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).


Anonymous said...
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AMIT said...

Oh Close Prisons?I do not think that there is no prison there.

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