| Read Time: 3 minutes | Criminal Justice

The War on Drugs

My name is Emily Kenney and I am a future paralegal. I am applying for this scholarship for the relief that it will provide for the cost of higher education, but because the topic of drugs and the criminal justice system is fascinatingly frustrating. I graduated high school in 2006 and started a criminal justice degree at the University of Nebraska. Two college major changes, a transfer to the University of Nebraska at Omaha, and general confusion about my life goals led me to take a break from higher education. I bounced from job to job from a pet groomer to a large trucking company scheduler. A couple of years ago with a job at juvenile probation in Nebraska and I realized that while being a probation officer wasn’t for me, being involved with the court system was. I work full time and carry a full time school schedule. I received a scholarship from the Nebraska Paralegal Association last year and I have been named to the Dean’s List every semester since I started the program back in August of 2014. Outside of school, volunteering with Pug Partners of Nebraska keeps me busy as well as providing stress relief.

America’s War on Drugs is not being handled adequately by the criminal justice system. There is often a misconception about drugs and addiction. There are of course recreational drug users, but we also need to take into account those with addiction disorders. Addiction is a disease, and the criminal justice system is not up to par when it comes to treating offenders. It appears that more often than not, drugs offenders are not looked at as people, but as the drugs that they are addicted to. So many times prisons and jails are used as revolving doors for drug offenders because instead of being treated and rehabilitated during their sentences, they are essentially left in a cell until their time is up. Drugs are often available in the prison system, so when these offenders leave, they go back to their lifestyle of drugs and wind up back in the court system.

According to an article from The Wall Street Journal published in January of 2013 by Gary Becker and Kevin Murphy, the number of people incarcerated was 330,000 and by 2013 that number had increased to 1.6 million. In that same article, it mentions that almost 50% of the inmates in federal prison and 20% in state prisons are there from drug charges. There is a call to have less incarceration, but these statistics show that the criminal justice system has become accustomed to jailing people because they do not have the resources to get treatment for offenders. There’s also another issue when it comes to minor drug dealers and first time drug offenders spending time in jail. Most of them will find fewer job opportunities when they are released from jail and the time that they spent in the jail system tends to make them more savvy criminals.

There is a suggestion that there should be a decriminalization of all drugs in the United States. There needs to be a long discussion about the pros and cons of doing such a thing. The problem with this the cost of the war on drugs would not be reduced because the act of selling drugs would still be illegal. This leads to a discussion of possibly taxing drugs and the costs of the War on Drugs being greatly reduced. There needs to be more research put into this idea, because with the right amount of research we would have a better answer. It could end up with the cons outweighing the pros, but until we invest in the idea we won’t know.

The War on Drugs started out as an idea that people could get behind. Now, it has become a drain on the country’s finances and has caused overcrowding in prisons. The criminal justice system needs to be turning those funds towards rehabilitation, instead of trying to lock the problem of addiction behind bars.


Becker, G.S., & Murphy K.M. (2013, January 4). Have We Lost the War on Drugs? The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424127887324374004578217682305605070.

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Andrew Moses

Andrew has been practicing criminal law his entire career. After graduating from law school he began working as an Assistant State Attorney prosecuting cases in Orange and Osceola Counties. During his time as an Assistant State Attorney, Andrew handled all types of cases ranging from misdemeanors to such serious felonies as drug trafficking and armed robbery. His experience as a prosecutor helped him gain perspective of the criminal justice system and how the government established its cases.

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