts:
- African-Americans in Oregon are convicted of felony drug possession 2x the rate of white offenders
- Native Americans are convicted at 5x the rate of white offenders
- African-Americans are 2 percent of Oregon’s population, yet make up 9 percent of the prison population
The new bill in Oregon hopes to address this gaping racial disparity, both by directing offenders toward treatment as well as collecting and analyzing data to educate law enforcement. Supporters of the bill hope that it can be a step in the right direction toward more fair and equitable justice for all Oregonians, especially those suffering from addiction.
Addiction Treatment in Oregon
Expansion of treatment options in Oregon is vital to battling a growing addiction crisis. A report
released last year by the Office of National Drug Control Policy shows that illicit-drug related deaths in Oregon rose 5 percent between 2013 and 2014. That trend is continuing and requires immediate action to combat the crisis.
If you or a loved one are suffering from addiction in Oregon, call 1-877-950-7978 for 24-hour assistance. Recovery Village Ridgefield in nearby Washington State offers comprehensive treatment programs
developed to suit your individual needs. Focused on the health of your mind, body, and soul, you can achieve wellness in our beautiful mountain recovery retreat. Learn more about admissions
and start your journey to recovery today.