Experts – and editorials – have recently claimed that no one has been imprisoned for drug use for years, long before Measure 110 was approved in 2020. But that is not accurate.
You don’t have to be sent to prison to be incarcerated for drug use. I know. Between 2013 to 2014, I was jailed for 65 days for drug possession.
And I’m not the only one.
From 2018 to 2019, more than 3,100 Multnomah County residents were charged with drug possession, according to the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission. Many of those people ended up in jail. Traditionally, the graduation rates for drug courts are low. So, while billed as an “alternative to incarceration,” many of those who opt for them end up being jailed and given a criminal record anyway.
Diversion will inevitably result in incarceration for those who do not stop using drugs, even absent any other crime and alongside earnest treatment attempts. Once someone is terminated from diversion, they’re placed on probation where they often end up back in jail.
Addiction is defined as the continued use of a substance despite repeated negative consequences. The consequences I faced – such as the destruction of my interpersonal relationships, financial ruin and write-ups for being late to work as I waited for a drug dealer that never came – were not enough to force me to quit, and imposing more consequences such as jail was not enough to silence the siren song of opioids that had gripped me for so long.