Illegal narcotics are a growing problem at the local level and nationwide. A group wants to make changes on how drug cases are handled which would help users recover or prevent them from starting.

Libby Skarin Policy Director of the ACLU in South Dakota sees a system that can improve. She says making changes does not equal giving up on enforcing the law.

“I don’t think that what we are proposing is any sort of softening on crime. It’s just getting smarter on crime. We want to see policies enacted that do hold people accountable, but that also recognizes that the way we have been doing things over the past 40 years has not worked. There’s no reason we should keep doing the same things over and over.”

Focusing on treatment will pay big dividends according to Skarin because that method tends to build people up instead of constantly reminding them of their mistakes.

“People who are going into systems and their addiction is being treated, once their addiction is manageable then we are not seeing other crimes. Our goal is to make communities safer by ending crime, not because we’re locking up someone and getting them out of our face, but because we’re treating the actual person while recognizing their value while also making our communities better.”

Prevention should also be a vital piece of the illegal drug problem. By remaining in the status quo, Skarin predicts that more prison space will be needed and money invested to house prisoners who are caught using illegal drugs.

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