Ending the Addiction 2 comments

Nope, not drug or alcohol addiction though I suspect Bill Masters, sheriff of San Miguel County, Colorado would support individuals working to end their addiction.
Instead Masters argues that it is time to end the drug war addiction:

“The only reason why drugs and crime have expanded to reach every Mayberry village in the country is our blind obedience to misguided laws and police tactics that just do not work,” Masters writes in his essay introducing the collection. “It is time to admit our own folly and stop our addiction to the drug war.”

What does the drug war addiction cost:

According to research cited in Master’s book The New Prohibition, state and federal authorities spend more than $9 billion a year to imprison close to half a million drug offenders. More people are sent to prison for drug offenses than for violent crimes, a trend that’s been consistent since 1989. The overall cost to the justice system of arresting, convicting, punishing and supervising drug offenders stands at about $70 billion a year.

$70 billion??? I suspect that we could find much better things to do with that money. Including, of course, rehabilitation and retraining for the ex drug war addicts.
The Masters article via Avedon Carol.

2 thoughts on “Ending the Addiction

  • the talking dog

    There’s an element of our Puritannical streak, but I think the drug thing is mostly about… racism. America has always been an intrinsically mean-spirited place that needs an outlet by which to abuse its underclass (not that this is not true of pretty much the rest of man-kind). Here, for hundreds of years, slavery, indentured servitude, immigrant bashing and free-slaughter of the natives worked wonderfully for this purpose; when slavery ended, we needed to come up with Jim Crow laws and that sort of thing to keep ’em in line, which held for near a century.
    All these damned “60’s”, though– wouldn’t you know it, we started to give ’em civil rights too. Fortunately, someone really intelligent (the worst offender of all, by the way, was super-liberal Tip O’Neill– the perennial problem of “liberals” wanting to sit with the tough guys) came along with a diabolically clever way to keep the underclasses in line: criminalize recreational drugs. Oh wait– that might effect suburban college kids. Not so fast: we’ll ONLY ENFORCE THOSE LAWS against… the underclasses!
    Ah! Brilliant! Yes– and let’s throw in arbitrarily long and punitive sentences for bullshit drug offenses! YES! Not as direct as slavery or Jim Crow on their own– but at least the universe is back in balance– net effect is the same (something like 1 in 4 African American males incarcerated at some point).
    Give it up, Steve– until we allow the old confederacy states to secede so they can be their own third-world country and perhaps vote to burden themselves with members of the Bush family forever (a motion I will second in a heartbeat), we will have the kind of drug laws, and wars on drugs, and the attendant stupidity and expense we see now… not to mention the most vicious prisons outside of the Third World to HOUSE the bullshit drug offenders…

  • zombyboy

    I don’t know that I think the laws themselves were enacted for racist reasons, but I absolutely believe that the end result is anything but equitable when it comes to race as an issue (otherwise the punishment for crack cocaine wouldn’t be so wildly different than the punishment for powder cocaine). Our drug laws are arbitrary, based on outmoded social views, and hypocritical when considered next to the legality of alcohol–a much more powerful and effective drug than, say, marijuana.
    Worse, the real cost of the drug laws must be far in excess of the 70 billion noted. Consider lost economic output and lost tax revenue, for example. We have people in jail for non-violent offenses who could otherwise be playing a part in the economy–producing, consuming, paying their taxes, and going about their good little American lives. Instead, we shove them on the government tit and make it far harder for them to ever find decent employment. Nasty, vicious cycle there, no?
    So the cost is far more than the legal fees, the housing costs, the facilities, and the cost of supervision, it’s the hit that the economy takes from having such a large portion of its members in jail for what amounts to no reasonable cause. So, on the one side, we have a $70 billion real cost and on the other side we have an unknown–but likely huge–opportunity cost.
    Legalizing will have its own real costs, but they will pale in comparison to what we already spend on the foolish war on drugs.

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