Pubdate: Tue, 09 Jan 2007
Source: Cumberland Times-News (MD)
Copyright: 2006 Cumberland Times-News
Author: Dave Crockett


To the Editor:

The issues addressed by Melanie Michael - Neighborhood group says
courts are too easy on drug dealers, Times-News, Dec.12 - was like
reading a news article from the 1970s: Revolving-door courts, lenient
sentences, weapons possession, gangs, blame the big cities, shortages
of judges, fear of retribution and calls for a new approach. Nearly 40
years later not much has changed. Or has it?

What Ms. Michael didn't tell our Allegany readers is that 1 in 32
Americans were under criminal justice supervision last year. Thanks to
tough mandatory sentencing that incarcerates record numbers of
non-violent drug offenders who are not dealers, the United States has
the highest prison population in the world. Admissions of inmates are
rising faster than inmate releases. We have only 5 percent of the
world's population, yet we have 25 percent of the world's prison population.

How many more cops, judges and harsher sentences do we need before
this nation understands that we suffer, not from drug use, but from
irrational, ineffective and costly drug laws? And, if anyone does
suffer from drug use, why are those people channeled behind bars
instead of into a doctor's office? Whereas we succeed in locking up
our people, too often we fail in providing key social programs to
support education, healthcare, childcare, and poverty.

While Ms. Michael urged our readers to "inform yourself about the drug
trade and gangs," she made no call for a balanced ticket. Instead, she
issued a call to arms that was focused exclusively on law enforcement.
Why only criminal-justice professionals? Where is her call to change
the laws, to release non-violent drug offenders so that we can deal
more effectively with hard crime? Why is she silent about programs for
harm-reduction and treatment? Did it ever occur to her to urge
doctors, priests, psychiatrists, rabbis, teachers and other consulting
professionals to take a look at the human side of drug use? Instead of
more judges, why not more teachers and doctors? If you have to put
your money somewhere at least try to tackle the root of the problem.

I don't think the criminal justice system was meant to replace the
core of our consulting professionals, and certainly, not try to do
their jobs! I especially don't think officers should be teaching kids
about drugs. Too many wrongheaded people want to spend-up our budgets
on criminal-law services to deal with the so-called drug problem,
when, for the most part, drug use in this country doesn't require the
attention of law enforcement. It isn't drug use that's the major
problem - it's the black-market. Much of the "crime" anti-drug
warriors wring their hands about stem from the amazingly lucrative
employment and moneymaking in the (tax-free) black-market. OK, you've
spent 40 years locking up our people who take advantage of a
black-market that was literally created by the very legislatures you
now urge us to vote for again.

Have you lost your sense of decency? The uppermost shame we must all
bear is not what we do to other nations, but what we do to ourselves.
At no time in my youth did I think it possible I would live to see
that cruel and perverse statistic: 1 in 32 Americans under criminal
justice supervision. With the Congress in the lead, our various
legislatures have placed a rope around the neck of the people. And
when, in the course of governing the people where the law does more
harm than good, it behooves even the unvoiced to speak up.

I urge the Neighborhood Advisory Commission, city leaders and
neighborhood associations to end this one-sided approach of lavishing
your attentions on law enforcement at the expense of dealing with the
underlying problems. And, where there is no problem - to leave well
enough alone. While I support law enforcement, I also consider what
other professionals have to say on the subject. May I recommend that
readers check out the Drug Policy Alliance ( if you
really "feel strongly about this issue"?

Dave Crockett

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