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Report released on the criminalization of drug use in the U.S.

When someone is sick or injured, we send them to get the medical attention and treatment they need to get well. Unfortunately, this is all too often not the case for people suffering from drug addiction - particularly when law enforcement is involved.

On October 12, Human Rights Watch released a report called "Every 25 Seconds: The Human Toll of Criminalizing Drug Use in the United States." It contained anecdotal and statistical information about who the "War on Drugs" is really targeting: Drug users, not dealers.

In the report, it states that in the U.S. someone is arrested for simple drug possession, for personal use rather than to sell, every 25 seconds. This amounts to more than 1.2 million arrests each year, which is four times the number of people arrested for selling drugs. From these arrests, at least 137,000 people are behind bars on any given day in our country. When released, these men and women face further barriers to employment, housing, education and economic assistance.

More than 365 interviews were conducted in conjunction with this report, with interview subjects including those arrested and prosecuted for drug use, attorneys, officials, activists, and family members. They also extensively evaluated national and state-specific data as well as every stage in the process, from search and seizure and arrest to prosecution and conviction.

The report concludes that, while something must be done about rampant drug use in this country, criminal law is not the solution. In the report, the "Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union call on all states and the federal government to decriminalize the use and possession for personal use of all drugs and to focus instead on prevention and harm reduction."

Until that time, they suggest officials and others in the criminal justice system take measures to mitigate and minimize consequences of current laws and policies.

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Chicago, IL 60602

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