Global Prosecutors & Policy Leaders Convene to Advance Drug Policy Reforms
The U.S. and dozens of nations across the globe are increasingly recognizing that criminalizing drug use has failed to make people healthier or safer — instead it has simply criminalized people who use drugs. Policymakers and advocates worldwide are now turning to proven public health solutions that are more effective and compassionate, but often face challenges in doing so, including limited resources, myths about treatment and recovery and persistent stigma that marginalizes people who use drugs. Global leaders promoting more humane criminal justice policies often point to lessons learned abroad — something FJP saw firsthand through our trips to Portugal and Germany earlier this year.
To seed the ground for reform among prosecutors and policy leaders and create a collaborative network of decision-makers committed to change, this week FJP convened a group of prosecutors, elected leaders and public health experts from around the world to discuss and share strategies around how to advance public health, rather than criminal justice, responses to problematic drug use.
“People who use drugs should be treated with compassion, and implementing effective, humane responses to reduce the risks of drug use is urgent and requires bold action. As we advance reforms in Ireland, it is incredibly helpful to be aware of similar efforts in other countries and to have the support of dynamic leaders around the globe.”
–Lynn Ruane, Independent Senator, Seanad Éireann, Ireland
The meeting, held as part of the International Law Enforcement and Public Health (LEPH) Conference in Edinburgh, Scotland, forged alliances among reform-minded prosecutors and policy leaders committed to shared learning and using their collective voice to advance reforms.
“Decades of evidence shows that ‘tough-on-crime’ approaches to drugs and other public health issues fail on all fronts. As jurisdictions around the world reconsider how to respond to drug use, bringing prosecutors into conversation with public health experts is crucial to ensuring that we put the right policies in place. I look forward to learning from, and working alongside, this group of leaders to drive forward a new normal for how societies worldwide treat people who use drugs.”
–Mike Trace, CEO, Forward Trust and former Deputy UK Anti-Drug Coordinator
From strategizing on how law enforcement voices can help promote harm reduction and change the narrative around people who use drugs, to discussing efforts to implement overdose prevention sites and other harm reduction interventions, to sharing the most effective approaches to decriminalization, deflection and diversion — it was clear from this meeting that there are ample opportunities for global collaboration on these critical issues.
People who use drugs around the world deserve compassion and support to lead healthy lives, rather than punishment and isolation that locks them into cycles of incarceration. By working together, we can achieve this change and create healthier, safer communities.