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Trump Administration to Create Task Force on Opioid Addiction

The new commission correctly focuses on treatment, not prison, for America’s drug problem. But other plans to vigorously enforce drug and marijuana crimes could resurrect outdated, ineffective, and wasteful policies.

March 29, 2017

New Executive Order Shifts Administration Focus to Treatment

President Trump is expected to announce an executive order today to create a “Commission on Combatting Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis,” to be headed by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie with involvement from Jared Kushner.

Both Christie and Kushner are strong supporters of the bipartisan movement for criminal justice reform. The task force will be charged with making recommendations on federal funding on prevention, treatment, and support services within 90 days, as well as examining possible changes to federal criminal laws and the use of reentry services to support recovery.

The announcement comes after Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a three-part plan to combat opioid addiction, which includes enforcement, prevention, and treatment. However, Sessions has also indicated plans to vigorously enforce drug and marijuana crimes, which many experts believe could resurrect ineffective, wasteful practices.

“Today’s order emphasizes the tactic we know best addresses drug abuse: treatment. We hope the new commission will focus its attention there, instead of recommending new unnecessary laws or mandatory minimum sentences,” said Inimai Chettiar, director of the Brennan Center’s Justice Program. “Unfortunately, the administration has indicated it may increase the use of arrest and enforcement for other drug crimes, particularly marijuana. We hope it will instead focus those efforts on treatment as well. We know prison doesn’t work to address drug crime and abuse.”

In December, the Brennan Center released a report finding that 39 percent of prisoners nationwide are incarcerated without a public safety justification, with 30 percent of unnecessarily incarcerated prisoners serving time for drug offenses.