Democrat Senator Jim Webb from Virginia, and potential Vice Presidential candidate for Barack Obama, recently held a meeting on Capitol Hill to “get the facts out” about the ineffectiveness of jailing nonviolent offenders for drug-related offenses rather than treating them for their addiction problem. The hearing of the Joint Economic Committee solicited testimony from prosecutors and scholars who argued that the decades-long emphasis on incarceration has been both ineffective and costly.
While not specifically pursuing any legislation at this time, Senator Webb pointed out that “despite the number of people we have arrested, the illegal drug industry and the flow of drugs to our citizens remain undiminished.”
In his book A Time to Fight, Webb writes more directly that “drug addiction is not in and of itself a criminal act. It is a medical condition, indeed a disease, just as alcoholism is, and we don’t lock people up for being alcoholics.”
A refreshing position coming from the nation’s capital. Certainly, taxpayers would save money in court, social welfare and healthcare costs (to name a few) if we worked on treating those that are addicted instead of locking them up for a period of time. Of course, many critics label the senator as “soft on crime.”
No Republicans attended the meeting due to the political stalemate over crime policy.