Homeland Security Capstone Project

War on Drugs and Incarceration

  1. War on Drugs and Incarceration in Baltimore County
  1. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, at least 14 million people injected drugs worldwide in 2013 (Genberg, Astemborski, Vlahov, Kirk, & Mehta, 2015). In the United States, at least 24.6 million Americans from 12 years and above were estimated to have used drugs in 2013. Compared to statistics in 2012, the number has increased by 8.3 percent (National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2015). 
  2. In Baltimore, which is one of the largest cities in Maryland, it has the highest number per capita of injection drug use and the highest overdose mortality rates. In particular, according to statistics, at least 25,000 individuals out of at least 621,000 residents of Baltimore have opioid use disorder, with at least 20,000 being estimated to use heroin (Cepeda et al., 2019). Injection drug abuse in the county has been estimated to be more concentrated in West and East Baltimore.
  3. Consistently, due to the high prevalence of drug abuse and the social, economic, and financial impacts associated with drugs, the government of the United States waged the war on drugs in a bid to reduce the prevalence of drug abuse. Unfortunately, the war on drugs has been ongoing for several decades, but the result has been more arrests, convictions, and incarceration for drug-related crimes. Currently, the United States has the highest incarceration rates in the world related to drug abuse (Genberg et al., 2015).

Thesis: Thus, in light of the current war on drugs, especially in Baltimore County, Maryland and the high rates of incarceration associated to drug abuse, we explore and propose various solutions to the problem.

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  1. Solutions to the Issue
  1. The war on drugs has led to mass incarceration in Baltimore, the United States, and many parts of the world.
  2. Recognizing that more imprisonment does not reduce drug problems in states and the country, policymakers and public health officials have come up with other methods to address the issue of drugs and incarceration rates associated with drug use (Penal Reform International, 2015).
  3. Alternatives approaches regarding drug offenders include (The Pew Charitable Trusts, 2018)
  1. Treatment options for drug addicts
  2. Training law enforcers to prevent overdose and engage in community policing, especially in neighborhoods with emerging heroin markets
  3. Extended parole and probation for drug offenders
  4. Other alternatives on the fight against drugs include legalization of common substances such as marijuana (Drugpolicy.org, 2018).
  5. Applying the Solutions to Baltimore County
  1. In Baltimore County, treatment of drug abusers should be implemented to help people with drug disorders and prevent them from going to prison for drug possession or drug use.
  2. Law enforcers should be trained on strategies to prevent drug overdose and engage the neighborhood in community policing to help in the fight against drugs.
  3. Use of extended parole and probation for drug offenders should be used to reduce the number of people being prosecuted for possession and use of drugs.
  4. Currently, Maryland has not passed the law on marijuana, in this case, and considering the role of legalization of marijuana in reducing imprisonment rates, Maryland should consider legalizing the substance.
  5. Constitutional, Cultural, Ethical, or Moral Dilemmas associated with the Solutions
  6. The solutions proposed would have no constitutional, ethical, or moral dilemma in Baltimore County, Maryland – United States, except for the legalization of marijuana.
  1. Legislators in Maryland county may face opposition from citizens in the legalization of marijuana
  2. Ethical issues in relation to the legalization of marijuana include the long-term effects of recreational marijuana such as safety concerns, cognitive impairment, high risk of motor-vehicle accidents, severe anxiety, altered brain development, and heart damage among other ethical issues (Kadilli & Guglielmo, 2015).
  3. Solutions in Other Jurisdictions to manage the Issue of war on drugs and Incarceration rates
  1. Raising community awareness of alcohol use to prevent offending among the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders (Australian Law Reform Commission, 2017).
  2. Use of residential alternatives to rehabilitate people in mandatory drug detention in some South East Asia countries, although in 2012, the UN called on states to establish voluntary, rights-based, and evidence-informed health and social services to support drug offenders.
  3. Use of less repressive methods, especially for people caught with small quantities of drugs (Penal Reform International, 2015). 
  4. National and International Collaboration in the War against Drugs to Protect the Homeland
  1. Collaboration in counternarcotics activities to fight drugs from entering the Homeland.
  2. Collaborate to sensitive communities, especially in border towns on the dangers of drugs.
  3. Conclusion
  4. The prevalence of drug abuse in the United States and the world has remained significantly high, despite the continuing war on drugs. One major impact of the war on drugs is the high number of incarceration rates for drug users. In Baltimore, the county is among the areas with the highest number of drug users and mass incarceration rates in relation to drugs. Imprisonment has not been effective in the war on drugs. Consistently, we proposed various approaches such as treatment, community policing to create awareness, and legislation of drugs such as marijuana to reduce imprisonment rates associated with the drug among others.


Australian Law Reform Commission. (2017). Incarceration Rates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, Discussion PaperNo 84. Retrieved from https://www.alrc.gov.au/sites/default/files/pdfs/publications/discussion_paper_84_compressed_cover2.pdf

Cepeda, J. A., Astemborski, J., Kirk, G. D., Celentano, D. D., Thomas, D. L., Mehta, S. H., & Lambdin, B. H. (2019). Rising role of prescription drugs as a portal to injection drug use and associated mortality in Baltimore, Maryland. Plos One, 14(3). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0213357

Drugpolicy.org. (2018). From prohibition to progress: a status report on marijuana legalization. Retrieved from http://www.drugpolicy.org/legalization-status-report

Genberg, B. L., Astemborski, J., Vlahov, D., Kirk, G. D., & Mehta, S. H. (2015). Incarceration and injection drug use in Baltimore, Maryland: Incarceration and injection drug use. Addiction, 110(7), 1152-1159.

Kadilli, I., & Guglielmo, R. (2015). Marijuana legalization: ethical challenges. UNESCO Chair in Bioethics 11th World Conference. Italy.

National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2015). Nationwide trends. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/nationwide-trends

Penal Reform International. (2015). Drugs and Imprisonment. UNODC. Retrieved from https://www.unodc.org/documents/ungass2016/Contributions/Civil/PenalReform/Drugs_and_imprisonment_PRI_submission_UNGASS.pdf

The PEW Charitable Trusts. (2018). More imprisonment does not reduce state drug problems. Retrieved from https://www.pewtrusts.org/-/media/assets/2018/03/pspp_more_imprisonment_does_not_reduce_state_drug_problems.pdf

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