Last Friday, Right on Crime Senior Fellow Pat Nolan appeared on “The Jimmy Barrett Show” to discuss various aspects of the criminal justice system across the country, innovative reforms that states have adopted to address drug offenses, and pending federal legislation.

Barrett opened up the segment by noting that much of President Obama’s recent trip to a federal prison centered around the incarceration of those involved in the “drug trade,” to which Nolan stated that, at “great expense,” we are imprisoning many lower-level offenders that are “replaced as soon as we take them off the street.”

According to Nolan, it is the higher-level drug offenders–organizations transporting large amounts of drugs across borders, etc.–that resources ought to be reserved for, at which point he mentioned the pending SAFE Justice Act that seeks to do just that:

“There’s a bill called the SAFE Justice Act, and it focuses the resources on the big guys, those involved in organizations bringing large amounts of drugs across state lines and across international borders. And that’s where the feds ought to be spending their effort, not the guy working the street corner.”

Of course, as Barrett correctly states immediately following this, the “guy on the street corner” is still committing a crime, so what’s to be done about them? To which Nolan answered:

“First of all, let’s deal with the addiction. The reason they’re working the street corner is to feed their own addiction. When we send them to prison, they’re not getting treatment. Less than ten percent of federal prisoners with a drug addiction problem receive treatment in prison…There are [drug rehabilitation] programs that work at weaning people off of drugs, and we can do it while they’re in the community, still able to hold down jobs. Still able to support their families.


Hawaii has done it. Their program, which is just terrific, called the HOPE program, gives them an alternative. It says ‘Look, we take the rules seriously. If you’re going keep doing drugs, you are going to go to prison. But we’ll give you a chance. We’ll put you in jail for 24 hours if you violate, then you come out, and we say, are you gonna get with the program?'”

Studies from UCLA and Pepperdine investigating the success of the HOPE program, according to Nolan, have shown that, of those offenders entering the program, there was a 50% reduction in the incidence of new crimes. Which means fewer victims, fewer court cases, and greater taxpayer savings. As Nolan suggests, this is a “win-win-win” across the board.

To hear the rest of Nolan’s interview with Jimmy Barrett, click below.