Is the drug problem in America a criminal justice issue or a public health crisis? The answer to that question depends on who you ask. But more importantly, the answer to that question has huge implications for how Wisconsin and the federal government should be responding to drug abuse and drug offenses.
Most of us consider ourselves to be law-abiding citizens. Indeed, very few of us would think of ourselves as "criminals," much less accept being labeled as one. But criminality is kind of a fluid concept, particularly in a country where so many behaviors are considered crimes.
There's little debate about the fact that sex crimes are among the most reviled and taboo offenses a person can be accused of. In the court of public opinion, particular sex crimes are sometimes regarded as more heinous than murder. Unfortunately, this public hysteria too often makes it difficult to have the tough-but-necessary conversations about sex crimes - especially cases where the accused individual's guilt isn't necessarily clear.
What duty do we owe to the men and women we incarcerate in the United States - or just here in Wisconsin? Most people might say that as law-abiding citizens, we owe no duty and bear no responsibility. An oft-repeated mantra says "don't do the crime if you can't do the time."
The problems with state and federal drug laws and sentencing guidelines are well-documented. In the majority of states, including Wisconsin, African Americans are many times more likely to be arrested, prosecuted and imprisoned for non-violent drug crimes than whites are. Yet statistics show that the rate of drug use among African Americans is comparable to the rate among whites.