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NCJ Number: 199159 Find in a Library
Title: Elements of Well-Being Affected by Criminalizing the Drug User
Journal: Public Health Reports  Volume:117  Issue:1  Dated:2002  Pages:S146-S150
Author(s): Martin Y. Iguchi Ph.D.; Jennifer A. London; Nell Griffith Forge Ph.D.; Laura Hickman Ph.D.; Terry Fain M.S.; Kara Riehman Ph.D.
Date Published: 2002
Page Count: 5
Document: HTML
Type: Research Paper
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This article reviews eight elements of personal and community well-being that are affected by incarcerating drug offenders.
Abstract: According to the authors, approximately 26.2 million Americans used illicit drugs during 1999. State and Federal policies on drug felons may impact their families, access to health benefits, access to housing benefits, access to assistance for higher education, immigration status, employment, eligibility to vote, and recidivism. The authors explain how felony convictions for drug use or drug trafficking impact the offender, their families, and their communities. An estimated 1.5 million children under the age of 18 had a parent who was incarcerated for a drug offense in 1999. In 19 States, parental rights can be terminated if the felony conviction is thought to affect the fitness of the caregiver. Minority children are disproportionately affected by laws that incarcerate drug users. Felony convictions also render the offender unable to access Federal health benefits for 1 year for a drug possession offense and 5 years for a drug trafficking offense. Similar restrictions to Federal benefits apply to housing funds and to higher education funds. The Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) has the authority to deport immigrant offenders considered to be “aggravated felons.” In 2000, the INS deported 61,093 felons, 41 percent of whom were convicted for drug offenses. As for employment, felons are disqualified from serving in the military, holding government jobs, and obtaining certain permits and licenses. Felons are not eligible to vote in 32 States while they are on parole. This restriction on voting disproportionately affects minority groups, undermining the political power of these communities. Finally, the authors point out that there is no evidence that arrest and incarceration reduces illegal drug use. In conclusion, the authors suggest that the availability of drug treatment programs be substantially expanded so that users may access assistance before their drug use leads to arrest and incarceration. References
Main Term(s): Drug laws
Index Term(s): Criminalization; Drug abuse; Felony
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