Nationwide there has been a recognition that anti drug/alcohol policies that have prioritized incarceration over rehabilitation have not been successful. As a result, no matter a person’s individual stance on the issue, prosecutors throughout America have begun to adapt new methods with which to more pro actively head off increased illicit drug/alcohol activity within their respective jurisdictions.
To provide but one example, by all accounts Seattle Washington is in the midst of a drug enforcement strategy that is lowering the rate of crime, not by the threat of incarceration, but by compelled rehabilitation.
Law enforcement officials in Washington state in conjunction with state prosecutors have endorsed directives that seek to avoid drug arrests by offering potential arrestees the choice of treatment over arrest. Significantly, at the point of arrest, it is police officers and not prosecutors who are empowered to offer such immediate options to those subject to imminent arrest.
Where in years past the criminal justice systems of such cities would be burdened with an overwhelming amount of non violent individuals slowing the successful prosecution of violent offenders, Seattle and like minded jurisdiction are utilizing a unique approach that hopes to set an example for other legal jurisdictions throughout America.
Many have found Seattle’s crime fighting approach in this area a win win in regard to the successful prioritization of criminal prosecution. Those violent or otherwise repeat criminal offenders who threaten harm to the general public are able to be prosecuted far more expeditiously and incarcerated without jail overcrowding serving as a basis for early release.
Non violent offenders, many of whom would simply be subject to drug/alcohol treatment anyway, would no longer overburden a legal system by immediately channeling such qualified individuals to treatment and the prospect of a productive life; many times without the impediment of a criminal record to overshadow a minor discretionary transgression of law.
Seattle’s approach has gained national notoriety and been the focus of a 60 minutes piece that infers that such novel approaches to crime fighting have become the best hope for diminishing the underlying relationship between drug abuse and increased criminal activity once and for all.
The public’s changing stances on the prosecution of certain types of drug activity has allowed for the implementation of such programs to become more readily accepted among the general public; and in turn, elected officials.
For example, where in the recent past the prospect of Marijuana becoming a legal recreational drug would have been out of the question, national voters have consistently begun to favor such legislation when such ballot initiatives have been presented for their approval.
Within this rising tide of re shifting law enforcement policies, influential law enforcement officials within the state of Indiana have not only seen fit to reject the above referenced approaches to reducing crime, but have seemingly doubled down on incarceration as the go to method of addressing all forms of drug activity within its borders.
Former Elkhart County Indiana prosecutor Curtis Hill was recently elected Attorney General for the state of Indiana. The position of Attorney General is one that litigates in favor of state laws the result of appellate challenge, or can be an influential position within an advisory role to state legislators in the adaption of crime fighting legislation favored by the Attorney General in question.
One of Mr. Hill’s first actions as Attorney General has been his appointment of Mr. Aaron Negengard as Chief Deputy within the Indiana Attorney General’s office. Mr. Negengard in his former position as prosecutor for Dearborn County Indiana gained national notice for his steadfast rejection of crime fighting policies that diminish the imposition of incarceration as the first option directed at all individuals convicted of drug related offenses.
Presumably, such policies would include those taking place within Seattle and taking hold elsewhere that have promoted rehabilitation for non violent drug offenders over housing such individuals within at capacity penal facilities.
Ironically, the thought among many legal observers within Indiana was that by shining a light on the harsh policies enacted by those such as former prosecutor Nedengard, a healthy debate could begin as to whether more reasoned approaches to criminal prosecution could be discussed within our state. After all, as pointed out within a NY Times article on the issue, it seems rather curious that a small rural community such as that of Dearborn county Indiana has more people incarcerated for drug offenses than two major US cities combined.
Although the general public in Indiana may in fact endorse such legal action, (Nedengard was re elected as Dearborn County Prosecutor) it may best promote the public interest for other communities within Indiana to be aware of the positions held by such state law enforcement officials.
The political campaign for state Attorney General is generally not one that lends itself to public interest or analysis as to the implication such election results can have toward state laws that can directly affect our quality of life.
Whether in Washington state or elsewhere, no crime fighting tactic will be universally successful in both reducing crime and increasing the rate of rehabilitation. However, it is imperative that our legislators and prosecutors never rest in experimenting with the most effective ways with which to compassionately deal with certain underlying law enforcement agendas.
No matter the position of our elected officials, it is important that those positions be known. Once understood, it is vital that antiquated positions on law enforcement be scrutinized and changed as necessary to promote the public’s well being.
Although Indiana tends to be conservative in its willingness to adapt to change, in the area of law enforcement our legislators have begun to take steps to recognize that our former ways of addressing criminal punishment needed significant modification.
Last year’s alteration of the Indiana criminal code was done in large measure to address the issue of prison overcrowding due to former laws encouraging prosecutors to incarcerate too many non violent criminal offenders.
As such, with the election of those such as new Attorney General Curtis Hill, time will tell as to the direction that Indiana will take in the promotion of legislation that takes a fresh and reasoned look as to the most effective means with which to reduce crime within its borders.
In regard to the arrest and/or prosecution of non violent drug offenses, the appointment of a former prosecutor such as Mr. Negengard to chief deputy Attorney General may be an indication that unlike the changing policies of other states, the state of Indiana may prove unwilling to embrace the notion that illegal drug activity should be met with anything less than the real threat of incarceration.