AFSC says policy violates human rights, research, and common sense
WASHINGTON, DC and CONCORD, NH (March 19, 2018) Today, President Donald Trump unveiled his plan for addressing the opioid crisis. While the plan includes some treatment and prevention measures, it also increases enforcement and enhances penalties – in some cases seeking the death penalty for those charged with selling drugs. The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) – a Quaker organization that has been involved in healing justice and anti-incarceration work since the 1960s – strongly condemned the plan.
“Ramping up the failed war on drugs with the imposition of the death penalty is another glaring example of the deep injustices of our criminal legal system,” said Lewis Webb, Healing Justice Coordinator for the American Friends Service Committee in New York. “We know all too well that sentences of death are earmarked for the marginalized among us, the Black, brown, poor, and mentally ill. We must not allow these communities to be the scapegoats for politicians’ failures to justly and effectively respond to the opioid epidemic.”
The use of the death penalty and other extreme sentencing measures are counter to the overwhelming consensus that harsh sentencing policies do not prevent crime or address addiction. “The opioid epidemic is a public health crisis that cannot and should not be solved by incarceration and capital punishment,” said Caroline Isaacs, director of AFSC’s Arizona Program, who recently worked with Arizona leaders to pass a bipartisan bill in her state to address the opioid epidemic by funding treatment and expanding access to lifesaving measures.
Trump announced the plan in New Hampshire, where the State Senate last week approved a death penalty repeal measure and where the legislature is once again debating use of Medicaid to provide funds for substance abuse treatment. “Like other states, what New Hampshire needs is support for health services and a turn away from approaches rooted in harsh punishment,” said Maggie Fogarty, co-director of AFSC’s New Hampshire program.
The American Friends Service Committee is calling for an end to any response to the opioid crisis that involves increased sentencing and a failed “law and order” approach, and is firmly opposed to the use of the death penalty for anyone. AFSC vowed to continue to work for meaningful changes that address the root causes of addiction and provide chances for restoration rather than retribution.
“Looking to the death penalty as a solution to an epidemic that is already causing so many deaths is immoral and counterproductive,” said Denise Lee, AFSC’s policy advocacy coordinator. “We call on the country to deal with the underlying issues that are root causes of addiction and drug sales: poverty, discrimination, lack of access to education, and mass incarceration itself. We want investment in substance abuse treatment, prevention, and community-based programs that will restore individuals, strengthen communities and save lives.”
The American Friends Service Committee is a Quaker organization that includes people of various faiths who are committed to social justice, peace and humanitarian service. Its work is based on the belief in the worth of every person and faith in the power of love to overcome violence and injustice.