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Incarceration of drug offenders: Costs and impacts. Briefing paper 7

Bewley-Taylor, D. and Trace, Mike and Stevens, Alex (2005) Incarceration of drug offenders: Costs and impacts. Briefing paper 7. Discussion paper. Beckley Foundation (Access to this publication is currently restricted. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided) (KAR id:13323)

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Most governments make strong statements about the need to maintain, and often increase, police activity and penal sanctions for drug

users. This is based on the idea that strong enforcement, and widespread incarceration, will deter potential users and dealers from

becoming involved in the illegal drug market. In fact, very few countries actually follow through on the rhetoric – arrest and incarceration

rates for drug users are relatively low in most countries in relation to the total number of users, and the often quoted maximum sentences

are rarely, if ever, used. The one country that has consciously used large-scale incarceration as a drug prevention measure is the United

States, where approximately 500,000 drug law offenders are currently in prison. Evidence from their experience over the last 20 years shows that, while some marginal impacts on drug prices and prevalence rates can be attributed to this policy, it has failed to fundamentally alter the scale and nature of the illegal drug market. In addition, there are significant financial, social and health costs associated with high rates of incarceration, which perhaps explains why most countries have not gone down this road.

Item Type: Reports and Papers (Discussion paper)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare
Divisions: Divisions > Division for the Study of Law, Society and Social Justice > School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research
Funders: Beckley Foundation (
Depositing User: Alex Stevens
Date Deposited: 04 Apr 2009 19:42 UTC
Last Modified: 12 Jul 2022 10:39 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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