A Massachusetts police department success in treating addicts instead of simply incarcerating them has led similar programs to be adopted in 28 different states.
Drug addiction in America is an ever-growing epidemic and a “war” that we are losing. Throwing addicts in jail has proven ineffective given the nature of drug addiction and so hundreds of police departments around the US have started using drug treatment as an alternative to imprisonment. For instance, the Gloucester County Police Department in Massachusetts has created a revolutionary new policing strategy called the Angel program, aimed at getting addicts the help they need, instead of putting them in handcuffs. This program has had so much success that it has turned heads and convinced other law enforcement departments to follow their lead.
The nature of drug addiction is difficult to understand for many people. Many assume that people who consume drugs lack moral discipline or will power, and that they can stop using drugs whenever they decide to. With this mentality, people look at drug users as criminals or simply a bad element of society that should be locked up and forgotten. Yet, this is not the case for much of the drug consuming population. As a matter of fact, most people use drugs for the first time when they are just teenagers.
There were over 2.8 million new users of illicit drugs in 2013, which comes to 7,800 new users per day. Over half (54.1 percent) were under 18 years of age. Many prestigious colleges are even set in high drug trafficking zones, causing many college students to be exposed to “hard” drugs at a young age. Many of these drugs are extremely powerful, fogging the mind of the user. Some of these users claim to have lost control, committing crimes to buy the drug, selling their belongings, or even resorting to prostitution. These drug users are ultimately caught and released numerous times for the same crimes.
To combat the addiction problem, Gloucester police chief, Leonard Campanello pledged in 2015 that drug users could walk into the police station, hand over heroin, and walk out into treatment within hours — without arrest or charges. The concept of help rather than handcuffs became a national sensation. This initiative to help drug users instead of arresting them has led to what is now called the Angel program. Per the program, if you have drugs or drug paraphernalia on you, the police department will dispose of it for you. They will not arrest you. You will not be charged with a crime or even be taken to jail. Instead, you will be paired with a volunteer “ANGEL” who will help guide you through the treatment process. In Gloucester, records show that 530 people have sought help at the police station since June 2015.
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