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ACLU report finds drugs users serve long sentences

People in North Carolina might be interested in the findings of a study by the American Civil Liberties Union that recommends decriminalizing the possession of drugs for personal use. The ACLU found that a significant amount of public and law enforcement money and resources went to detain drug users and that they often served long sentences for relatively minor offenses.

The ACLU identified a number of problems in the system. According to the report, jailing people for drug offenses perpetuates a cycle of poverty. People may lose their jobs because they cannot pay bail and then are unable to pay additional legal fees. One woman accused of having only trace amounts of heroin was in danger of losing her college financial aid and would struggle to find a place to live or a job after being convicted of a felony. The report also identified people who died in custody while waiting for a trial.

Another issue was overzealous prosecution. Prosecutors, hoping to force a plea bargain, may press for the strongest charges possible. People might end up serving long sentences, and in some cases, people were wrongfully convicted. According to the ACLU, drug use in the United States has not significantly declined in decades, and a better approach to addressing drug use would be education and harm reduction.

Possession of even a small amount of drugs can lead to serious consequences, and an individual might want to discuss their options with an attorney. Depending on the circumstances of how the drugs were found, the person might argue that the drugs were not theirs. A plea bargain might still be an option, but a person may want to work with their lawyer to make certain that they are pleading guilty to reasonable charges and looking at a reduced sentence.

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