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Drug charges don't have to end in incarceration

When it comes to the complex issue of drug use and possession, there are no easy answers. For those of us who are living in traditionally conservative states like Kentucky, the public stigma against drug use, especially the more "dangerous" ones, has been written in to the way that the law treats drug offenders, often times resulting in an over-sentencing epidemic.

Recent studies revealed that many rural counties, including several in Kentucky, do not have the resources, or possibly even public support, to respond to drug offenses with much other than incarceration. Our prison population is absolutely skyrocketing, having grown almost 20 percent in the last five years alone, and much of it is owed to the incarceration rates for drug offenders. Often, this is due to suburban and rural county prosecutors, who regularly issue sentences for incarceration over treatment.

In 2011, state legislators passed a bill that was intended to reduce the ballooning incarceration rates due to a rash of heroin users that have popped up in recent years. The legislation allowed for first and second time offenders to receive treatment instead of being convicted, but this option is only exercised at the discretion of the prosecutor. Some prosecutors simply have policies of not invoking this option, choosing rather to contribute to the over-incarceration problem.

There is clearly no easy solution for those who are struggling with substance abuse; however, they deserve to be seen as people first. If you are facing drug charges, the representation of an experienced attorney can help guide you through the options and fight to make sure that you are treated fairly and humanely by the court.

Source: The Courier-Journal, "Unequal Justice," Andrew Wolfson, Oct. 15, 2016

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