When can you say an idea is gaining momentum? The WSJ had an essay on Saturday calling the War on Drugs a Failure. To be sure, this essay did not appear on the famously wingnutty WSJ Opinion page, but still. I’m intrigued by these articles that point out the high cost of some of our worst social decisions — it is looking like we are trying to give ourselves permission to get smarter and stop throwing so much money down the drain:
One moderate alternative to the war on drugs is to follow Portugal’s lead and decriminalize all drug use while maintaining the illegality of drug trafficking. Decriminalizing drugs implies that persons cannot be criminally punished when they are found to be in possession of small quantities of drugs that could be used for their own consumption. Decriminalization would reduce the bloated U.S. prison population since drug users could no longer be sent to jail. Decriminalization would make it easier for drug addicts to openly seek help from clinics and self-help groups, and it would make companies more likely to develop products and methods that address addiction.
Some evidence is available on the effects of Portugal’s decriminalization of drugs, which began in 2001. A study published in 2010 in the British Journal of Criminology found that in Portugal since decriminalization, imprisonment on drug-related charges has gone down; drug use among young persons appears to have increased only modestly, if at all; visits to clinics that help with drug addictions and diseases from drug use have increased; and opiate-related deaths have fallen.
Interesting idea. It will be hard to get law enforcement types, their suppliers and enablers to let go of this river of money, though.
Then on New Year’s Day, the NYT discussed how states are pulling back from using the death penalty.
A distinguished committee of scholars convened by the National Research Council found that there is no useful evidence to determine if the death penalty deters serious crimes. Many first-rate scholars have tried to prove the theory of deterrence, but that research “is not informative about whether capital punishment increases, decreases, or has no effect on homicide rates,” the committee said.
A host of other respected experts have also concluded that life imprisonment is a far more practical form of retribution, because the death penalty process is too expensive, too time-consuming and unfairly applied.
The punishment is supposed to be reserved for the very worst criminals, but dozens of studies in state after state have shown that the process for deciding who should be sent to death row is arbitrary and discriminatory.
Plus death penalty cases cost taxpayers alot of money. Money that most states just don’t have. The good folks at the Delaware Repeal Project are working on getting the First State to abolish the death penalty. Join them (and like them on Facebook) to help them with this goal this year.
And for your Point and Laugh opportunity of the day — the Birthers are BACK and they want to impeach Chief Justice Roberts if he swears in President Obama. Who — if you need reminding — do not think that the President is a natural born citizen of this United States of America. Just when you think these people cannot be any more stupid, they reach a new height of stupidity and silliness.
What interests you today?