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New Study: Tougher Drug Laws Don’t Lead to Fewer Overdose Deaths

A recent study conducted by Pew Charitable Trusts’ Public Safety Performance Project found that harsher drug laws that put more people in jail do not help reduce overdose deaths or general drug use.

These findings come in the immediate aftermath of President Donald J. Trump calling for harsher sentences for drug offenders, including the death penalty for certain high-intensity drug traffickers. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has also been directing U.S. courts to apply the harshest sentences possible in all types of drug crime cases, including those involving minor possession.

Reinforcing earlier findings

This is far from the first study to suggest that tough drug laws do not reduce overdose deaths. According to a Pew representative, the findings actually serve to “reinforce a larger body of prior research” that provides evidence counter to the belief that harsher penalties and prison sentences can deter drug abuse.

Pennsylvania ranks 31st in the nation for drug imprisonment rates, but it has nearly twice the overdose deaths as the 32nd ranked state, Hawaii.

While the study did not indicate that increased incarceration rates have a significant effect on drug use, there were other problems of harsher prison sentences uncovered in the study. For example, putting drug offenders behind bars for longer periods comes at significant taxpayer expense, without any demonstrable return in the form of public safety.

In 1980, there were fewer than 25,000 Americans in state or federal prisons for violations of drug crimes. Now, there are more than 250,000.

To learn more about your legal options when arrested on drug charges in Pennsylvania, consult skilled Reading criminal defense attorney David R. Eshelman.


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