Drug Harm Index Under Scrutiny
Image via WikipediaA focus on harm
Mark Easton, BBC News - UK
The index has its critics who argue that it conflates two different types of harm: the harms from using drugs and the harms from a policy of prohibition. The campaigning Transform Drug Policy Foundation puts it this way (A Comparison of the Cost-effectiveness of the Prohibition and Regulation of Drugs 2005 [444 KB PDF]):
"The failure to disaggregate drug use harms from drug policy harms or, specifically, prohibition harms, is a major obstacle to meaningful evaluation of existing policy and consequently, to the rational development of potentially more effective policy responses."
Nevertheless, the idea that we should focus on reducing "harm" rather than simply "crime" is increasingly embedded in Whitehall thinking - and the implications could be far-reaching.
Soca's definition of "harm" goes beyond illegal drug running and the economic costs of crime - this is a complex measure by which the agency pursues all its activities. Physical, social, environmental, economic and structural harms are considered at every level - from the personal to the international:
"SOCA's focus is not solely on the criminals and the offences they are committing" the agency explains, adding that their "operational business now focuses more sharply on the question of what will make a tangible and lasting difference for those who are being adversely affected".
Looking at crime through the harm prism may make us reconsider priorities.
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