Could Fr Peter McVerry be the new Minister with responsibility for Drug policy?

young drug addict manCould Fr Peter McVerry be the new Minister with responsibility for Drug policy?

Highly unlikely, but his CV would suggest otherwise. Peter has worked with people dependent on drugs since the 1970's. In the early years he would have seen abuse of Cannabis and LSE, from the late 80’s intravenous drugs such as heroin and more recently poly (multiple) drug use.

The voluntary organisation that bears his name, and which he is a Director of, works daily with people who are dependent on drugs.

Recently Peter wrote an opinion piece in The Irish Times arguing why he believes drugs should be decriminalised and that the ‘war on drugs’ has failed wider society and the person dependent on drugs. That the punitive response is further damaging drug users and there are insufficient treatment facilities.

“Every drug user I have worked with has come to a point in their life when they wanted to give up drugs. There is then a small window of opportunity to help them. However, if treatment is not available, or if they have to go on long waiting lists, then the window of opportunity may close.”

Describing the cost to society, McVerry tells a story of attending court with a young man who has been charged with possession of cannabis to the value of €2. While he does not attempt to calculate the actual financial cost, the total must be staggering as it is adjourned four times: several court appearances which Gardái have to attend, free legal aid, judicial salary – not to mention the cost of a prison sentence.

Furthermore, he notes the wider social costs and why these are rarely taken into account when discussing the ‘war on drugs’:

“On average, a person using illegal drugs on a regular basis might commit two crimes a day to pay for their habit. If a person joins a six-month waiting list, they may commit 350 crimes while waiting for treatment. If, after five years, they have remained drug-free, society has been spared some 3,500 crimes... Of course, you cannot see 3,500 crimes not being committed so it is difficult to persuade politicians that treatment is value for money.”

If you would like to read more on Peter McVerry’s views on drugs in Ireland, see below:

Drug Policy: Need for Radical Change? - Fr. Peter McVerry SJ writes in a special issue of Working Notes.
Fr. McVerry in Late Late Show debate on decriminalising drugs
Fr. McVerry discusses drug gangs and decriminalisation on Radio 1
For the full article in the Irish Times click here.

Posted in Criminality, Prisons and Justice News

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