See, and folks wonder what happens when there are no treatment options available for people. In Colorado we use jail to warehouse people with addictions.
People in Denver are more likely to go to prison for drug offenses than residents in almost all other urban areas of the country, according to a study made public today.
About 147 of every 100,000 Denver residents served time for drugs in 2002, according to the study by the nonprofit Justice Policy Institute, which studies alternatives to imprisonment. The 2002 data was the most recent and complete available, the group said.
That placed Denver 12th out of the 198 most populous counties nationwide - higher than New York, Los Angeles and Detroit. The highest were the counties that include Bakersfield, Calif.; Atlantic City, N.J.; and New Orleans.
The higher numbers don't necessarily mean more people in Denver are buying or selling drugs, its authors said. Rather, it likely means there are more police and judicial resources dedicated to drug enforcement, they wrote.
The report comes just weeks after Denver residents voted to make adult possession of less than an ounce of marijuana the city's "lowest law enforcement priority." In 2005, Denver voters also supported an initiative to make less than an ounce of pot legal for adults.
Authorities have said, because the local measures do not change state and federal drug law, the approval of both measures likely means nothing legally. Mayor John Hickenlooper, however, said he would create a community panel to look at the issue.
Lynn Kimbrough, spokeswoman for the Denver District Attorney's Office, said the approach to drug crimes has changed since 2002.
In 2003, for example, state lawmakers reduced the penalty for possession of less than one gram of certain drugs, such as heroin. The change likely resulted in fewer people serving prison time for those offenses.
Denver also has reinstituted its drug court, which was disbanded in 2002.
The court tries to divert some nonviolent offenders into intensive treatment and supervision programs, rather than sending them to the Department of Corrections.
So the same study, conducted today, might look considerably different, Kimbrough said.
The study found that black residents across the country - including in Denver and the metro area - go to prison for drugs at a much higher rate than whites, though the group says studies have shown the rate of actual drug use is similar across racial lines.
Rocky Mountain News