Meeting with Congressman Steny Hoyer

Today, Director Kerlikowske met with Congressman Steny Hoyer, House Democratic Whip, to co-host a roundtable discussion about drug policy in Maryland’s 5th congressional district. During the roundtable, which included leaders from the Maryland public health and safety systems, the Director emphasized the importance of a balanced approach to drug policy—one that emphasizes drug prevention, treatment, and recovery in conjunction with effective law enforcement.

This roundtable also gave the Director an opportunity to discuss criminal justice reform. We know that we cannot arrest our way out of the Nation’s drug problem, and we must break the cycle of arrest, incarceration, and re-arrest when criminal behavior is driven by an underlying—and treatable—substance abuse problem.

This Administration has an historic record of reforming the criminal justice system’s treatment of drug offenders. Here’s an overview of some of the criminal justice efforts we’re promoting:

  • Empowering communities to disrupt drug markets.Overt drug markets are major threats to the health and safety of the communities around them. They are magnets for crime, drug use, and addiction; draw local youth into the drug trade; and dramatically reduce the quality of life for area residents. One innovative, pre-arrest diversion strategy that shows promise in reducing the presence of drug markets is Drug Market Intervention (DMI). Read more about DMI here.
  • Smart probation. Started in 2004, Hawaii’s Opportunity Probation with Enforcement (HOPE) program uses drug testing and swift, certain sanctions to change a probationer’s drug using and criminal behavior. Since 2009, more than 1,500 probationers (one in every six felony probationers in Oahu) have been enrolled in HOPE. Read more here.
  • Alternatives to incarceration. Drug Courts, which combine treatment with incentives and escalating sanctions, mandatory and random drug testing, and aftercare, are a proven solution that reduces substance use, prevents crime, and maximizes limited financial resources.  Read more about Drug Courts here.

The drug problem in Maryland and the U.S. is complex. It requires complex, evidence-based solutions. There’s no silver-bullet solution to reducing illegal drug use in this country, but we’re committed to working with our partners to implement smart, effective solutions that reduce undue burden on our already strained criminal justice system.

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