Tag Archives: war on drugs

Drug War Backfires on Roundup

Boliviana Negra What happens when the U.S. pays the Bolivian government to spray Roundup on coca crops as part of the “War on Drugs”?
The effort has lead to coca growers cutting down national forests — where such spraying is often against the law — to produce their illicit crops. But Mother Nature may be rebelling against drug policy as well. coca plants appear to be either evolving on their own (or with the help of coca farmers’ active selection) — or they are possibly crossing with Roundup Ready crops already on the ground — to produce a glyphosate-resistant crop known as Boliviana negra.
This doesn’t make the Bolivian government or people happy, nor the U.S. government, but:
…drug growers who do have the new strain certainly don’t want the status quo to end, because currently the U.S. government is doing their weeding for free.
What to do?
When you put together the studies referenced above, which show that spraying glyphosate is harmful to humans and the environment and that it does not hamper the production of coca or weeds, the answer to almost everyone’s problems is eliminating Monsanto.
To the drug Roundup: just say no.

Cronkite on War on Drugs

Walter Cronkite died today. I’ll remember him by what he fought for:
It surely hasn’t made our streets safer. Instead, we have locked up literally millions of people…disproportionately people of color…who have caused little or no harm to others – wasting resources that could be used for counter-terrorism, reducing violent crime, or catching white-collar criminals.

With police wielding unprecedented powers to invade privacy, tap phones and conduct searches seemingly at random, our civil liberties are in a very precarious condition.

Hundreds of billions of dollars have been spent on this effort – with no one held accountable for its failure.

Amid the clich├ęs of the drug war, our country has lost sight of the scientific facts. Amid the frantic rhetoric of our leaders, we’ve become blind to reality: The war on drugs, as it is currently fought, is too expensive, and too inhumane.

But nothing will change until someone has the courage to stand up and say what so many politicians privately know: The war on drugs has failed.

LEAP: Law Enforcement Against Prohibition

Sanity from law enforcement and legal personnel:
“We’re all calling for an end to drug prohibition. We want to end it just like we ended alcohol prohibition in 1933,” said Jack Cole, executive director for LEAP. “The day after we ended that nasty law, Al Capone and all of his smuggling buddies were out of business.”

We’re not at war with people in this country

Gary Fields writes in the Wall Street Journal:
The Obama administration’s new drug czar says he wants to banish the idea that the U.S. is fighting “a war on drugs,” a move that would underscore a shift favoring treatment over incarceration in trying to reduce illicit drug use.

In his first interview since being confirmed to head the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, Gil Kerlikowske said Wednesday the bellicose analogy was a barrier to dealing with the nation’s drug issues.

“Regardless of how you try to explain to people it’s a ‘war on drugs’ or a ‘war on a product,’ people see a war as a war on them,” he said. “We’re not at war with people in this country.”

That’s a refreshing change, given that the 5% of the population that’s incarcerated and their families and friends might well wonder if the government is at war with its own people. There are indeed some nasty sociopaths out there who need to be locked up to protect everyone else. But there aren’t enough of those to account for the U.S. prison population. The “war on drugs” accounts for many of the rest.

It’s interesting that this article was published in the WSJ, not generally known as a left-wing rag. Kerlikowske, for that matter, is a former police chief. As is customary with newspaper articles, it ends with a counter view:

James Pasco, executive director of the Fraternal Order of Police, the nation’s largest law-enforcement labor organization, said that while he holds Mr. Kerlikowske in high regard, police officers are wary.

“While I don’t necessarily disagree with Gil’s focus on treatment and demand reduction, I don’t want to see it at the expense of law enforcement. People need to understand that when they violate the law there are consequences.”

Indeed, even people at the highest levels of government need to learn that for themselves. But the solution to Pasco’s conundrum for the “war on drugs” is to change the laws. That alone won’t do it, however. Just throwing convicts back on the street after being in prison with real criminals wouldn’t be nearly as good as implementing programs to reintegrate them into the community and to prevent others from getting drug habits in the first place. Kerlikowske’s approach is needed at the same time, and even before, changing the laws.

For those who say it can’t work, try this article about Norway, which actually provides public assistance for drug addicts instead of locking them up, yet does not have any large population of addicts, and is actually growing its economy during the current economic depression.

Prison Reform

US_incarceration_timeline-clean.gif We’ve locked a lot of people up since 1980, making the U.S. the world leader in prison population (both total and per capita), and the south the leader of the U.S. Locking up a lot of non-violent offenders, especially drug offenders, hasn’t bought us much safety and has caused a lot of problems.

Fortunately, somebody is trying to do something about it:

Washington, DC–Senator Jim Webb (D-VA) today introduced bipartisan legislation to create a blue-ribbon commission charged with conducting an 18-month, top-to-bottom review of the nation’s entire criminal justice system and offering concrete recommendations for reform. Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA), Ranking Member on the Judiciary Committee, is the principal Republican cosponsor.
You can follow the progress of S.714 online; it’s currently before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Meanwhile, Jim Webb explains the problem in Parade:

America’s criminal justice system has deteriorated to the point that it is a national disgrace. Its irregularities and inequities cut against the notion that we are a society founded on fundamental fairness. Our failure to address this problem has caused the nation’s prisons to burst their seams with massive overcrowding, even as our neighborhoods have become more dangerous. We are wasting billions of dollars and diminishing millions of lives.

We need to fix the system. Doing so will require a major nationwide recalculation of who goes to prison and for how long and of how we address the long-term consequences of incarceration. Twenty-five years ago, I went to Japan on assignment for PARADE to write a story on that country’s prison system. In 1984, Japan had a population half the size of ours and was incarcerating 40,000 sentenced offenders, compared with 580,000 in the United States. As shocking as that disparity was, the difference between the countries now is even more astounding–and profoundly disturbing. Since then, Japan’s prison population has not quite doubled to 71,000, while ours has quadrupled to 2.3 million.

The United States has by far the world’s highest incarceration rate. With 5% of the world’s population, our country now houses nearly 25% of the world’s reported prisoners. We currently incarcerate 756 inmates per 100,000 residents, a rate nearly five times the average worldwide of 158 for every 100,000. In addition, more than 5 million people who recently left jail remain under “correctional supervision,” which includes parole, probation, and other community sanctions. All told, about one in every 31 adults in the United States is in prison, in jail, or on supervised release. This all comes at a very high price to taxpayers: Local, state, and federal spending on corrections adds up to about $68 billion a year.

Our overcrowded, ill-managed prison systems are places of violence, physical abuse, and hate, making them breeding grounds that perpetuate and magnify the same types of behavior we purport to fear.

And Arlen Specter gets into details in an op-ed in the Philadelphia newspaper:

The U.S. criminalizes conduct that would be better left to treatment and penalties other than imprisonment. Take drugs. The number of jailed drug offenders has soared 1,200 percent since 1980 despite the fact that many of these offenders have no history of violence or high-level drug distribution. Many are behind bars under sentencing guidelines that leave judges no choice.

In another example of dubious penology, too many mentally ill people are treated as miscreants or felons rather than as patients in need of treatment. There are four times as many mentally ill people in prison than in mental health hospitals. Many of these individuals end up back on the streets.

This is not about people convicted of violent crimes. We need to make sure that dangerous criminals and second-time offenders with a history of violence go to jail. As a former prosecutor who served two terms as D.A. in Philadelphia, I’m a strong proponent of incarcerating violent criminals for public safety and deterrence. And I support the death penalty in especially egregious cases.

But I also believe we need to restore judicial discretion in low-level drug cases and other nonviolent crimes. With our federal prisons at 140 percent capacity and with 7.3 million Americans incarcerated or on probation or parole – a number equivalent to 1 in every 31 adults – the issue cannot wait.

The question we started with, jail deaths in Lowndes County jail, is only a symptom. The problem is much larger. Fortunately, we can do something about it.

Georgia does not have a member on the Senate Judiciary Committee, but that means there’s no reason not to contact any or all of the members of that commmittee. Here they are.