Smart drug policy is inextricably linked to smart crime policy. When treatment of substance use disorders (SUD) is the primary response to criminal behavior tied to untreated addiction and use, it has a profound impact on reducing not only costs to the public safety system but also to the health care system. However, crime and drug policy do not end there. Ensuring the successful reintegration of justice-involved individuals into the community is equally important to ensuring that people get the care and supports they need. Yet many people in recovery face an overwhelming array of discriminatory barriers as a result of their addiction and/or criminal histories, which make it difficult to obtain employment, housing, education, public benefits, and other necessities of life.
During the 1980s and 1990s, the nation engaged in a “war on drugs” that led to the United States having the largest incarcerated population in the world. Legislators enacted policies that erected collateral consequences or extended punishment for people with drug convictions beyond completion of their sentences. These policies stripped away from millions of people, including many in recovery, rights and eligibility for vital services. While in most cases, states were permitted to opt out of these bans, the message across the country was clear.