Friday, June 05, 2009

Netherlands to Close Prisons Due to Lack of Crime

A headline I hope to one day read here in the states. Just imagine it. Treating drug use/abuse as a public health issue with experts in mental health creating the policies rather than law enforcement officials and politicians that think being "tough on crime" means overcrowding our prisons with non-violent offenders, spending valuable police resources on marijuana, and spending tax payer money without significantly reducing crime.

You can often hear opponents of marijuana legalization go on and on about how the Netherlands, and Amsterdam in particular, are filled with crime and the reason for this is their toleration for the retail sale of marijuana in coffee shops.

In a country where new prisons and jails are being built every year - it's hard to imagine the U.S. actually having to close prisons, not because of budget crises, but because crime is down. But it looks like those wacky folks from the Netherlands, in all their supposed pot smoking glory, have done just that. In fact, they'll be closing 8 prisons due to lack of crime. Let me say that again. Lack of crime. It just sounds so nice to say.

I think it's just common sense. In Portugal where drugs have been decriminalized, we've seen reductions in not just crime but drug use! And it's important to mention that Portugal saw an increase in those seeking help for drug addiction. When you aren't stigmatized for having a problem - you're more likely to seek help for it.

Look at this recent comparison of crime and incarceration rates in New York and in California. While I don't want to make light of New York's drug laws (the Rockefeller Drug Laws have resulted in disproportionate numbers of African Americans making being incarcerated for drug offenses), the study done by Northwestern University School of Law provides even more proof that we can't just jail our way out of the drug problem.
New York's prison population declined by 9% between 1995 and 2007, while it's violent and property crime rates fell by 47% and 51%, respectively, during the same period, according to data in the report. California's prison population rose by 31% during that period, while the two types of crime declined by 46% and 38%, respectively, the report said. Northwestern adjunct professor Malcolm C. Young, the author of the report, attributes the dichotomy to the differences in the states' mandatory minimum sentences, incarceration policies and rehabilitation efforts.

"The data show that you can increase prisons and have less effect on crime than can be achieved in a state that chooses not to increase its incarceration," Malcolm said in an interview. "Treatment and rehabilitation are important, but what New York learned is that a lot of these people just don't need to be in the criminal justice system."
Lets get back to the core message of SSDP here: Education NOT Incarceration. College students that are convicted of drug possession, even first time possession of a joint, are denied federal financial aid for school.

Lets get smart about drugs. Its like Revenge of the Nerds. Sure, in the beginning the big strong jocks had muscles, cool cars and all the girls. But they were idiots and by the end it all fell apart for them and they had to make room for those that wanted change and weren't afraid to let people know about it. Policies like the HEA Aid Elimination Penalty and Marijuana Prohibition are like those jocks and SSDPers are like those awesome nerds jamming with Roland synthesizers, electric violins, and 80's hairdoos (except we wear suites and ties and engage in political process).

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Feeding Your Children to Lions: The Only Way to Keep Them Off Drugs

Alright, alright. The title is a little misleading. But check this out - the D.A.R.E program of Brantford, Ontario requested $1,500 toward the $3,620 (U.S.) cost of a lion costume.

And look - they wanted to use this for 11-12 year olds. Are you kidding? If some asshole dressed as a lion came into my classroom when I was 12 years old to talk to me about the dangers of drugs - I'd probably want to do anything to not end up like him. And if that means using drugs - so be it. I'm not dressing up like a fucking lion for a living when my favorite rock stars and presidents have all admitted to trying drugs.

Luckily, the police services board realized this was a waste of money. "I like the idea of a real lion to scare the kids not to use drugs" joked one board member. Ahh yes, because drugs are more dangerous than putting your child in the same room as a lion - the king of the jungle.

Its true that the board did not approve funding for this yet and likely won't be doing so with the economy in the shape its in. But here is a concerning comment from the same board member that joked about using real lions:
"We don't want to send the message that we don't support D. A. R. E."
That comment likely means that had there not been a budget crisis at the moment this costume would have been approved. When is it ok to throw away money on stupid efforts that we know will not reduce drug use? We cannot base policies and funding on groups like D.A.R.E. simply because their intentions are good and we're afraid to send the message that we don't support them.

I'm all for reducing drug use/abuse among young people. But lions don't talk and they don't use drugs - so grow up and use your head when requesting to use thousands of tax payer dollars.

Or they could just get Stephen Seagal to teach kids about drugs and violence... The man that breaks people necks with the flick of his wrist.