LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
Dear Editor, I have spent over 20 years in NSW jails. Over the last 10 years they have put measures in place to not only lock people up, but also to keep you locked up if you don’t meet their strict punitive drug policies. From where I’m sitting, nothing much has changed over the last 30 years. It’s crazy to still punish people for being dependent on drugs and using them. When you’re in prison you are forced to do programmes, and being forced doesn’t get results. You can’t force people to stop using drugs.
More jails are being built, many inmates are in for drug-related crime. It’s mass incarceration. There are jails going up everywhere. In my case I was dependent on smack and as a result of my habit and the high price I committed crime. I was sentenced to 11 years. When I was released not only did I still love heroin but I had a new friend, institutionalisation. Yeah! I found it very hard to live life, I felt right out of my comfort zone, all I wanted to do was use. I was back in jail within a year and I was sentenced to 12 years.
When I was released the second time, having done all the drug courses I could, I still used. I didn’t fit in anywhere, so I thought, so I used again on a daily basis. It wasn’t long before I was back inside again.
I’m nearly 50 and I’m still in the jail system. I’m not saying “poor me” for being in jail; I did the crime and I’m doing the time. I know that I can’t go around robbing people, that’s unacceptable.
But I wonder what would have been if I was given prescription heroin. Who would have been hurt? There is an objection that goes along the lines that the Government would be sending the wrong message by allowing heroin on prescription. However, I’m sure they could easily market it in a way that would sound unappealing to young people.
We have to get people who don’t use drugs to understand by talking and speaking out about this stupid war on us!
Let’s keep the good fight going and let’s work for good evidence-based drug policy. Thank you guys and girls, love your work.
Dear Aidan, The war on drugs is certainly a war on people. Everyone suffers, not just people who use drugs. There are many casualties in wars including families and the victims of crime. Most policy makers, researchers and doctors working in drug services agree that the current system is not working for anyone and we need to move away from a criminal, punitive approach to drug use. Drug policy would benefit from a focus on human rights and improvements in health and well being for people who use drugs.
It would be useful to see drug policy focused on better outcomes for individuals who use drugs. A great place to start would be to increase choices in drug treatment, including things like heroin on prescription and replacement therapy for people using stimulants. I agree, Aidan, that your life would have been much better spent with a focus on nurturing your health.
We also need to change the system to nurture a better society for all citizens. Most people who use drugs feel great remorse for their criminal activities. We know that drugs are no excuse for doing crime and hurting other people. We know that drug law reform would result in a reduction of crime. Harm reduction methods such as methadone have been proven to significantly reduce the amount of money spent in the justice system. Let’s keep working towards systemic change that will allow all of us to live the lives of dignity we deserve.