Mike Barton, The Chief Constable of Durham Police said that arresting and charging drug addicts is a waste of time. Barton has long supported changing drug laws to punish the people supplying the drugs rather than users.
He said that arresting addicts did not solve the problem. This is because punishing someone for an addiction is like punishing someone for being sick. The punishment is harsh, it prevents people from seeking treatment and locking someone up does not change the fact that they are an addict. In fact, arresting someone for an addiction simply makes them an addict in prison.
In an interview with the Huffington Post, Barton said, “The stigma of addiction is a pernicious and inhumane phenomenon. The continuing description of drug addicts as criminals rather than people who are unhealthy or sick prevents them getting well and consigns their family to years of misery and often destitution.”
In essence, Barton is highlighting something many in the addiction treatment have been saying for years. Addiction often has a underlying cause and simply arresting someone and charging them with a crime does nothing to treat that cause.
Instead of arresting addicts, Barton proposes implementing usage rooms where addicts can use while under close supervision. These rooms would crack down on drugs from criminal organisations and offer a chance for law enforcement and treatment professionals to offer real and lasting help.
“Addicts should be treated and supported into recovery. Their entrapment in criminal justice is a waste of police time and of the state’s money and dissuades addicts from revealing themselves for treatment for fear of criminal consequences. The police should continue to tackle drug dealers and other criminals. Drug addicts should be decriminalised when they offer themselves up for treatment and recovery.”
By offering treatment Barton hopes to lower the overall number of addicts and make a life without drugs seem more attainable.