Incarceration does not deter drug use, student survey suggests

by Nila Strong,

Edited by Ms. Kirsch’s Creative Writing class

This semester, our Creative Writing class received a visit from Ms. Kelly Burke, Patterson’s Sr. Rehabilitation Therapist through the Department of Community Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center. She spoke with us about drugs and how they can affect our minds and bodies.

Her visit inspired us to look deeper into the issue, so we created an unscientific anonymous survey that asks questions about drug use and drug possession laws. For example, we asked questions like “Do you feel putting people in jail makes them stop using drugs?” We found that, of the almost 200 people we surveyed, 161 believed that putting people in jail does not make them stop using drugs. People wrote down their reasons for their opinions. Many said that they knew people who had gone to jail and had just as easy a time getting drugs in jail as on the streets. One person wrote, “We are doing this [putting people in jail] but I haven’t seen something change.”

Yet those surveyed, mostly Patterson students, did believe that many drugs are dangerous and that laws should be changed, not to make drugs more accessible, but to keep people safer.

We came up with the questions by having discussions about drugs and possession laws. We asked each other questions and we brainstormed, too. Creating and administering a survey was a great way to find out more about an important topic.


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