Yes. SIgnificant changes are *long* overdue. "They" say that the correctional system is meant to keep social order, to prevent crime, and keep the general public safe.
What you do when you separate a child from his/her incarcerated parent is create a situation in which parenting becomes virtually impossible. These children have one parent when the other is in prison.
The results are not all encompassing, but can include juvenile delinquency, poor school performance, poor school *attendance*, financial strife, lack of proper supervision even from the free parent who is doing his/her best.
Regarding drug "crimes". I think the only crime left in the drug world is anything to do with distribution, from your international trafficker to your corner dealer. These folks are a danger and burden to society and they wrech lives. They should go to jail.
Users and those found guilty merely of possession (NO MATTER HOW MUCH) who were not caught in the act of selling should not be thrown in jail. Our jails are overpopulated with people who could pay their "societal debt" (whatever the hell that means!) in other ways: community service, fines directed to support drug prevention programs, and mandatory education and/or job placement assistance.
We need to do our very best to keep families intact, and to support those who are struggling. Addiction is a disease, not a crime. You need to treat the addiction, not destroy the family, as both addiction of a parent and inconsistent parental involvement in their children's lives are two risk factors for the CHILDREN picking up on the drug culture and getting caught up in addiction themselves.
And now for my cynical opinion. I don't think jails/prisons were designed to improve society. They are designed to punish. They are an industry that supports thousands of jobs and without these *extra*, nonviolent prisoners to populate these dangerous institutions, the fewer correctional jobs there are. Screw the guards. Screw the cops. Screw the judges. Let's focus on improving the lives of all citizens and stop trying to guarantee a permaneneet separation from the have nots to the haves.
It's time we rethink what we are about as a lawful society, and do the hard work to repair what is broken, instead of continuing to feed both criminal behavior, and the prison system that is truly an industrial complex trying to perpetuate its own existence.
It is time to slay that dragon once and for all.