Shayna Samuels at 646-523-6961 or Ariel Kalishman at 212-613-8036
TRENTON — The Drug Policy Alliance, the nation’s leading organization working to promote alternatives to the war on drugs, has opened an office in Trenton in response to a crisis in New Jersey’s drug policies.
“Our explicit objective is transforming New Jersey from one of the worst states in the country on drug policy into one of the best,” said Roseanne Scotti, director of Drug Policy Alliance’s New Jersey Drug Policy Project. “This is an economic issue, a public health issue, a racial justice issue.”
While pushing for new legislation in New Jersey addressing the problems caused by the state’s failed drug policies, the three main issues that Scotti plans to focus her attention on are the following:
Because a disproportionate percentage of those arrested for nonviolent drug offenses are black, New Jersey’s current sentencing laws have torn apart communities while its history of racial profiling has tarnished the state’s reputation. Although African Americans make up only 15 percent of the state’s population, they account for 81 percent of admissions to prisons for drug offenses.
“Spending huge sums on locking up nonviolent offenders is nonsense. It’s a colossal waste of money,” said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Alliance. “New Jersey taxpayers are wasting hundreds of millions of dollars a year on a failed and counterproductive war on drugs at the same time that the state government is confronting one of the largest budget deficits in its history.”
“When you look at those statistics — and when you see the public health catastrophe caused by New Jersey’s drug laws — it should be obvious how to start fixing the problem,” said Nadelmann. “New Jersey’s misguided drug policies have precipitated an unparalleled public health crisis in the state.”
With legal access to clean syringes to reduce the spread of HIV and AIDS, people like Michele, whose father contracted HIV from sharing a dirty needle, won’t have to grow up without a father.
“The message that was sent to me was that my father’s life didn’t matter,” said Michele, whose father death from AIDS when she was just 18. She believes his death could have been prevented if New Jersey had spent less on incarcerating nonviolent offenders and more on effective treatment and syringe availability.