Our guest speaker for Tuesday’s class, Gerald Stahler gave the class some very valuable information on the prison system of the United States and how it intersects with drug use and recovery. Mr. Stahler explained to the class that the United States has the highest rate of incarcerations. Throughout the 1990’s, laws came about with the intention to do something about the crack epidemic. Therefore, drugs were even more criminalized so there was greater enforcement and longer sentences. I thought it was very important that Mr. Stahler highlighted how African Americans have a higher chance of being arrested than White’s do. They also have a higher chance of serving a longer sentence than Whites would for for the same or minor crime. I think it is mind-boggling that Mr. Stahler also mentioned how more black men are in prison, parole, or probation now than were enslaved in the 1850’s.
I think it was interesting that he also mentioned how a majority of those incarcerated have a drug problem, 53% of prison inmates meet criteria for drug dependence or abuse. Also how incarcerated females, 25%, serving time in state prison have been convicted of a drug offense, compared to 14% males. Someone in the class raised the question as to whether or not the prison system does anything for people who experience withdrawals while incarcerated and it seems like they don’t really do much of anything because they don’t have the resources or interest. I think its pretty ridiculous that people who struggle with addiction in the prison system have such limited options, it’s almost as if they are set up to fail while still being stigmatized and discriminated against. I also thought it was very powerful and brave of Mr. Stahler to share some of his personal experiences with the class and I honestly applaud him for the work that he continues to do.