According to the ACLU, there were nearly 20,400 people in Maryland prisons in 2016, and a significant percentage of them were serving sentences for drug offenses. In fact, the organization reports that around 20% of all individuals incarcerated on new charges that year had a drug offense on their record.
How felony drug convictions affect people and communities
People convicted of felony drug crimes have high recidivism rates. One of the primary reasons for this is that individuals with felony convictions commonly face employment limitations that keep them from working. Not only do job restrictions stop many former prisoners from reintegrating into society, but they also lead to high unemployment rates in the towns and cities they return to after serving their sentences. Research shows that felony convictions cost the U.S. up to $87 billion in lost gross domestic product each year.
Studies show imprisonment doesn’t reduce drug abuse
Research by The Pew Charitable Trusts and other organizations have found incarceration for drug offenses does little, if anything, to decrease drug use, drug overdoses or drug-related arrests among the U.S. population. Studies have also found that community-based treatments are better at protecting communities from the harms of drug abuse than prison sentences.
Some states are taking a different approach
Over the last decade, several states have reclassified felony drug possession offenses< as misdemeanors, which means individuals are no longer incarcerated for possessing drugs intended for personal use. It also means drug offenders don’t have their employment options permanently limited due to a felony conviction. Early outcomes and projections indicate that these reforms have reduced incarceration and recidivism rates in the states that adopted them.