THE BLOG

The Drug War: America's Costly Addiction

06/22/2011 05:42 pm ET | Updated Aug 22, 2011

Former President Jimmy Carter published an op-ed article calling for an end to the drug war. He was not alone. In its June 2011 report, the Global Commission on Drug Policy, an international panel comprised of numerous heads of state, dignitaries, human rights leaders, and business leaders, joined him in calling for an end to the policies that have filled our nation's prisons with nonviolent prisoners. I have been one of those prisoners since 1987.

Numerous lives have been wasted because of the draconian sentences imposed on millions of people who don't pose any threat to society. I am not only referring to the people in prison. Many people in society have suffered because of the enormous costs associated with mass incarceration of nonviolent drug prisoners.

Former Governor Schwarzenegger said that in 1980, spending on education accounted for 10 percent of the state's budget while spending on prisons accounted for 3 percent. In 2010, by contrast, spending on prisons accounted for nearly 11 percent of the state's budget while spending on education accounted for 7.5 percent of the state budget.

It surprises me that during these times of economic distress across our country, taxpayers don't protest with the upside-down logic of spending more money to lock people in cages while spending less money to educate people. In August I will begin climbing through my 25th consecutive year as a prisoner. Now that I've spent more of my life in prison than outside of prison, I sometimes forget why I am here. Despite the length of time that has passed, it has not been terribly bad for me. I've been blessed in numerous ways. Still, I look forward to my return to society. I don't know how much more time will pass for me as a prisoner, but I will use whatever time remains to help other prisoners embrace strategies to grow.