Thursday, November 30, 2006

Now HERE'S a "Quagmire"

Here’s a lil something that should really embarrass us as a nation, instead of, let’s say, being embarrassed about certain political leaders and their foreign policy:

A record 7 million people - or one in every 32 American adults - were behind bars, on probation or on parole by the end of last year, according to the Justice Department. Of those, 2.2 million were in prison or jail, an increase of 2.7 percent over the previous year, according to a report released Wednesday.

[…]

"Today's figures fail to capture incarceration's impact on the thousands of children left behind by mothers in prison," Marc Mauer, the executive director of the Sentencing Project, a Washington-based group supporting criminal justice reform, said in a statement. "Misguided policies that create harsher sentences for nonviolent drug offenses are disproportionately responsible for the increasing rates of women in prisons and jails."

From 1995 to 2003, inmates in federal prison for drug offenses have accounted for 49 percent of total prison population growth.

“Misguided policies… (concerning)… non-violent drug offenses” and more specifically, the “War on Drugs” that spawned them are hot buttons with me. The “WoD” is perhaps my biggest hot button and is just one example of where traditional conservatives and I part company.

The “War on Drugs” is, has been, and will always be, a miserable failure by any objective standard. Assuming, of course, “objective standard” means stopping the flow of illegal drugs into the country or reducing the number of people, in relative or absolute terms, that use said illegal drugs. The only beneficiaries of the War on Drugs are the bureaucrats and minions of the various government entities (DEA, FBI, and their state and local equivalents) charged with enforcing our bizarre drug policies. The DEA alone employs 10,891 people and will consume $2.4 billion dollars of our tax money this year. The DEA’s growth rate is astounding, as well…up from 2,775 employees and a budget of “only” $65.2 million in 1972. That’s a lot of damned money down a rat-hole, ain’t it? Or, to look at it another way, $2.4 billion dollars would buy a lot of F-22s.

It took the United States 13 years, in the case of alcohol, to realize it is futile to legislate morality when it comes to prohibiting what reasonable and responsible people ingest. People are going to eat, drink, or smoke whatever they want, the law be damned. That was true during Prohibition and it’s true today. And the national crime rate soared during Prohibition. Sound familiar?

I’ve long been in favor of the so-called “Dutch Model.” I’ve seen it and I believe the Dutch policy works, regardless of objections to the contrary found at the Wiki link I’ve given. Yet the American public, and a large percentage of the EU, as well, continue to reject what the Dutch have effectively lived with for years. Deep down inside I think the majority of the American public thinks it’s just OK to persecute “them.” We need someone to kick around, right?

You can find…if you’re interested…additional arguments on drug prohibition, pro and con, here.

6 comments:

  1. I have to agree with you 100%. Once again it’s about money and power. I read a statistic some time ago that the Gov. intercepts less than 10% of what comes into the country. Crazy.

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  3. Buck, I agree with you and Dan on this. As destructive as drugs are, criminalizing our population as we have been doing is dragging down our culture and threatening to turn us into a nation of dreks (as Solzhenitsyn would use the word).

    I've always hated drug use because I think the human brain is a remarkable organ and should be treated with respect. We barely understand it as it is, without monkeying around with our little synapses as we human beings are so prone to do. However, I think the Dutch are correct in treating this as a health issue and not a criminal one.

    Also, prison culture is flooding the pop scene. This culture is harsh, misogynist and misguided.
    I can't tell you how many kids write our website with heroes like Tupac and Kurt Cobain. And it's sad because, with Tupac and other gansta rappers, you can see how they actually have the spark of genius, a drive to succeed and even a great deal of compassion. The brutality of what they have experienced and their consequent behavior, though, cheapens their accomplishments and yet contradictorily heightens their allure to the young who idolize them. I guess that's art for you!

    We may wish to stash these folks in prison because of our disapproval and for our convenience, but I think we are shooting ourselves in the foot for the future.

    On another note, Doug mentioned having seen this discussion on 20/20 recently. Here's the author who was the source. Charity's Political Divide. Interesting, isn't it? I'm not surprised, either. As David Frum said, It's almost a psychological rule: The more you espouse "compassion" in your politics, the more likely you are to be selfish in your personal behaviour.

    Of course, the left-leaning blogs have their own take on it. ;)

    (Sorry about the prior deletion - my link didn't activate) (Never deleted before!)

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  4. Hey Buck, dunno if you've been there before, but you really should check out The Liberty Papers. (www.thelibertypapers.org)

    (Disclosure note: I write there as well.)

    Lots of good liberty oriented stuff there...we've kind of been on a war on drugs kick lately, what with the "incident" down in Georgia...shooting a 92 year old to death is rather poor form, IMAO.

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  5. Dan said: I read a statistic some time ago that the Gov. intercepts less than 10% of what comes into the country. Crazy.

    And I saw something recently saying the interdiction rate has gone up due to our "getting serious" about securing the border. I laughed about the "getting serious" bit...the gov'mt is serious only about generating sound bites and photo ops and authorizing (but not funding) a 700-mile fence along a 2,000 mile border. But yeah, there may be some truth here. I'll bet it's up to 15% now.

    Bec: I'd seen that charity thing. And yeah, the Lefties are fuming, making various and sundry excuses and the usual attacks. O'Reilly had an extensive segment about it on his show last evening as well. I normally watch Jim Lehrer in the six o'clock hour, but my cable company decided to hose up PBS' signal completely last evening. So I watched O'Reilly instead.

    Mike: Thanks for the link, Bud! Did you get my e-mail?

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  6. Yup, fired another one back your way earlier tonight.

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Just be polite... that's all I ask.