It’s no secret that in order to conquer the opioid epidemic, the United States will need to take a multi-faceted approach to pretty much every corner of the legal system. So far, the White House and legislators have started to investigate health care reform, the mailing system, import trading, the prison systems, insurance companies, child care, and now… the death penalty?
Without a doubt, probably the best thing to come from this opioid epidemic is that it is forcing people to take a broader view on addiction as a whole, as it infiltrates just about every corner of this country and the people who live here. Because of this, a Republican-sponsored bill has come forward in the hopes of cracking down on tougher laws for deadly narcotics dealers, most of all, those who deal in Fentanyl. But is this bill taking on this charge to actually help Americans, or just to fatten the prison systems?
There is still a seething debate on Capitol Hill about the necessity for mandatory minimum sentences for drug traffickers. On one side, voices cry out to reduce or do away with mandatory minimums, and the other calls for more strict and longer terms of sentencing.
This new bill rings in with the latter. A group of Trump allies now push for increased mandatory minimums for those who are found with Fentanyl or who are caught dealing or smuggling it in the United States. For the most serious offenders, they are trying to push the possibility of death sentencing.
- Mandatory Minimum laws were created during the War on Drugs in the 80’s they range from 5 years up to 40 years and 10 years to life for drug charges
- Mandatory Minimum sentences often come with a reduced sentence if a defendant pleads guilty, so 95% of federal drug defendants do just that
- This has turned the Federal prison system into one of the most booming businesses in our country, with taxpayer dollars going towards housing these inmates during their stay.
- The new mandatory minimum for fentanyl carriers will be dropped from 40 grams to 2 grams, which means the focus would be more on low-hanging drug dealers, rather than the sources.
However, unlike the mandatory minimums set forth during the 1980s, this bill would, supposedly, only be in relation to the extremely deadly drug fentanyl. If this bill sticks to this code, the next question raised would be, what about Big Pharmaceutical companies that are still manufacturing and distributing this drug?
Death Sentencing and the Increasing Prison Populations
Aside from tougher laws on crime and increased mandatory minimums, this Republican bill aims to have the option of executing drug dealers. Again, sides differ wildly on this topic in Washington. Lo and behold, it seems to be a divide between Republican and Democrats for the most part, with many Republicans in favor, and many Democrats against.
One Republican, Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina states, “The ultimate icing on the cake in terms of deterrents would be, you could literally be put to death by selling fentanyl.”
While on the other hand, Democrat Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey feels the opposite, “That is not our common values of justice, of mercy, of the punishment fitting the crime. It’s literally against our constitutional ideas of cruel and unusual punishment.”
However, just because a large number of Democrats are against the death sentence and increased mandatory minimums, does not mean that they are against cutting off the source at its head. Many Democrats are crying out for efforts to go towards finding the source, rather than potentially incarcerating thousands more Americans and filling our prison systems to their max.
- In 2015, the average cost to incarcerate a federal prisoner was just under $32,000
- The federal prison budget outweighs the $5.5 billion budget to care for the homeless in the US by over $2 billion annually.
- The United States incarcerates more people, per capita than any other nation.
- 1 in 5 incarcerated people in America are locked up for nonviolent drug offenses
There are more than 6 times as many arrests for drug possession than for drug sales
Booker states, “We can’t arrest our way out of this nation’s drug problems… we have now dug ourselves into a very deep hole where we’re spending billions and billions locking up more people.”
The Characteristics of the Death Penalty
While the bill to enforce the death penalty on fentanyl dealers has still not been passed, it will be crucial for Republicans in support of this bill to have a clearly outlined mandate for exactly what will qualify under the death penalty sentence.
So far, any indicators defining the stipulations of which dealer and which amount and how many offenses have been largely undecided or undiscussed. The question on many minds is, how easy will it be for my loved one who got wrapped up in their addiction to getting the death penalty?
It is no secret that addiction can carry away even the most wholesome of victims and that sometimes, people go way beyond what they ever thought they would. The sound of “death penalty for drugs” can make any loved one or family member of an addict cringe.
If the mandatory minimum laws are increased, and someone who has never dealt drugs but uses them, was to get arrested, are they likely to face the death penalty simply because they have the disease of addiction? How easy will it be for lawmakers to put “wiggle room” in place and move mandatory minimums on fentanyl only to any other drug they find?
As of right now, there seem to be more questions than answers, and one of the main questions is, how much of this bill has actually been grounded in reality? The next most glaring question that Republicans should consider, what are we going to do about the greatest drug dealers of all, Big Pharma?
Getting Sober With Restore
At the end of the day, some of us require a bit of additional help before comfortably moving into any type of sober residence. Addiction will show up at your door with both barrels blazing and it’s up to us as the alcoholics we are to know how to handle it appropriately. Nobody wants to be a victim of this disease. If you or your loved one is ready to leave substance dependency behind and start a new way of life, please call 1-800-982-5530 or visit www.restoredtx.wpengine.com. Our teams of specialists are waiting to explore your options with a drug detox center.