Religious Leaders Urge United Nations to Stand by Their Call for Decriminalization of Drug Use and Possession

Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference, Interdenominational Network of African American Congregations and Clergy to Mobilize in Support of Decriminalization Leading up to 2016 UN Meeting

NEW YORK—(ENEWSPF)—November 9, 2015. The Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference, Inc. (SDPC) is urging the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime to stand by their call for decriminalization of drug use and possession in the United States and around the world.

The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) appeared set to call on governments to end the criminalization of drug use and possession, according to DPA Honorary Board Member Richard Branson — but in a dramatic turn of events withdrew its briefing paper under pressure from at least one country, according to the BBC.

“Locking up people for non-violent drug use is inhumane, immoral and ineffective, said Dr. Iva Carruthers, general secretary of the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference. “At the center of SDPC’s thrust is our belief that there needs to be greater emphasis on policies that focus on Harm Reduction over criminalization.”

SDPC, an interdenominational network of African American congregations, clergy and lay leaders is actively engaged in organizing multifaith activities for the upcoming 2016 UN General Assembly Special Session on global drug policy.

In a recent meeting with a multifaith group of leaders in early October, SDPC outlined a working paper to be submitted to the United Nations General Assembly Special Session in April, 2016. That paper argues for a shift in the ideology and practice in the United States concerning drug use and possession.

The “War on Drugs,” begun in the 1980s, has made the United States the leading modern nation in the world in incarceration rates, owed largely to vast numbers of persons in jail and prison for drug use and possession. The majority of those incarcerated on these drug charges, according to statistics, are non-violent offenders.

Practices of incarcerating low-level non violent drug offenders in the U.S. has only resulted in mass incarceration and violations of human rights, impinging upon family structure, public health and general community health. While it is a fact that people of all races suffer from the current policies of criminalization of drug use and possession, it is also a fact that the majority of people so affected are poor people of color.

SDPC is advocating for “drug policies that are grounded in science, compassion, and health and human rights,” as outlined by the Drug Policy Alliance. (DPA). Instead of increasing incarceration rates for persons who are addicted to drugs, SDPC and others are advocating for a shift in investment from public and private prison systems to investment in restoring community supports and health systems.  Such a shift would dramatically decrease the numbers of people basically thrown into a cycle of incarceration with few rehabilitative options. We want the United Nations to proceed with the call.