Legalized drugs are key to lowering city crime rate

For the last half century, The Baltimore Sun and every other media outlet has looked to the police as the answer to our nation’s murder rate and opioid crisis. By and large, that strategy hasn’t worked (“Baltimore Police beef up patrols, cancel leave amid spike in violence,” Oct. 1).

Imagine that someone you love or a family member has been killed and you know who the killer is. However, you have no faith in the criminal justice system. There aren't enough police in the world to stop you from punishing them. President Donald Trump and Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh have complained that the actions of a young man should not impact the rest of his life. Unfortunately, that happens to young black men all the time. A young black man with a felony on his record loses his citizenship for life in many parts of this country. That felony record and other less serious records will usually negatively impact his ability to get a job and take care of his family. In many cases, his best option is a life of crime and a life of crime is usually fraught with violence.

Each year, it costs $20,000-$30,000 to keep a person incarcerated. That is in addition to the thousands that we have spent on the person's arrest and prosecution. Gov. Larry Hogan, Mayor Catherine Pugh and most Marylanders agree that drug addiction problem should be treated as a medical rather than a criminal problem. So why do we still have people convicted of drug possession in our prisons? We could let them and the other people arrested for non-violent drug offenses serve out their sentences in their neighborhoods.

Use that $20,000-$30,000 to do three things: Train offenders to rebuild our infrastructure, pay them a minimum wage for doing the work and finally, spend the rest of the money on materials and supplies. The Home Depot provides free training for people who purchase their merchandise. I am sure that we could work out an agreement with them to provide the training if we purchased the materials and supplies from them. These people could return to their neighborhoods and be productive members of their communities.

Each year, tens of thousands of Marylanders die because they are taking drugs and don't know what they are taking. The answer to the problem is to make sure that they know what they are taking. The answer to the problem will probably require legalizing the drugs and working with the drug manufacturers to make their prices competitive with the drug dealers. I think that we are smart enough to figure out a way to get that done. Or will we continue to look to the police to solve our problems? We all know how that has worked out, and we all know the definition of insanity!

Mike Cheatham

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