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We cannot arrest and imprison our way out of our serious drug problems.
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Having lost a child and worked with so many families in the same position, it is a pain that never dissipates. And while we cannot bring our own children back, we can sure as hell try and make sure such tragedy and pain doesn’t happen for other families.
The current state and federal governments refuse to acknowledge the key role of harm reduction in providing safety and saving lives. Instead, they are forging ahead with their illogical and impossible pursuit of a drug-free society based on the old, heavy-handed law-and-order approach.
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Australia needs a new approach. We need to learn the lessons of history and to understand the evidence of what is happening in the world around us. Death penalties, harsh sentences and increased policing have done little in our region to curb drug use and the many harms it creates
The current political and community discussion on prisons appears to be quite logical. Too many prisoners means building more prisons. The problem is that it doesn't solve the problem and doesn't improve community safety. In fact it achieves very little of what people think it will achieve.
Some United States politicians, policy makers and government funded frontline workers are taking a fresh look at government spending -- which totals $US 6.6 trillion annually -- and applying the Moneyball mindset. In Australia, we can do the same when it comes to expenditure on complex problems such as illicit drugs policy.
I am convinced my son Damien could have taken the right steps to overcome his problems and achieve a productive goal in life. He and many others never got the opportunity. Harm reduction stands beside all forms of drug treatment as a legitimate and much-needed element in drug policy.