The war on drugs in this country has been an abject failure. It has contributed to a prison population that has increased over four hundred percent in the last 35 years. It has decimated entire communities, especially African American ones. It has put entire generations of young black men behind bars, and it hasn’t done anything to make our community safer. It is clear that our leaders must step up to the plate and enact policies within our criminal justice system to end the war on drugs and begin to repair the harm caused.

For my second episode of “Conversations with Coop” I had the privilege to sit down with retired Major Neill Franklin, formerly of the Baltimore PD and Maryland State Police. Major Franklin is the executive director of the Law Enforcement Action Partnership. LEAP is an organization comprised of former law enforcement officers and advocates, who are dedicated to promoting much needed reforms in our criminal justice system. Neill educates thousands every year on the failed policies of the war on drugs all done from the perspective of a highly-decorated law enforcement officer who is seen firsthand the damage caused by failed drug policies.

Retired Major Neill Franklin currently serves as the Executive Director of LEAP (Law Enforcement Action Partnership)

In our interview, Neill and I discussed his personal experiences on the front-lines of the drug war, his role as executive director of LEAP, and what our local leaders must do to fix the broken policies that have led to mass incarceration. Neill and I discussed what our local leaders can do to reign in the policies and practices that have led to such staggering figures. The takeaway: we need to fundamentally change how we approach prosecuting drug crimes; this means refusing to prosecute most drug crimes at all, in favor of treatment and diversion programs.

See our full interview below:

First, just a few numbers that place the drug war in context, courtesy of the Drug Policy Alliance:

  • It is estimated that the amount spent annually fighting the drug war in the US is more than 47 billion dollars.
  • There were over 1.6 million arrests in 2018 for drug related offenses. Of these arrests, over 1.4 million were for drug possession only.
  • Over 46 percent of the people arrested for drug law violations in the US in 2018 were black or latino. Despite making up just 31 percent of the US population.

As Douglas County DA I will enact straightforward policies that will put an end to the war on drugs in Douglas County. First, my office will refuse to prosecute any narcotic case where the amount involved is less than one gram. For any amount higher, my office will explore all available pre-charge diversion programs to ensure no one is being dragged through the system for a drug addiction. Diversion for all drug offenses in my office will be the rule, not the exception.

In addition to using my discretion to divert cases from the system, I will work with local law enforcement to create a law enforcement-assisted diversion program. This program would endow our police officers with the discretion to divert drug-addicted individuals away from the system and into treatment. This would save valuable resources and allow our local police to use their time and energy truly keeping our community safe.

Most importantly, I will promote affordable and prevalent drug treatment programs in Douglas County that truly work. Numerous studies have consistently shown that utilizing drug treatment as an alternative to incarceration works. It greatly reduces the rate of recidivism and saves taxpayers millions of dollars.

In fact, one study found that if just ten percent of offenders were treated in a drug treatment program instead of going to prison, the justice system would save $4.8 billion. If forty percent received drug treatment, the total savings would be around $12.9 billion. The cost saving benefit is obvious: treatment works, and it is far cheaper than prison.

We need leaders who are willing use these treatment programs effectively to reduce our jail population and keep our community safe. As Douglas County DA, I will do just that. Instead of continuing to fight a losing battle, my office will devote its resources to repairing the damage done, and making our community a safer.

Go to my platform page to learn more about the policies I will enact to end the drug war. Also, go here to learn about LEAP, and be a part of the movement to fix our broken system.

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