VIDEO: Ex Cops, Judges and DEA Agents Speak Out Against Prohabition


Law Enforcement Against Prohabition

Hear why they call for the legalization of all drugs. Understand why they say that drug enforcement destroys communities, costs insane amounts of money, and never makes anything better – and digest some astonishing statistics on dollars spent and people jailed for no good reason.

Whatever your thoughts on the war on drugs, this is a thought provoking short documentary.

Likelihood of Alcohol Abuse Greater in a Bad Neighborhood

Getting help is never a “dollars and cents” issue…but when you look at the economic impact of continuing abuse, treatment always makes sense.

If you need one more reason to get help for problem drinking, you may find motivation out of a Virginia health care study examining the use of alcohol, and the kind of neighborhood you can expect to live in. Researchers examined hundreds of Caucasian men over a 12 year period, evaluated their alcohol use behaviors, and as well plotted their residences every three years during that 12 year period. They found that heavy use of alcohol over that time was significantly and casually related to a far greater likelihood of residing in a “bad neighborhood” (as defined by low socio economic status).

Contrarily, those people who reversed heavy alcohol consumption were far more likely to move out into better neighborhoods as their length of abstinence progressed. Researchers explain that approximately 40 percent of experienced risk towards alcohol abuse seems to be environmental, and that continuing residency in low socio economic neighborhoods likely further contributes to abuse due to an increase in environmental stressors, negative modeling and lesser access to treatment and social programming.

The Many Costs of Drinking

The researchers conclude that alcohol abuse does not solely diminish health, but it also very negatively impacts on quality of life and socio economic status. Of course not everyone who abuses or is dependent on alcohol lives in a “bad neighborhood” and many successful professionals boasting impressive residences drink far more than is healthy; but on a societal level, alcohol abuse and dependency seems very closely linked with greater poverty and downward social mobility.

Alcohol abusers don’t perform as well at work, are more likely to be fired, and more likely to suffer health problems related to abuse that reduce their employment potential…also, alcohol can be expensive when consumed in the kind of quantities a serious alcoholic needs.

My family never needed to move out of the family home, but we certainly suffered economically during my period of alcohol and drug abuse. I held down a job, but I certainly didn’t excel, and nearly lost it a number of times (should really have lost it) and we were lucky to have done as well as we did. People should never look at the cost of treatment as a barrier to access, and you just need to find the best drug or alcohol treatment that you can possibly afford, and consider it an investment in the future.

It worked for me, and my family is far more comfortable now that my attentions are not so firmly focused on intoxication…and it seems that research backs up my experience. Continuing abuse always leads to destruction on many levels, and you are far less likely to enjoy a good neighborhood, live on safe streets, and send your kids to quality schools while continuing to use and abuse alcohol or drugs.

Know When to Say When…To Public Service Beer Ads

Beer companies, all heart, sometimes they care too much.

They worry about us, want us all to drive safe, talk to our kids on the dangers of drink and, gosh darn it, to know when to say when. I’m tired of it. Enough already…the shareholders deserve better!

  • What kind of business retard tries to stop underage drinking? Those kids are great customers. Underage drinkers forked out an estimated 5 billion last year! We need strong CEO’s with vision; marketing execs with the balls to come out and target kids explicitly. Get some furry mascots as brand symbols, talking bears or something – that would probably work…
  • "Know when to say when" – how’s that gonna’ make any money? The hardest drinking 10% chug down almost half of all the beer you can make (43%) – you’ve got to get those guys drinking more, or at least get more people drinking like them! Maybe run a few ads with good looking babes drinking beer and playing volleyball or something.
  • Think when you drink – There’s another profit stinker for you right there. 60% of all beer sold is drunk in binge quantities, hmm – if only we could keep people awake long enough to drink more in a session…HEY, I KNOW – WE COULD PUT CAFFEINE IN THE BEER!!!! Market it like an energy drink or something and kids would love it too!

Enough

For every one ad counseling responsible drinking, there are well over 200 promoting drinking. For every $1 spent on public health ads, $99 are spent on talking bears drinking Bud. Beer companies need young drinkers, they’d die without them. Profits rest almost entirely in the underage, and heavy to alcoholic use consumer – that’s the meat and potatoes of the market, and that’s who they want.

Beer companies just don’t make money by convincing people to drink less beer. We know it and it’s our job to stop them, or at least limit the harms they do; and by allowing them the odd public service ad slot, we allow a platform from which they shellac themselves with respectability. So let’s get rid of these ads, they don’t work anyway; studies have shown that consumers don’t find them effective or influential, and they may well do more harm than good.

Beer companies, all heart, sometimes they care too much.

They worry about us, want us all to drive safe, talk to our kids on the dangers of drink and, gosh darn it, to know when to say when. I’m tired of it. Enough already…the shareholders deserve better!

  • What kind of business retard tries to stop underage drinking? Those kids are great customers. Underage drinkers forked out an estimated 5 billion last year! We need strong CEO’s with vision; marketing execs with the balls to come out and target kids explicitly. Get some furry mascots as brand symbols, talking bears or something – that would probably work…
  • "Know when to say when" – how’s that gonna’ make any money? The hardest drinking 10% chug down almost half of all the beer you can make (43%) – you’ve got to get those guys drinking more, or at least get more people drinking like them! Maybe run a few ads with good looking babes drinking beer and playing volleyball or something.
  • Think when you drink – There’s another profit stinker for you right there. 60% of all beer sold is drunk in binge quantities, hmm – if only we could keep people awake long enough to drink more in a session…HEY, I KNOW – WE COULD PUT CAFFEINE IN THE BEER!!!! Market it like an energy drink or something and kids would love it too!

Enough

For every one ad counseling responsible drinking, there are well over 200 promoting drinking. For every $1 spent on public health ads, $99 are spent on talking bears drinking Bud. Beer companies need young drinkers, they’d die without them. Profits rest almost entirely in the underage, and heavy to alcoholic use consumer – that’s the meat and potatoes of the market, and that’s who they want.

Beer companies just don’t make money by convincing people to drink less beer. We know it and it’s our job to stop them, or at least limit the harms they do; and by allowing them the odd public service ad slot, we allow a platform from which they shellac themselves with respectability. So let’s get rid of these ads, they don’t work anyway; studies have shown that consumers don’t find them effective or influential, and they may well do more harm than good.

Repeat drunk driving stars get slaps on the wrist, and a 93 year old man held under $200 000 bond for cocaine charges?!?

One drug is legal, one drug is not, and as a result one very very old man is now behind bars, and two very young and very rich women, not only using but also using and driving while intoxicated, are free to drink and drive again.

Durham North Carolina police got a dangerous offender off the streets this week…93 year old William C. Tinnen, arrested on cocaine trafficking charges, and held under $200 000 bond in jail awaiting trial. Also this week, repeat drunken driving stars Lindsay Lohan and Nicole Ritchie served a collective one day and 86 minutes in jail for a total of four DUI arrests.

What is going on???

Firstly, in defense of the justice system, the 93 year old arrestee did also have firearms in the house, and he may well have been the meanest predator in the neighborhood, I just don’t know; and secondly, although people have been quick to blast prosecutors for preferential treatment in the DUI offences of the young Hollywood starlets, legal professionals assure the public that the sentences as issued were very much in line with customary sentencing for DUI’s within the county’s overworked justice system.

Both the police and the courts have by all accounts acted within the confines of the laws and the realities of the overcrowded jail and justice system, and you can’t fault them for following the laws they’re sworn to uphold; but when you compare the punishments meted out, it seems as though those at greatest risk to do harm to others are free, and the man hard to see as a threat lingers behind bars.

I’ve known a lot of drug dealers in my time, and these guys were all small time, dealing primarily as a means to support their own habits…not a great risk to anyone but themselves; and arresting and locking up these small fry dealers certainly does nothing to curtail the flow of drugs into the community. I’ve also seen first hand the devastation and despair of a drunken driving accident fatality, and I can tell you in no uncertain terms that the pain of that DUI far eclipsed the combined efforts of all the drug dealers I’ve ever known.

Why is a 93 year old man living in a slum and dealing cocaine? Doesn’t sound like he was saving up for a mansion on the hill or a new yacht; and shouldn’t we take a better look at how we in the richest nation in the world can allow for environments that force a very desperate very senior citizen to sell drugs, and to now reside behind bars where any sentence is almost certainly a life sentence?

Drug enforcement is an abysmal failure by any measures of social betterment, and all we seem to be doing is enriching rarely arrested criminal leaders, fueling inner city violence, and imprisoning those lowly and desperate souls all to often suffering the dual despair of addiction themselves.

Take every dollar away from enforcement and imprisonment of non violent drug offenders and build hundreds of rehab facilities. Get those people that need it help, and send those people who repeatedly break DUI laws to 90 day or greater rehabs (not Hollywood resort facilities…real honest rehabs).

Change the climate that allows 93 year old seniors to remain behind bars and drunken repeat offenders loosed to endanger the streets again.

One drug is legal, one drug is not, and as a result one very very old man is now behind bars, and two very young and very rich women, not only using but also using and driving while intoxicated, are free to drink and drive again.

Durham North Carolina police got a dangerous offender off the streets this week…93 year old William C. Tinnen, arrested on cocaine trafficking charges, and held under $200 000 bond in jail awaiting trial. Also this week, repeat drunken driving stars Lindsay Lohan and Nicole Ritchie served a collective one day and 86 minutes in jail for a total of four DUI arrests.

What is going on???

Firstly, in defense of the justice system, the 93 year old arrestee did also have firearms in the house, and he may well have been the meanest predator in the neighborhood, I just don’t know; and secondly, although people have been quick to blast prosecutors for preferential treatment in the DUI offences of the young Hollywood starlets, legal professionals assure the public that the sentences as issued were very much in line with customary sentencing for DUI’s within the county’s overworked justice system.

Both the police and the courts have by all accounts acted within the confines of the laws and the realities of the overcrowded jail and justice system, and you can’t fault them for following the laws they’re sworn to uphold; but when you compare the punishments meted out, it seems as though those at greatest risk to do harm to others are free, and the man hard to see as a threat lingers behind bars.

I’ve known a lot of drug dealers in my time, and these guys were all small time, dealing primarily as a means to support their own habits…not a great risk to anyone but themselves; and arresting and locking up these small fry dealers certainly does nothing to curtail the flow of drugs into the community. I’ve also seen first hand the devastation and despair of a drunken driving accident fatality, and I can tell you in no uncertain terms that the pain of that DUI far eclipsed the combined efforts of all the drug dealers I’ve ever known.

Why is a 93 year old man living in a slum and dealing cocaine? Doesn’t sound like he was saving up for a mansion on the hill or a new yacht; and shouldn’t we take a better look at how we in the richest nation in the world can allow for environments that force a very desperate very senior citizen to sell drugs, and to now reside behind bars where any sentence is almost certainly a life sentence?

Drug enforcement is an abysmal failure by any measures of social betterment, and all we seem to be doing is enriching rarely arrested criminal leaders, fueling inner city violence, and imprisoning those lowly and desperate souls all to often suffering the dual despair of addiction themselves.

Take every dollar away from enforcement and imprisonment of non violent drug offenders and build hundreds of rehab facilities. Get those people that need it help, and send those people who repeatedly break DUI laws to 90 day or greater rehabs (not Hollywood resort facilities…real honest rehabs).

Change the climate that allows 93 year old seniors to remain behind bars and drunken repeat offenders loosed to endanger the streets again.

The Dangers of Alcohol Advertising, and What We Can Do About It

There is no doubt that alcohol marketing campaigns work, and beer and spirits companies would unlikely invest billions of annual dollars in intensive print and TV campaigns if they didn’t reap dividends. These same companies can (as far as I’m concerned) argue until they’re blue in the face that they advertise solely for market share and brand awareness, and while this motivation undoubtedly exists; they also advertise heavily as a recruitment tool, and to convince every emerging generation of prospective consumers about just how cool, handsome, beautiful, athletic and sexy alcohol can make you.

I mean, just how much does a television commercial of bikini clad women and rippled torsoed men enjoying an (intoxicated?) beach volley ball game tell us about the taste of a drink?

Alcohol advertising leans heavily on subliminal implications that using alcohol makes life more fun, and those people that use it live somehow more charmed lives than those that don’t. And those subliminal messages do seem to hit home with the consumers that beer and liquor companies’ value most…teens soon to join the legal market, and very likely already consuming. High school students, who were heavily exposed to beer or liquor advertisements when polled about the attributes of people who used alcohol, responded that drinkers were more likely to be attractive, wealthy and successful than non drinkers…which is surely far removed from any kind of reality. High school kids also responded that viewing beer or liquor ads made them want to try drinking, and 77% of parents polled believed that alcohol advertising was significantly influential in their children’s lives.

So what’s the answer?

There are two fundamental answers to advertising that encourages the use of a dangerous and harmful (but legal) drug. The first is to greatly reduce or even ban the marketing of alcohol, and the second is to mandate or fund a heavy campaign of counter advertisements. An alcohol counter advertisement is a public service ad that counters the promotional nature of a marketing spot with sobering and accurate information the dangers of alcohol, the health risks of drinking, or the societal costs of alcohol abuse. The intent is to create a more balanced and accurate perception of the dangers versus the pleasures of using alcohol.

Experts agree that counter advertisements work, and counter advertisements used against tobacco usage have proven effective. While the will exists to create and display the ads, the barrier is money, and all public service groups combined command nothing close to the advertising budget of even a single massive brewery. The National Alcohol Tax Coalition has the answer to that problem though, and they estimate that by raising the price of a single drink by only a dime, more than 4 billion dollars a year could be raised to fund effective and accurate public service alcohol counter advertising campaigns.

I don’t believe that prohibition is ever the answer, and I’m not even sure that companies selling a still legal product should be denied the right to market their wares; but due to the massive societal destruction wreaked by alcohol, I do believe that these alcohol promotions cannot be allowed to go unanswered. We need to make sure that kids and teens are getting a balanced and accurate picture of the realities of alcohol use.

Write to your State and Federal elected officials and demand that for every Bud ad, we get a grieving mother after a drunk driving fatality, and that for every beer beach party spot we also learn about the dangers of alcohol and brain damage.

There is no doubt that alcohol marketing campaigns work, and beer and spirits companies would unlikely invest billions of annual dollars in intensive print and TV campaigns if they didn’t reap dividends. These same companies can (as far as I’m concerned) argue until they’re blue in the face that they advertise solely for market share and brand awareness, and while this motivation undoubtedly exists; they also advertise heavily as a recruitment tool, and to convince every emerging generation of prospective consumers about just how cool, handsome, beautiful, athletic and sexy alcohol can make you.

I mean, just how much does a television commercial of bikini clad women and rippled torsoed men enjoying an (intoxicated?) beach volley ball game tell us about the taste of a drink?

Alcohol advertising leans heavily on subliminal implications that using alcohol makes life more fun, and those people that use it live somehow more charmed lives than those that don’t. And those subliminal messages do seem to hit home with the consumers that beer and liquor companies’ value most…teens soon to join the legal market, and very likely already consuming. High school students, who were heavily exposed to beer or liquor advertisements when polled about the attributes of people who used alcohol, responded that drinkers were more likely to be attractive, wealthy and successful than non drinkers…which is surely far removed from any kind of reality. High school kids also responded that viewing beer or liquor ads made them want to try drinking, and 77% of parents polled believed that alcohol advertising was significantly influential in their children’s lives.

So what’s the answer?

There are two fundamental answers to advertising that encourages the use of a dangerous and harmful (but legal) drug. The first is to greatly reduce or even ban the marketing of alcohol, and the second is to mandate or fund a heavy campaign of counter advertisements. An alcohol counter advertisement is a public service ad that counters the promotional nature of a marketing spot with sobering and accurate information the dangers of alcohol, the health risks of drinking, or the societal costs of alcohol abuse. The intent is to create a more balanced and accurate perception of the dangers versus the pleasures of using alcohol.

Experts agree that counter advertisements work, and counter advertisements used against tobacco usage have proven effective. While the will exists to create and display the ads, the barrier is money, and all public service groups combined command nothing close to the advertising budget of even a single massive brewery. The National Alcohol Tax Coalition has the answer to that problem though, and they estimate that by raising the price of a single drink by only a dime, more than 4 billion dollars a year could be raised to fund effective and accurate public service alcohol counter advertising campaigns.

I don’t believe that prohibition is ever the answer, and I’m not even sure that companies selling a still legal product should be denied the right to market their wares; but due to the massive societal destruction wreaked by alcohol, I do believe that these alcohol promotions cannot be allowed to go unanswered. We need to make sure that kids and teens are getting a balanced and accurate picture of the realities of alcohol use.

Write to your State and Federal elected officials and demand that for every Bud ad, we get a grieving mother after a drunk driving fatality, and that for every beer beach party spot we also learn about the dangers of alcohol and brain damage.

A remarkable new way to detect drug use within a community… from our sewage?

Big Brother may soon be watching you…well, your sewage anyway.

Remarkably, scientists at the annual meeting of the American Chemical Society presented a prototype of a technique that will soon be used to detect the level of drug metabolites passing through a certain area’s sewage in real time. The testing will reveal levels of meth amphetamine, cocaine, marijuana and even legal opiates such as oxycontin or ephedrine.

Although people lie…urine is apparently quite truthful, and researchers explain that this new methodology, once employed, will give both law enforcement and public health groups much better information about the true levels of substance abuse as it is occurring within our communities, and in real time.

Currently drug taking estimates are conjured from a mixture of self reporting (people may be reluctant to admit to an illegal activity) medical records information and police reports, which together give us a somewhat vague notion of drug use as it’s happening in particular areas. The information may be used to help allocate public health, education and prevention dollars into the communities suffering the highest rates of drug use and abuse, and the information could also be used as information by law enforcement officials looking for evidence of illegal activity within an area or even a residence.

Rights to privacy…after a flush?

I’m no lawyer, but I’d wager that once you flush the toilet you lose any claim to privacy over the contents of the bowl, and this could be a boon to police looking to cobble together cases with a new and scientific form of drug taking evidence.

As always, science is neutral, but what we chose to make of it never is. I’m not a fan of the criminalization of the consumption of drugs, and even though I loathe drugs for what they’ve taken from me and my family, I do not believe that someone harming only themselves deserves imprisonment for this offence. Our Nation’s prisons are already absurdly full of non violent drug offenders, and with ever greater methods of ensnaring these users, will we need to continue our frantic prison building?

On the other hand though, if this technology is used as a means of gathering better data for use by public health officials towards better treatment initiatives and targeted community intervention, then I welcome this remarkable and astonishing new science into the public arena. No doubt it will occur within both the spheres of justice and health, and we’ll have to take a bit of the good with the bad.

I confess to finding it a bit disturbing, even though I no longer have anything I need to hide.

Big Brother may soon be watching you…well, your sewage anyway.

Remarkably, scientists at the annual meeting of the American Chemical Society presented a prototype of a technique that will soon be used to detect the level of drug metabolites passing through a certain area’s sewage in real time. The testing will reveal levels of meth amphetamine, cocaine, marijuana and even legal opiates such as oxycontin or ephedrine.

Although people lie…urine is apparently quite truthful, and researchers explain that this new methodology, once employed, will give both law enforcement and public health groups much better information about the true levels of substance abuse as it is occurring within our communities, and in real time.

Currently drug taking estimates are conjured from a mixture of self reporting (people may be reluctant to admit to an illegal activity) medical records information and police reports, which together give us a somewhat vague notion of drug use as it’s happening in particular areas. The information may be used to help allocate public health, education and prevention dollars into the communities suffering the highest rates of drug use and abuse, and the information could also be used as information by law enforcement officials looking for evidence of illegal activity within an area or even a residence.

Rights to privacy…after a flush?

I’m no lawyer, but I’d wager that once you flush the toilet you lose any claim to privacy over the contents of the bowl, and this could be a boon to police looking to cobble together cases with a new and scientific form of drug taking evidence.

As always, science is neutral, but what we chose to make of it never is. I’m not a fan of the criminalization of the consumption of drugs, and even though I loathe drugs for what they’ve taken from me and my family, I do not believe that someone harming only themselves deserves imprisonment for this offence. Our Nation’s prisons are already absurdly full of non violent drug offenders, and with ever greater methods of ensnaring these users, will we need to continue our frantic prison building?

On the other hand though, if this technology is used as a means of gathering better data for use by public health officials towards better treatment initiatives and targeted community intervention, then I welcome this remarkable and astonishing new science into the public arena. No doubt it will occur within both the spheres of justice and health, and we’ll have to take a bit of the good with the bad.

I confess to finding it a bit disturbing, even though I no longer have anything I need to hide.

The American Gulag, thinking about our enormous drug incarceration situation

How much better would our communities be if even a portion of the hundreds of billions of dollars spent on prisons each year was diverted to education, drug rehabilitation, and general community building?

I’m no friend to drugs or drug dealers, and I would advocate anything that would help reduce the burden that drugs and alcohol abuse transfer to the families and communities of those that suffer with drug addiction, but I can’t help but wonder at the absurdity of our current penal situation. I have to question the philosophy behind a system that incarcerates more than a million of its citizens for drug offenses, and that currently jails a greater percentage of its population than any other nation in the world… by far.

We may hear about the North Korean work camps or Chinese political detention, but when you look at the numbers, you have the greatest probability of spending time in prison here at home. Additionally, how can it be that drug offenders currently serve far greater jail sentences than violent offenders? And even more disturbingly, why are so many of these non violent drug offenders re incarcerated years later for violent offenses….could it be that they are learning violence in American prisons, and that we are responsible for creating the people that make America one of the most violent societies on earth?

Some quick facts on drugs and incarcerations:

  • At the end of 2005, more than 2 300 000 people were held in State or Federal prisons, and more than 7 million were either incarcerated or on parole; and one out of every 136 Americans is in a state or federal jail. By comparison, England which is located in the middle of the world prison rankings incarcerates just 148 per 100 000, compared to America’s 737 per 100 000.
  • The average violent offender in federal prison will serve 63 months in jail, while the average non violent drug offender will serve 75.6 months.
  • From 1985-1996 California built one new university, and 21 new prisons.
  • Every dollar spent to incarcerate a drug offender is one dollar taken away from spending in the communities from which these offenders came; which can help to explain some of our deplorable urban environments.
  • 22% of all incarcerated inmates will be forced to have sexual contact against their will while in prison.
  • States spend almost twice as much on corrections as they do on all forms of public assistance combined.
  • A Justice Dept. study has revealed that the length of time served in prison has no outcome good or bad on the likelihood of recidivism.

Our communities and our families have been suffering the effects of drugs for too long, and it must by now be very clear that we cannot beat out national drug problem simply by locking up all that break our country’s drug laws.

How many people will we need to incarcerate before drugs cease to be a problem? Solutions like mandatory minimums and other long sentences for drug offences, largely politically motivated, are causing more harm than they ease and need to be abolished as soon as possible. When you look at the recidivism rates that indicate that many of these non violent drug offenders are becoming violent while in prison, unless we are willing to lock up people indefinitely, we are likely just making our own problems worse.

If even a quarter of the national incarceration budget was instead diverted to drug education, access to drug rehabilitation, and on policies designed to improve the communities at greatest risk for drug abuse, how much better would our nation be? I’m a parent, and I know how scary it can be, and I can understand the knee jerk reaction that leads us to vote for people that promise to get tough on drugs through ever greater jail sentences. But we must awake to the reality that our policy of incarceration has not improved our drug situation, and has created an absurdly and tragically large population of jailed Americans. Imagine your son or daughter caught up in drug abuse, and possibly drug dealing as a way to support an expensive habit.

When it’s someone you love a 10 year jail sentence for small time dealing sounds crazy, and obviously what is truly needed is the rehab, therapy and the counseling that will allow them to get off of drugs and to make a contribution to society. A 10 year sentence is a lifetime for a young person, and in effect destroys what could still be a promising young life.

We need to change our ways, and start using our dollars on more constructive and humane solutions to our national drug problem. It’s not working, we can’t and we shouldn’t simply keep locking people up for ever, and if only those dollars were spent for community building and education, how much of our drug problem might just disappear?

How much better would our communities be if even a portion of the hundreds of billions of dollars spent on prisons each year was diverted to education, drug rehabilitation, and general community building?

I’m no friend to drugs or drug dealers, and I would advocate anything that would help reduce the burden that drugs and alcohol abuse transfer to the families and communities of those that suffer with drug addiction, but I can’t help but wonder at the absurdity of our current penal situation. I have to question the philosophy behind a system that incarcerates more than a million of its citizens for drug offenses, and that currently jails a greater percentage of its population than any other nation in the world… by far.

We may hear about the North Korean work camps or Chinese political detention, but when you look at the numbers, you have the greatest probability of spending time in prison here at home. Additionally, how can it be that drug offenders currently serve far greater jail sentences than violent offenders? And even more disturbingly, why are so many of these non violent drug offenders re incarcerated years later for violent offenses….could it be that they are learning violence in American prisons, and that we are responsible for creating the people that make America one of the most violent societies on earth?

Some quick facts on drugs and incarcerations:

  • At the end of 2005, more than 2 300 000 people were held in State or Federal prisons, and more than 7 million were either incarcerated or on parole; and one out of every 136 Americans is in a state or federal jail. By comparison, England which is located in the middle of the world prison rankings incarcerates just 148 per 100 000, compared to America’s 737 per 100 000.
  • The average violent offender in federal prison will serve 63 months in jail, while the average non violent drug offender will serve 75.6 months.
  • From 1985-1996 California built one new university, and 21 new prisons.
  • Every dollar spent to incarcerate a drug offender is one dollar taken away from spending in the communities from which these offenders came; which can help to explain some of our deplorable urban environments.
  • 22% of all incarcerated inmates will be forced to have sexual contact against their will while in prison.
  • States spend almost twice as much on corrections as they do on all forms of public assistance combined.
  • A Justice Dept. study has revealed that the length of time served in prison has no outcome good or bad on the likelihood of recidivism.

Our communities and our families have been suffering the effects of drugs for too long, and it must by now be very clear that we cannot beat out national drug problem simply by locking up all that break our country’s drug laws.

How many people will we need to incarcerate before drugs cease to be a problem? Solutions like mandatory minimums and other long sentences for drug offences, largely politically motivated, are causing more harm than they ease and need to be abolished as soon as possible. When you look at the recidivism rates that indicate that many of these non violent drug offenders are becoming violent while in prison, unless we are willing to lock up people indefinitely, we are likely just making our own problems worse.

If even a quarter of the national incarceration budget was instead diverted to drug education, access to drug rehabilitation, and on policies designed to improve the communities at greatest risk for drug abuse, how much better would our nation be? I’m a parent, and I know how scary it can be, and I can understand the knee jerk reaction that leads us to vote for people that promise to get tough on drugs through ever greater jail sentences. But we must awake to the reality that our policy of incarceration has not improved our drug situation, and has created an absurdly and tragically large population of jailed Americans. Imagine your son or daughter caught up in drug abuse, and possibly drug dealing as a way to support an expensive habit.

When it’s someone you love a 10 year jail sentence for small time dealing sounds crazy, and obviously what is truly needed is the rehab, therapy and the counseling that will allow them to get off of drugs and to make a contribution to society. A 10 year sentence is a lifetime for a young person, and in effect destroys what could still be a promising young life.

We need to change our ways, and start using our dollars on more constructive and humane solutions to our national drug problem. It’s not working, we can’t and we shouldn’t simply keep locking people up for ever, and if only those dollars were spent for community building and education, how much of our drug problem might just disappear?