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Obama Drug Adviser: Reform Justice System to Recognize Drug Addiction as Disease

Written by Featured Organization on 28 November 2011.

Special to the NNPA from the Afro-American Newspaper - President Obama’s top drug policy advisor will hold a media briefing on Nov. 21 at the Office of National Drug Control Policy to share new approaches to America’s drug war. Gil Kerlikowske, director of National Drug Control Policy, will share data regarding the disproportionate impact our nation’s drug problem has on African American communities.

Kerlikowske will also reveal unprecedented efforts by the administration to break the cycle of drug use, crime, incarceration, and re-arrest. He will be joined by Dr. Redonna K. Chandler, chief of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) Services Research Branch in the Division of Epidemiology, Services and Prevention Research.

“The Obama Administration has been laser focused on applying sound, research-based drug policies geared toward protecting Americans from the public health and safety threats drugs pose. As someone who has spent their entire career in law enforcement, I know we cannot arrest our way out of the drug problem,” said Kerlikowske.

“That’s why our policies are now based upon the recognition that drug addiction is a disease that can be successfully prevented and treated. The tragic wreckage wrought by drug use can and should be prevented before it becomes a criminal justice or public health emergency.”

Kerlikowske recently finished a nationwide tour with prominent Black leaders from New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Atlanta and Los Angeles to listen to concerns about drug policy impact and to share the administration effective solutions to reform the criminal justice system to make it more fair while protecting public safety.

“As our nation works to recover from one of the greatest recessions we’ve had, we must do everything we can to lessen the harm that drug use causes to the health, safety, and economic potential of our nation.  As part of this effort, we must reform our criminal justice system so that it recognizes drug addiction as a disease and works in a way that is fair and equitable to every American.  This challenge requires new and innovative ways of thinking about how we address our drug problem,” stated Kerlikowske at a Nov. 10 meeting with several African American leaders.

More than seven million people in the United States are under the supervision of the criminal justice system with more than two million behind bars. •

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