In Augusta, LD 1492 — An Act to Reform Drug Sentencing Laws — should pass.

Too many Mainers are incarcerated as a result of their struggles with substance use disorder. Half the women at the Women’s Correctional Center are there for drug related issues. Many of those women are mothers.

There must be a better way to lessen the impact of this deadly disorder in the community, than separating mothers from their children. That separation adds more trauma in families already wounded.

According to research, those mothers were very likely victims of childhood trauma themselves — a major cause of substance-use disorder. Their children need to be protected from the same fate, since having a parent incarcerated is itself traumatic.

It is a vicious cycle that can be avoided by building into the justice system other, more sensible, pathways to remedy, recovery and safety. Jails are not equipped to do that. This is not a crisis of crime but of public health.

There should be enough treatment resources in Maine and pathways to that life-saving treatment. Let’s truly save those mothers’ lives and the lives of their children.

Part of the strategy is to stop calling simple drug possession a felony. Someone carrying drugs weighing less than a nickel can be charged with drug trafficking.  Once that is on someone’s record, it makes recovery so much more difficult, with heart-breaking barriers to getting a job, housing and education loans — the very things that are essential to preventing relapses.

Peg Hoffman, Lewiston


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