Mixed signals and drug wars

Mixed signal and drug wars

 

This is not a war, wars have a beginning and an end – The Wire

 

For the advocates of legal reform in Rwanda it is always one step forward, half a step back. We see very liberal-minded and sensible decisions coming from the government, but we also see reactionary measures that will not serve us in the long term. The Justice department is seeking to release non-violent offenders who have good records of conduct to house arrest under an electronic tagging system. This recognizes the high cost of locking up prisoners, the additional cost to the family when a breadwinner is lost, as well as the sheer futility of locking up people who pose no physical threat to society. On the other hand, it seems we are only emptying these jails to fill them up again with drug-users. This will divert the scarce resources of the justice system towards one problem at the cost of others. Police resources are finite, a refocus on one aspect leaves others neglected or underfunded. I respect how the Police in UK deal with politicians, a moral outrage in the media and they get knee-jerk reactions. “Prosecute 100,000 cases of marijuana this quarter, we have to show we are doing something!!!” The Police Chief replies to the minister “Yes sir, we’ll get on it right away, just send us $500m. That will take 10hrs per case, 1 million work hours, divided by 10,000 cops.” Suddenly the moral panic is not worth the money, it is like trying to hold back a river with your hands, nothing will stop it.

 

This does not mean we should do nothing, we can either trying to stop supply (Even USA failed with this) or reduce demand, Portugal has the best drug treatment system in the world where it is treated like an illness. They look at drug-addiction like we would look at malaria, something to be treated, not a crime to be punished. We do not have drug treatment facilities as such in Rwanda, some are sent to Mental hospitals, others to youth detention facility to learn skills, but there is no drug treatment center I can point to in Rwanda. Yet the problem is rising, we have cocaine flour called Mogo, we have brown heroin – brown sugar and smoked, we have abuse of prescription medication and add to that a culture that celebrates alcohol, and you see we need treatment facilities. The drug problem is not just rumugi or Cannabis, it is much larger, we live in a globalized city, we have everything they have in New York, good and bad. Locking a person 5 years for possession will cost 25m to the state, a classroom, if you will. Locking up a person for 25 years will cost the state 150m + inflation, a school. Locking up is not the answer, another person will take their place in the drug market that exact moment. It will just drive up the price and make it more profitable for the dealers, the users will always pay a higher price, they are addicted as it is not a free choice. Poverty means you make choices between bad and worse, a person will feed their family the only way they know unless they are taught other ways. So let us be consistent, if we are taking a sensible liberal approach due to financial analysis of investment vs the results. Then we see that locking people up is the most expensive and least effective form of correction.

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