Saturday, March 28, 2009

Virginia Senator points out that incarcerating non-violent drug users exacerbates law enforcement crisis

I knew a stand-up comic in Minneapolis who worked in the coffee business, and his favorite like was “stay out of jail.”

Senator Jim Webb (D-VA) has a major article in this weekend’s (March 29, 2009) Parade Magazine, “Why We Must Fix Our Prisons” here.

Webb says that one out of 31 adults in the United States is in prison, jail, or supervised release. It’s higher for males and for African Americans. This is much higher than for Japan or for European countries.

Why does this happen? Webb says the problem is that we incarcerate non-violent drug users. This is an enormous waste of resources and actually turns people into criminals.

Webb also provides an explanation of how drug cartels from Mexico and Colombia recruit gangs to distribute hard drugs, and are responsible for some of the extraordinary violence in American cities and suburbs. He discusses Phoenix in particular. His explanation of this process follows that of Anderson Cooper on CNN 360 covering the Juarez drug war crisis, which he says has spread to cities away from the border like Tucson.

Webb comes short, however, of advocating the libertarian solution of decriminalizing private drug use. Harry Browne, Libertarian Party candidate in the 1990s, always said “we must end this war on drugs.”

The film “Collateral Damage” (dir. Andrew Davis) was delayed in release by 9/11 but depicts drug lords (Colombian in the film) as actually the biggest security threat to the United States. But this may only because of the circularity of our drug laws.

Webb’s own page is here. He says he has introduced a bill to overhaul the nation’s criminal justice system, and also has introduced paid parental leave for federal employees.

Update: May 25, 2009

The Washington Post has a very upsetting story by Jerry Markon, front page, "Threats to Jurors, Prosecutors Soaring" today, link here. According to the end of the story, one judge said that he has stopped mentioning publicly that he has children...Judges now think everything is on the Internet." Judges who have tried certain kinds of cases or prosecutors who have pursued them will not travel to certain countries. Certainly this matter jeopardizes our whole system of civil liberties, openness and free speech.

Another disturbing story by Aaron C. Davis appeared in The Washington Post as a local story Wednesday May 27, 2009, "Vigilance Is Urged To Avert Robberies: Home Invasions Have Doubled In Pr. George's", link here. Police report that in some areas people are moving into cheap motels to launch crime sprees, during bad economic times.

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