As a society we too often use the threat of prosecution as our preferred method of curbing undesirable behaviour; but does this actually work?
If you send someone to jail for a non-violent crime they end up associating with violent offenders and the chances of being ‘rehabilitated’ and returning to a normal life once released are low. In Australia, 40% of people who go to prison end up back in prison within two years *.“Inmates at Oakwood prison in Staffordshire say drugs are easier to obtain than soap. ” – The Economist, Dec 7th 2013
We know that access to drugs inside prison is not difficult. Sadly many non-violent individuals leave prison in a much worse situation than when they entered. Many form close relationships with violent criminals and many become drug-addicts. Is this really an effective way to curb behaviour?
If drug use is increasing**, is the threat of prison sentence an effective deterrent? The only real impact of stronger sentences is it turns non-violent criminals into violent criminals.
There is a better solution. Government campaigns to change behaviour can be extremely effective. Take the example of water usage in Victoria. Between 1998 and 2007 Victoria experienced extreme drought. Water reserves reached dangerously low levels and the situation became so dire that desalination plants were built and there was talk of moving Melbourne to another location!
The Government put in place regulations and guidelines for the use of water. Minor infringements were also created to discourage misuse of water. Even more importantly than the regulation of water use was the mass-education program put in place across all medias.
The Government’s education program to reduce household water usage was so successful that between 1981 – 2007 water usage per person reduced by 45%*If we could successfully reduce water usage through education – why not drug use as well?
Whilst the Government currently spends millions on educating people about the dangers of drug use, the campaign is mostly falling on deaf ears because it is built around a system of prohibition that people know is not justified. All credibility is lost when you say a drug like ecstasy or marijuana is deadly yet we all known various people who take these drugs regularly without any apparent side effects. Whats more, we are yet to see hard evidence of how these drugs are so dangerous, especially when compared to alcohol and tobacco which have a mirade of proven health consequences.
A campaign to minimise drug use must be based our the facts, as the water usage campaign was. It cannot be based on scare tactics and propoganda. It’s time we as a society took a more mature approach to drug use than just the threat (and reality) of incarceration.
*** Source & Image: http://www.melbournewater.com.au/waterdata/wateruse/Pages/default.aspx