Drugs and the Criminal Justice System

XII. Conclusion

From the beginning, Americans have chosen to define the drug problem as a criminal justice problem. Consequently, no other issue demands so many criminal justice resources and causes so much controversy. Aggressively enforcing drug laws can mean using controversial tactics while placing a heavy burden on the courts and correctional system. While the public is generally enthusiastic about tough enforcement, it is less willing to provide the tax revenues to properly fund the demands that drug cases place on courts and prisons.

Some argue for viewing the drug problem as a medical problem, as is done in Britain. Others argue for a social work approach, as is used by the Dutch. In many ways, these three approaches—the American, the British, and the Dutch—reflect broader cultural differences in how these societies view social problems. Those hoping for a radical shift in the American approach should not hold their breath, for it is deeply engrained in the collective psyche.

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