I’m Sure They All Deserved It

And even if they don’t that’s just the cost of keeping us safe. After all, they’re mostly dangerous illegal immigrants and cannabis users.

The United States has less than 5% of the world’s population and 23% of the world’s prison population.

Some interesting facts about the US prison system courtesy of the Kentucky Department of Public Advocacy:

Compared to its democratic, advanced market economy counterparts, the United States has more people in prison by several orders of magnitude.

Although crime rates have decreased since 1990, the rate of imprisonment has continued to increase.

Many criminal justice experts have found that the increase in the incarceration rate is the product of changes in penal policy and practice, not changes in crime rates.

Changes in drug policy have had the single greatest impact on criminal justice policy.

Mandatory minimum sentences for low level crack-cocaine users are comparable (and harsher in certain cases) to sentences for major drug dealers.

In 2005, four out of five drug arrests were for possession and one out of five were for sales. The crime history for three-quarters of drug offenders in state prisons involved non-violent or drug offenses.

African Americans, who make-up 12.4 percent of the population, represent more than half of all prison inmates, compared to one-third twenty years ago.

Although African Americans constitute 14 percent of regular drug users, they are 37 percent of those arrested for drug offenses, and 56 percent of persons in state prisons for drug crimes.

African Americans serve nearly as much time in federal prisons for drug offenses as whites do for violent crimes.

In 2006, states spent an estimated $2 billion on prison construction, three times the amount they were spending fifteen years earlier.

The combined expenditures of local governments, state governments, and the federal government for law enforcement and corrections total over $200 billion annually.

The incarceration rate has significant costs associated with the productivity of both prisoners and ex-offenders. The
economic output of prisoners is mostly lost to society while they are imprisoned.

Negative productivity effects continue after release. This wage penalty grows with time, as previous imprisonment can reduce the wage growth of young men by some 30 percent.

Prisons are absorbing the cost of housing the nation’s mentally ill. The number of mentally ill in prison is nearly five times the number in inpatient mental hospitals.

On average, two out of every three released prisoners will be rearrested and one in two will return to prison within three years of release.

The American prison system does not concern itself with protecting people’s rights. Its about punishing people. What was once meant to protect society from violent criminals now deals mainly in inflicting punishment on people for disobeying the law with complete disregard for how out-of-proportion that punishment may be or how absurd the law. And don’t even try to suggest replacing punishment with rehabilitation for non-violent drug users. You’ll just be accused of being a bleeding heart liberal or an anarchist. We have to have law and order, after all – just don’t stop to ask what it is exactly that those laws accomplish or what it is that we have ordered ourselves towards. You may have to be punished.


How the War on Drugs Became a War on Milk

Extending for four decades now, the war on drugs has ingrained a certain ideology into society. What was sold as an initiative to get dangerous drugs off the streets has conceived a totalitarian mindset that government has the authority to control everything you eat and drink and, if you disobey, the state can fine you, destroy your property, raid your home and throw you in jail. I’m not talking about cocaine or meth. I’m not even talking about marijuana. I’m talking about milk.

Its Satan’s drink.

Here’s an excerpt from an article from Info Wars on a “raw food raid” where armed agents bust milk and cheese sellers:

(NaturalNews) The raid on Rawesome Foods by a combined force of agents from the FDA, Dept of Agriculture, CDC and the LA County Sheriff’s office wasn’t the only SWAT-style armed raid that took place today. Sharon Palmer, a mom and owner of Healthy Family Farms was also arrested and taken to jail. A third woman, Victoria Bloch, the LA County liaison for the Weston A Price Foundation (www.WestonaPrice.org) , was also reportedly arrested, NaturalNews has learned.

All three are reportedly being charged with conspiracy to commit a crime. What crime? The “crime” of advocating raw milk for consumers!

As NaturalNews previously reported (http://www.naturalnews.com/033220_R…), the SWAT-style raid was conducted like a terrorist operation, where the cops immediately went after Rawesome’s cash and then began vandalizing and destroying the store’s entire inventory.

This is exactly the kind of behavior now taken for granted in the War on Drugs, in which multiple government agencies collaborate and perform raids armed to the teeth and then proceed to destroy the illegal goods. Except that these aren’t armed and dangerous drug cartels; these are farmers. In fact, these farmers produce a product, dairy, that is consumed, legally and without government harassment, by virtually the entire United States population every day. The only difference is that this milk wasn’t heated to 161 degrees for 15 seconds and, therefore, has been deemed by many states to be too dangerous for there to be any legitimate use for it at all and therefore it has been categorically prohibited and is now treated much the same way as hard drugs like cocaine and meth.

Everyone should find such circumstances appalling, but not because we treat raw milk much the same way we treat drugs. After all, it really is more risky to drink raw milk than processed milk. What’s appalling is the fact that we subject people to raids, fines and incarceration based on what they put in their bodies, all “for their own good.” As if subjecting people who get caught with marijuana to prison rape “helps” them.

Drug abuse and addiction are serious problems. Some people also think that raw milk is a serious problem. However, in neither case is coercion the answer. Not only is such use of force wrong but it is counter-productive. When you push people they tend to push back and if we want to live in a more virtuous society unfortunately that means allowing people to make irresponsible decisions sometimes.

Subjecting people to raids, destruction of their property and harsh penalties and prison sentences, however, will never aid in the formation of a better society – especially if its over something as benign as raw milk.

Another Reason to End the War on Drugs

Ron Paul is perhaps one of the greatest opponents to the drug war and he’s been called every name in the book, including “crazy”, as a result. However, facts are fickle things and, time and again, the facts are on Ron Paul’s side. In the latest example experts validate Paul’s claim that the drug war is “very biased against minorities.”

Experts told Politic365.com that Paul’s claim that minorities are disproportionally affected by the “war on drugs” is basically correct.

“But the most important thing that we also know is that African Americans are not the majority of users of crack cocaine,” McCurdy said. “Although they are the majority of people who are sentenced under these unfair crack cocaine laws…White and Hispanics are the majority of users of crack cocaine.”

Additionally, McCurdy explained that in the federal system 51 percent of the people that are in federal prison today are in federal prison for drug charges and 40 percent of those are people of color.

“And often what happens is, African Americans are assumed to be drug dealers and whites are assumed to be drug users, and therefore whites often get drug treatment where Africans Americans get incarceration,” she said.

Statistics compiled by Law Enforcement Against Prohibition from the Department of Health and Human Services, the FBI, and U.S. Census Bureau show in 2010, African-Americans comprised 14.3 percent of drug users in the United States, but were 31.8 percent of those arrested for drug law violations.

“Another way to state the data is that black drug users are more than twice as likely to be arrested as white drug users,” said LEAP media director Tom Angell in an email.

Some experts like economist Walter Williams assert that the war on drugs is the only major reason that racism is still even an issue today in the United States. The evidence certainly supports his claim.

The War on Drugs and Catholic Charity

The War on Drugs is a tricky issue. On the one hand, drug abuse is dangerous and wrong just as murder or assault is wrong and therefore it makes sense for our government to intervene. However, some people such as Congressman Ron Paul and the late economist Milton Friedman argue that the War on Drugs does far more damage than good and therefore must be repealed and drugs legalized. As a senior nursing student I am well aware of the adverse health effects of drug abuse and have witnessed their effects first-hand in some of my patients. However, I also believe that Ron Paul and Milton Friedman make a strong case in favor of legalization so I would like to present their argument and how, as I Catholic, I think this dire issue can be resolved.

First, its important to establish that the War on Drugs, like any government intervention, has unintended consequences. Since drug prohibition is likened to a war I would first like to compare it to Catholic just war doctrine to ensure that this really is a just war. The principle of proportionality states, “The anticipated benefits of waging a war must be proportionate to its expected evils or harms.” Therefore, if the harm created is disproportionate to the sum of harm prevention and good brought about than the war is unjust. Sure enough Milton Friedman does argue that, indeed, the unintended consequences of the War on Drugs far outweigh any good that it may have done. I’m being somewhat facetious of course; just war doctrine doesn’t really apply to drug prohibition but my point is illustrated.

Friedman argues that drug prohibition is hardly any different than the prohibition of alcohol that was repealed in 1933. Alcohol was readily available during prohibition and bootlegging was common – just as illicit drugs are readily available today. Worse, however, prohibition of alcohol fueled organized crime leading to Al Capone and the mafia and an era of hijacking and gang wars – ultimately, prohibition was a bad deal that lead to more harm than good.

Criminalization of drugs has had the same effects today. Interdiction essentially drives people from mild drugs to strong drugs. The reason being that mild drugs like Marijuana are bulky, difficult to smuggle and easy to interdict. More potent drugs, however, are less bulky, easier to smuggle and thus more profitable (and, additionally, far more dangerous). Marijuana was made more expensive which creates an economic drive to make more potent marijuana and a drive to market more potent drugs like heroin or cocaine. In fact, Friedman argues, crack never would have existed except for drug prohibition which made cocaine more expensive thus necessitating a more potent version.

Friedman continues by offering his expertise in economics by predicting that legalization of drugs would result in half the number of prisons, half the number of prisoners, 10,000 fewer homicides annually, inner cities in which there’s a chance for poor people to live without fear for their lives, the assurance of quality of drugs (illicit drug use kills less than 1,000 people a year – compared to 40,000/year from alcohol – but with higher quality drugs that number may drop even lower), and no criminalization of otherwise respectable citizens. Also note that the 10,000 fewer homicides Friedman mentions is within US borders. Legalizing drugs in the states would bring drug cartels in Mexico to their knees, a huge blow to the Mexican drug wars, drastically reducing violence outside US borders as well. Also not mentioned, legalization of drugs would drastically reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS.

So, lets take a closer look at some of Friedman’s claims. Most arrests are of possession by casual users (often marijuana) – these people are imprisoned where they are exposed to inmates convicted of violent crimes and these people who were, prior to imprisonment, respectable citizens come out and are much more likely to become violent criminals themselves. According to Friedman, criminalization of drugs helps drug cartels by making the business excessively costly. Only massive drug cartels have the capital to run an effective business model. In turn this leads to drug wars between cartels – competing illicit businesses each fitted with essentially their own private armies. As with any war, there is collateral damage and it is in no way uncommon that the neighbor kid minding his own business down the street gets shot. Additionally, by keeping goods out and arresting local growers authorities keep costs high in the favor of the drug cartels – what more could a monopolist want?

The only possible negative feature to drug legalization that Friedman notes, is that there might be additional drug addicts. However, despite the prohibition, more than 40 percent of Americans over age 12 have tried marijuana and were subsequently willing to say so on a survey – so its hard to argue that the War on Drugs is even reducing drug use now. Additionally, Friedman points out, a drug addict is not an innocent victim – it is immoral, he argues, to inflict hefty costs on society – costs in lives in addition to capital – in order to protect people from their own choices. This is not an economic problem but a moral problem – the economics is only tertiary. Its about the harm that the government is doing by enabling drug cartels, causing an additional 10,000 homicides a year and making criminals out of otherwise respectable citizens. Fundamentally, the case for prohibiting drugs is exactly as strong as the case for legislating overeating – except that overeating causes more deaths per year than all drugs combined. Ron Paul had this to say on the War on Drugs:

On the issue of drugs, we have spent nearly five hundred billion dollars on the War on Drugs, since the 1970s. Total failure. Some day, we have to admit it. Today, we have the federal government going into states that have legal medical marijuana, arresting people–undermining state laws–arresting people who use marijuana when they’re dying with cancer and AIDS, and it’s done with, as a compassionate conservative. And it doesn’t work.

What it does, it removes the ability to states to do their things, and also introduces the idea that it’s the federal government that will get to decide whether we get to take vitamins, and alternative medical care, or whatever. Most of our history, believe it or not, had no drug laws. Prohibition has been an absolute failure for alcohol. Drug addiction is a medical problem. It’s not a problem of the law.

However, while legalizing drugs would save lives, reduce the cost of our justice system and law enforcement agency, and create an additional estimated 75 billion dollars in government revenue there is one issue that Milton Friedman does not address, although I think Ron Paul hints at it. As Catholics we have an obligation to promote the common good within our society which means that, while drug abusers are not innocent victims, we have a responsibility to reduce drug abuse and help those who abuse drugs. Drug abuse is a disease and can be debilitating and even deadly. So, how can we avoid the terrible consequences of the War on Drugs and actually help those suffering from addiction? Instead of inflicting draconian punishments on drug users we can save money and lives AND help people overcome addiction by instead offering these people community support and medical intervention (according to one report, jail sentences do nothing to help addicts while treatment is the most effect way to reduce drug use). The War on Drugs has proved to be a direct obstacle to people getting help and this needs to change. By removing harsh prison sentences and redirecting the additional revenue from drug legalization to rehabilitation and prevention of the disease of addiction we can promote the common good without having to sacrifice thousands of lives and billions of dollars to do so.

Daniel Wolfe, director of OSI’s International Harm Reduction Development Program stated that “the global war on drugs has devolved into a war on individual drug users and their communities. While the drug trade continues to thrive, families across the globe are being torn apart by HIV, draconian prison sentences, and wholesale police abuses.” The War on Drugs does not care about public health issues, its job is not to promote the common good. The job of the War on Drugs is to wage war on individuals, arbitrarily selecting them from other criminals. We as Catholics are not called, however, to wage war against our fellow man. We’re called to promote the common good for all our brothers and sisters in Christ to benefit and that means that, in the context of drug use and abuse, we help these people seek treatment, not accelerate their journey down the path of ruin and vice.