Who is the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition?

Our mission is to reverse the trend of mass incarceration in Colorado. We are a coalition of nearly 7,000 individual members and over 100 faith and community organizations who have united to stop perpetual prison expansion in Colorado through policy and sentence reform.

Our chief areas of interest include drug policy reform, women in prison, racial injustice, the impact of incarceration on children and families, the problems associated with re-entry and stopping the practice of using private prisons in our state.

If you would like to be involved please go to our website and become a member.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Responding To The "Methedemic"

Before methamphetamine was a policy issue for me, it was a drug. It was part of the landscape for all of us who grew up in North San Diego County in the 1980s and '90s. Methamphetamine is a substance that people close to me have used and abused, and that many people I know and love have reclaimed their lives from. I am particularly disturbed, then, by the end-of-the-world hype surrounding it ---- and the silence about the fact that methamphetamine addiction is treatable, and that long-term recovery is common.

The truth about methamphetamine in San Diego is that use has reached epidemic levels, and the appropriate response is treatment. As the Little Hoover Commission recognized in its 2003 report on addiction, "Most of the substances abused in California ---- alcohol, cocaine, marijuana, methamphetamine ---- are at the epidemic stage, where the benefit of enforcement is limited and treatment is essential to reducing the negative consequences."

The truth about methamphetamine addiction is that it is absolutely treatable. It will not be the end of us (just as crack cocaine wasn't in the 1980s). A growing body of research reveals that methamphetamine-addicted individuals actually respond better on average to treatment than do people addicted to other substances. Treatment providers, including Casa Raphael in Vista and Serenity House in Escondido, are increasingly experienced and successful at treating methamphetamine addiction.

The hype about methamphetamine is a lamentable distraction from the real problem, addiction ---- and the solution, treatment. Even if methamphetamine were to disappear tomorrow, people would still suffer from addiction because its underlying causes would remain: a variety of genetic and environmental factors, as well as sexual abuse, domestic violence and other trauma. Addiction will be a part of the human condition for at least as long as other chronic ailments, such as diabetes and hypertension.

The hype has also led us to identify not just the drug, but people who are addicted to it, as the enemy. Methamphetamine has been described as the "devil drug" of our generation, and people who use it "tweakers" and "speed freaks." Such demonizing paved the way for increasingly punitive policies in the 1990s. The total number of people in prison for drug possession in California quadrupled between 1988 and 2000, peaking at 20,116.


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