Drug related offenders make up about 1 out of every 5 prisoners in our country’s state level prisons, and well over 40 percent of the federal prison population. With the General Election a day away, many voters are either not entirely decided on one candidate or another, or those who are decided may not be aware of their candidate's position on an issue. Seemingly, the best way for a voter to cast their vote confidently, is to be well informed on the candidates’ positions on a given issue. The issue at hand is how each of the top four candidates plan to help reduce the nearly half a million people currently behind bars for drug-related crimes.
First, looking at the Green Party’s Nominee, Jill Stein. Stein says she believes that the country needs to look at substance abuse differently, as a health issue, not a criminal violation. According to her website’s platform, Stein also intends to “release nonviolent drug offenders from prison, removing such offenses from their records, and provide them with both pre- and post-release support.” Finally, Stein wants to legalize marijuana and hemp nationally, and bring the drug “under a legal regulatory framework.”
Secondly, the other foremost third-party candidate, Gary Johnson, of the Libertarian Party. Johnson says he believes the country should move away from imprisoning drug users and toward “giving them the tools to be healthier and more productive members of society.” Johnson also claims to be a great advocate for implementing more rehabilitation and harm-reduction programs for drug users, including programs to minimize the damage and abuse of "hard drugs," such as heroin. Johnson, in 2011, has also said, “I’m opposed to drug war A through Z. HALF of what we spend on law enforcement, the courts, and the prisons, is drug-related. And to what end? We have the highest incarceration rate of any country in the world.” The main stance that Johnson believes is that ending the war on drugs will help reduce recidivism and the mass prison population completely.
Next, is the candidate of the Democratic party, Hillary Clinton. Clinton also advocates for “Prioritizing treatment and rehabilitation—rather than incarceration—for low-level, nonviolent drug offenders,” according to her website’s platform. Clinton is the only candidate to give specifics, saying that she favors “investing $5 billion in re-entry job programs for formerly incarcerated individuals” and urges the government to spend $10 Billion over 10 years to aid in reducing the heroin epidemic. Finally, Clinton would reschedule marijuana from a Schedule I substance to a Schedule II substance, and would allow the states to enact marijuana laws as they choose.
The last of the four leading candidates, from the Republican party, is Donald Trump. He is the only candidate, of the four, that doesn’t have a position posted on his website about anything related to drug use or drug related incarcerations. To get any idea of his position on the issue, a voter has to go back and look at what he has said in the past about the topic. In 2015, Trump said, “in terms of marijuana and legalization, I think that should be a state issue, state-by-state” and “I think medical marijuana [should be legalized] 100 percent.” As for the creation or expanding of programs to help reduce drug related incarcerations, Trump has not said anything or taken a position.
The positions of the candidates, arguably, all have pros and cons. The ideas are always subjective in nature, based on each voters’ notion of the candidate. However, the ultimate it is the goal of this article to bring attention to the issues of drug related incarceration to the voter, so that they are able to cast their vote confidently. Overall, it is auspicious that each candidate is moving in the right direction. Distancing their policies from the "tough on crime" approach, that has put so many of undeserving people in prison, and more toward the proven rehabilitative approach of drug abuse.