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Report released documenting the criminalization of drug use

Earlier this month, a report was released by Human Rights Watch regarding the criminalization of drug use. Using both statistical data and anecdotal interviews, the report seeks to reveal what our country's "War on Drugs" is really costing us.

The title of this report, "Every 25 Seconds: The Human Toll of Criminalization of Drug Use," speaks to the statistic that someone is arrested for simple drug possession in the United States every 25 seconds. This amounts to more than 1.25 million arrests each year - which is far more than for any other crime.

These arrests result in more than 137,000 people in jail for drug possession on any given day in this country. After jail or prison they face court-imposed fees and fines as well and extended parole periods. Criminal records also limit access to employment, education, housing and federal programs.

The report focuses on four states: Texas, Louisiana, Florida and New York. Interviews were conducted with more than 365 individuals, including those who have been arrested for drug use as well as their family members, attorneys, officials and activists. They also examined national and state-specific data related to drug possession. They found harsh treatment and aggressive prosecution tactics throughout the criminal justice system, resulting in severe penalties. For example:

"In Florida, 75 percent of people convicted of felony drug possession between 2010 and 2015 had little to no prior criminal history. Yet 84 percent of people convicted of these charges were sentenced to prison or jail."

As a result of this report, Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union call for states and the federal government to decriminalize drug possession for personal use. They suggest focusing instead on "prevention and harm reduction." Until that time comes, it is vital to mitigate the harmful consequences of current laws.

Those who have been accused in Florida can protect their rights and minimize consequences through strong criminal defense representation from the Law Offices of Mark L. Horwitz, P.A.

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