“Good example” is an example of what assignment should look like
Critical Thinking (HUM 115)
6 Dec. 2020
Argumentative Essay Outline
The Decriminalization of Drugs
Despite harsh legal consequences, drugs are still a major issue in the United States.
• (EVIDENCE): Many Americans are arrested on drug-related charges each year.
o (BOE 1): “According to estimated crime statistics released by the F.B.I. in
September, there were 1,654,282 arrests for drugs in 2018, a number that has
increased every year since 2015” (Stellin, The New York Times).
o (BOE 2): “The percentage of drug arrests that have been for possession (instead of
for sale or manufacturing charges) has also risen, to 86 percent last year from
around 67 percent in 1989. And the majority of drug arrests have involved small
quantities” (Stellin, The New York Times).
• President Nixon declared a war on drugs in the 1970s. Harsh sentences for drug offenses
were passed. People of color were disproportionately targeted (Pearl, Center for American
• It is clear that the war on drugs has failed.
• Policymakers need to look at alternate ways of tackling the drug epidemic in the United
• The possession of drugs should be decriminalized:
o taxpayers’ money would be spent on treatment facilities instead of incarceration.
o people who use drugs would be more likely to come forward and seek help without
the fear of facing legal repercussions.
o the racial disparities of drug law enforcement would be diminished.
Decriminalizing drug possession would lower the amount of money spent on incarceration and
allow for taxpayers’ money to be redirected to treatment programs.
• (EVIDENCE): It costs millions of dollars each year to incarcerate people on drug-related
o (BOE): “State governments spent another $7 billion in 2015 to incarcerate
individuals for drug-related charges. North Carolina, for example, spent more than
$70 million incarcerating people for drug possession” (Pearl, Center for American
The legal consequences of substance use may prevent people from coming forward and seeking
• (EVIDENCE): The drug problem has gotten increasingly worse in the United States,
whereas places where drugs are decriminalized, such as Portugal, have seen dramatic
improvements in drug-related issues.
o (BOE 1): “…[U.S.] overdose fatalities have increased dramatically for 3 decades,
with a record number of 71,966 estimated deaths in 2019” (Stephenson, JAMA
o (BOE 2): “In 2001… Portugal became the first country to decriminalize the
possession and consumption of all illicit substances… and the ensuing years saw
dramatic drops in problematic drug use, HIV and hepatitis infection rates, overdose
deaths, drug-related crime and incarceration rates” (Ferreira, The Guardian).
Decriminalizing the possession of drugs would aid in diminishing the racial injustices that exist in
the criminal justice system today.
• (EVIDENCE): People of color are more likely to be arrested and receive harsher sentences
for drug law violations (Race and the Drug War, Drug Policy Alliance).
o (BOE 1): “Black people comprise just 13% of the U.S. population and use drugs at
similar rates as other groups – but they comprise 29% of those arrested for drug law
violations and 35% of those incarcerated in state prison for drug possession”
(Davies, Drug Policy Alliance).
o (BOE 2): “Higher arrest and incarceration rates for [black] communities are not
reflective of increased prevalence of drug use, but rather of law enforcement’s focus
on urban areas, lower income communities and communities of color” (Race and
the Drug War, Drug Policy Alliance).
o (BOE 3): “Research shows that prosecutors are twice as likely to pursue a
mandatory minimum sentence for black people as for white people charged with
the same offense” (Race and the Drug War, Drug Policy Alliance).
Opponents believe that drug possession should not be decriminalized and that there are benefits to
receiving jail time for drug-related activity.
• (EVIDENCE): There is evidence to show that being incarcerated can help people on their
road to rehabilitation.
o (BOE 1): “The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports that people who
get treatment due to some kind of legal pressure tend to keep their treatment
appointments more frequently than people who are not under legal pressure…”
(Oxford Treatment Center).
o (BOE 2): “…an article in Psychology Today reports that a common relapse trigger
is spending time with former drinking or using buddies… People who are
incarcerated face no such triggers” (Oxford Treatment Center).
However, the negative aspects of life after prison far outweigh the benefits of being imprisoned.
• (EVIDENCE 1): People who use drugs are likely to relapse when they return home after
o (BOE): “Marianne Parshley, the governor of the American College of Physicians
Oregon chapter… said that the risk of deadly overdose is significantly increased
when a person dealing with addiction is incarcerated: ‘The time of highest risk is
in the two weeks post discharge from correctional institutions’” (Lennard, The
• (EVIDENCE 2): It becomes more difficult for people with criminal records to build a better
life for themselves once they are released from jail.
o (BOE): “The NAACP [National Association for the Advancement of Colored
People] reports that a criminal record can reduce the likelihood of a job offer or job
callback by close to 50%” (Oxford Treatment Center).
• Drugs need to be treated as a public health issue and not a criminal justice issue.
• Long-lasting effects of drug arrests are detrimental to public health and safety.
• Decriminalizing drugs would help relieve people of color from the disproportionate burden
the war on drugs placed on their communities.
Davies, Jag. “4 Reasons Why The U.S Needs to Decriminalize Drugs – And Why We’re Closer
Than You Think.” Drug Policy Alliance, 2017, drugpolicy.org/blog/4-reasons-why-us-
Ferreira, Susana. “Portugal’s Radical Drug Policy Is Working: Why Hasn’t the World Copied It?”
The Guardian, 2017, www.theguardian.com/news/2017/dec/05/portugals-radical-drugs-
Lennard, Natasha. “Oregon’s Decriminalization Vote Might Be Biggest Step Yet to Ending War
on Drugs.” The Intercept, 2020, theintercept.com/2020/11/04/oregon-drugs-
Pearl, Betsy. “Ending the War on Drugs: By the Numbers.” Center for American Progress, 2018,
“Race and the Drug War.” Drug Policy Alliance, drugpolicy.org/issues/race-and-drug-war.
“Rehabilitation vs. Incarceration: Rehabilitation in the Criminal Justice System.” Oxford
Treatment Center, 2020, www.oxfordtreatment.com/rehab-vs-prison/.
Stellin, Susan. “Is The ‘War on Drugs’ Over? Arrest Statistics Say No.” The New York Times,
Stephenson, Joan. “Drug Overdose Deaths Head Toward Record Number in 2020, CDC Warns.”
JAMA Network, 2020, jamanetwork.com/channels/health-forum/fullarticle/2772241.
Pragmatic Classical Argument Structure
I. Introduction to general topic which leads to a clear thesis (Exordium)
II. A moment of definition, background, and/or precedence (Narratio, Proposito, and Partitio)
· This is a section which clarifies and gives history on the topic or your stance on it.
III. Support 1 (Confirmatio #1):
· This is typically the most logical reason why one should support your claim.
b. Backing for evidence
IV. Support 2 (Confirmatio #2):
· This is typically a side of the argument most don’t think about. Perhaps it is a little known effect of the issue that interests and compels your reader to continue with you while you argue your point.
b. Backing for evidence
V. Support 3 (Confirmatio #3):
· This is typically the strongest support of your claim. It is generally positioned last to deliver the most impact. It may include a staggering fact, testimony, or statistic. It also might include a very emotional appeal that the audience can relate to. You want this to build into a very strong, winning conclusion.
b. Backing for evidence
VI. Concession (Concession/Refutatio):
· One-way ethos (ethical appeal) is maintained is through presenting yourself as a fair and knowledgeable writer. In order to most effectively illustrate this, writers will give a nod or concession to opposing viewpoints.
a. It is also a good idea to cite outside sources in this section.
b. This does not weaken your argument. Rather, it shows you are aware of multi-perspectives on this issue and aren’t afraid or apprehensive to note them because you will also refute them.
c. Concession does not have to follow in this order. Some writers include concession after the “definition” section so that they can dedicate their supports 1 – 3 to the refutation.
d. Consider evidence and backing for evidence
VII. Refutation (Refutatio – Refute):
· In this section, you refute the concession. Even though you conceed to an outside perspective, you remind your readers that either a.) there may be some kind of logical error in the other perspective or b.) that, even though this outside perspective may be valid, the harm or benefits do not outweigh those of your perspective.
b. Backing for evidence
VIII. Conclusion (Peroratio):
· Unlike the traditional “summary” conclusion this is the space wherein you want to really drive home your claim. You may recap your essay here, but the last note needs to strongly appeal to your audience to consider your perspective. Think of it as a moment of “grand standing” or the rallying end of a speech.
· You can have more than three supports.
· Your support sections do not have to be each one paragraph. (Perhaps the first support is two paragraphs, the second is one, and the third is three. Try to vary the support paragraphs so that they do not feel formulaic.)
· You can use first person, but AVOID 2ND PERSON: NO YOU, YOUR.