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21st Century Drug Policy Reform: A Conversation with Gil Kerlikowske

In 2007 alone, illicit drug use cost more than $193 billion in lost productivity, healthcare, and criminal justice costs nationwide. Last month, the Obama Administration released a new drug policy strategy aimed at treating America’s illegal drug problem as a public health issue, and not just a criminal justice issue. The new plan pursues a science-based approach to drug policy based on the fact that substance use disorders are a chronic disease of the brain that can be prevented, treated, and from which people can recover.

Gil Kerlikowske, Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, will discuss the Obama Administration’s plans to support innovative alternatives to incarceration and policies that reduce drug use and its consequences. Joining him will be Marc Mauer of the Sentencing Project and Chief Thomas Manger of the Montgomery County Police Department. Together, these experts will discuss the future of criminal justice reforms with respect to drug control, with the Urban Institute’s Nancy La Vigne facilitating the discussion.


Nancy LaVigne, Director, Justice Policy Center, Urban Institute

R. Gil Kerlikowske, Director, National Drug Control Policy

Marc Mauer, Executive Director, The Sentencing Project

Thomas Manger, Chief of Police, Montgomery County, MD


Multi-site Drug Court Evaluation: Based on a five-year study across 23 states, we found that people who took part in drug courts had lower relapse rates and committed fewer additional crimes, such as selling drugs and driving while intoxicated. Forty-nine percent of drug court participants reported committing new crimes, compared with 64 percent of non-participants.

Returning Home Illinois Policy Brief: Treatment Matching: As part of our Returning Home study, we found that nearly half of prisoners with a drug problem did not receive substance abuse treatment, either during or after their time in prison. Furthermore, a nearly identical proportion of Chicago prisoners who reported having a drug problem received treatment as those who did not report suffering from a drug problem, indicating that prisons’ limited drug resources were not being used to target prisoners with the greatest needs.  

Health and Prisoner Reentry: How Physical, Mental, and Substance Abuse Conditions Shape the Process of Reintegration: In a study of 1,100 returning prisoners, we found that about two-thirds reported active substance abuse in the six months prior to going to prison. Substance abusers were more likely to engage in crime and return to prison after release. Furthermore, outcomes for substance abusers varied by gender; women who reported substance abuse received less assistance than other women, while the reverse held true for substance-abusing men.

Date & Time Thursday, May 23, 2013