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Old 06-11-2019, 10:52 PM
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Can't we let the drug criminals go?


America sure has a lot of people locked up on drug crimes. A quote I googled:
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According to the Bureau of Prisons, there are 207,847 people incarcerated in federal prisons. Roughly half (48.6 percent) are in for drug offenses. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, there are 1,358,875 people in state prisons. Of them, 16 percent have a drug crime as their most serious offense.Jul 17, 2015
May I take a moment to talk about what I'm not doing in this thread? See Releasing Drug Offenders Won’t End Mass Incarceration
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“Over the last few decades, we’ve also locked up more and more nonviolent drug offenders than ever before, for longer than ever before,” Obama said in Philadelphia at the NAACP conference. “And that is the real reason our prison population is so high.”

But that’s not exactly the case. Serious prison reform — and shedding the dubious mantle of World’s Leading Incarcerator — will have to look far beyond just nonviolent drug offenders. Heavy prison sentences for drug crimes are only one of many reasons why the United States has by far the highest incarceration rate in the world.
Someone might make an argument like, "This thread won't make you the Jonas Salk of mass incarceration. Why, thus it has no merit at all!" Well, I never said I was Salk. I'm not even Obama. Honestly I'm maybe not even close. But hear me out.

We could potentially let tens or even hundreds of thousands of people out of jail. Take it on a case by case basis. What kinds of crimes are we talking about? Snorted a mountain of powder and then killed 20 people? Sorry, that guy stays in jail. OD'd in the park, got charged with possession? This is the kind of thing I am getting at, denizens of the dope. Can we let these kinds of prisoners out of jail?

Can we loosen the yoke of drug laws? I get it, Nixon wanted to crack down on 'leftists' or whatever, but he was a crook who extended Vietnam, kind of declared a war within this country, too, one that has disproportionately affected poor and minority demographics, but, if we're being real (empirical), has affected just about everybody. We could explore allowing drug use, though still generally disapproving of it. As a compromise, introduce a suite of "Being High On Drugs Is The Opposite Of A Mitigating Factor" (Ain't No Misbehaving) laws. If you simply must snort that line of coke, fine, but if you start stealing to support your habit, you are going to get extra busted for theft. And so on.

OTOH, people who turn to crime because of drugs arguably have a medical problem as much as they have a criminal one. If they weren't addicted to drugs, they wouldn't do these things. Since judging and punishing them seems not to have worked very well, what if we gave a shot at rehabilitating them instead? We could introduce a suite of public health service programs, including basic care for humans regardless of location or citizenship, and including addiction treatment, for one example.

I get it that there are plenty of gig jobs on the smart phones these days. Nonetheless, I suspect a sufficiently significant fraction of the population would find this kind of public service work satisfying enough that they could be goaded away from their gigs, provided they were fed and housed while completing their studies.

Problem is, lots of people on drugs are going to sign up for the free room and board and then bomb the classes. This is going to piss off the donors, and we're going to hear a lot about the evils of socialism in the right wing media. At this time I am not sure how to address this, though again I never said I was Salk.


The Nixon approach lacks compassion and empiricism. After all of these years, plenty of people continue to take drugs despite the crackdown. Instead of locking them up in cages like animals as if we are Big Brother's evil twin bigger sister, why don't we take a look at which ones have suffered enough already, get them some help and let them go?
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Old 06-12-2019, 12:22 AM
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The people in federal and state prisons are there for dealing. People who just use either get fines, probation or are sentenced to local jails.

Drugs cause negative consequences. We have two big legal drugs alcohol and cigarettes which have massive negative consequences--several hundred thousand people die from them each year in the U.S.

If you legalize the currently illegal drugs you are likely to get a massive expansion in use and similar consequences. While I favor the legalization of marijuana I don't for most of the other illegal drugs.
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Old 06-12-2019, 07:16 AM
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The people in federal and state prisons are there for dealing. People who just use either get fines, probation or are sentenced to local jails.

Drugs cause negative consequences. We have two big legal drugs alcohol and cigarettes which have massive negative consequences--several hundred thousand people die from them each year in the U.S.

If you legalize the currently illegal drugs you are likely to get a massive expansion in use and similar consequences. While I favor the legalization of marijuana I don't for most of the other illegal drugs.
Yes, drugs cause negative consequences, but that’s the case whether or not they are legal. Take the case of alcohol. It caused for more problems back in the days of prohibition than it does now. Sure, there are still problems with alcoholism, but instead of someone like Al Capone who dealt with his competition using guns, we now have Budweiser who deals with their competitors by accusing them of using corn syrup to make their product.
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Old 06-12-2019, 08:05 AM
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If rehabilitation and job training worked, this would be a good idea. But they rarely do.
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We could potentially let tens or even hundreds of thousands of people out of jail. Take it on a case by case basis. What kinds of crimes are we talking about? Snorted a mountain of powder and then killed 20 people? Sorry, that guy stays in jail. OD'd in the park, got charged with possession? This is the kind of thing I am getting at, denizens of the dope. Can we let these kinds of prisoners out of jail?
I doubt it would be tens or hundreds of thousands of people. If I read your figures correctly, there are about 122K people in prison, state and federal, for drug offenses, or somewhere around 8% of the total. Most of those are dealers, especially members of gangs who deal. Going to prison for simple possession isn't really a thing.

I suppose you could classify dealing crack or cooking meth as a non-violent offense, but in terms of its impact on the community as compared to theft, I doubt if it is much, if any, better.

Regards,
Shodan
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Old 06-12-2019, 08:31 AM
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While few folks are convicted and sent to prison in the first place for drug use, many of them are sent BACK to prison for drug or alcohol use. They are released in the first place with the condition that they must maintain abstinence from such substances, and violation of that restriction results in re-incarceration, often for years.

Now, addiction is a relapsing disease so it's not surprising they do frequently relapse. But a number of them will go on to relapse less and less often until they manage to maintain ongoing sobriety. Criminalizing relapse in this way has definite problems. Unfortunately it's hard to figure out which will eventually get better and which will not.
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Old 06-12-2019, 08:41 AM
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Sure, drug dealing is a more serious crime. However, since I am proposing legalizing most or all drugs, the black market would stop being as big an issue. Drug gangs would have to find another business thanks to old fashioned capitalism. With drug war resources diverted to helping people deal with the root causes of the drug problem, maybe we could set more people on a better path. Surely we can let some dealers go.

If it is broken families, urban despair and a culture of drugs, how do we fix that? I am not sure. I am not really aiming for getting everyone off of drugs but of reducing the harm. Leave the harmless users alone and try to treat the problem users. Surely we can do better than we are doing now.
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Old 06-12-2019, 09:00 AM
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Originally Posted by Shodan View Post
If rehabilitation and job training worked, this would be a good idea. But they rarely do. I doubt it would be tens or hundreds of thousands of people. If I read your figures correctly, there are about 122K people in prison, state and federal, for drug offenses, or somewhere around 8% of the total. Most of those are dealers, especially members of gangs who deal. Going to prison for simple possession isn't really a thing.
Your math seems off. If my cite is correct, we are talking about ~320k incarcerated drug offenders. FWIW.

It costs, what, $30k a year to keep someone locked up? If we dedicated half or 2/3 of that to helping them instead, maybe we could address the mass incarceration problem at the same time we address the spending problem.
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Old 06-12-2019, 11:39 AM
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No, you are correct. My math was off, my apologies.

If I understand your point, it was that we should release drug prisoners and spend $20K a year on rehab and job training for them, instead of $30K keeping them locked up. However, read Dr. Qadgop's post. Most of them are going to relapse and get sent back to prison. Some may achieve sobriety, eventually. The question remains if saving $10K per year minus whatever it costs to send them back to prison is enough to offset the cost to society of them doing whatever it is they do while not being sober.

Legalizing most or all drugs changes the equation, of course. It depends (in my view) which drugs are legalized. I suspect that legalizing marijuana would have one set of effects. Legalizing cocaine or meth or heroin would have another. I don't have any figures, but I would doubt very much if many people are in prison strictly for smuggling marijuana.

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Shodan
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Old 06-12-2019, 12:05 PM
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I agree with what others have said before, it's time we stopped treating drug use as a crime and more as a medical condition.
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Old 06-12-2019, 12:38 PM
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I agree with what others have said before, it's time we stopped treating drug use as a crime and more as a medical condition.
Addiction treatment resources are what's in short supply here; waiting lists to get into programs are long; often when the addict is ready for change, there few resources to help them. The promise of a bed in a detox/rehab facility in 4-6 months, or a meeting with a counselor in 3 weeks. Plenty of time for relapsing and bad outcomes before that date.

Granted, free services such as the mutual help groups are available (AA, NA, SOS, Rational Recovery, and lots of church groups), but success is MUCH higher when those groups are combined with counselling and medication-assisted treatment. Along with treatment of mental health comorbidities.
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Old 06-12-2019, 01:45 PM
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While few folks are convicted and sent to prison in the first place for drug use, many of them are sent BACK to prison for drug or alcohol use. They are released in the first place with the condition that they must maintain abstinence from such substances, and violation of that restriction results in re-incarceration, often for years.

Now, addiction is a relapsing disease so it's not surprising they do frequently relapse. But a number of them will go on to relapse less and less often until they manage to maintain ongoing sobriety. Criminalizing relapse in this way has definite problems. Unfortunately it's hard to figure out which will eventually get better and which will not.
I have read your posts in other threads- surely you know more about what goes on in prisons than I do. With these kinds of drug recidivists, in your experience how common is it for these people to get high and then go on to commit other crimes vs simply violating the terms of their release by taking drugs?

If drug criminals are statistically certain to go nuts and commit all kinds of other crimes if released, that is a problem for my Legalize Drugs proposal. But if we treat drugs as a medical rather than legal issue and people can function with a little help, that seems better to me than imprisoning hundreds of thousands of people.

This isn't to promote drugs. It is simply to recognize that, after decades of crackdown, if anything drugs are More common than before, and poor and minority demographics have taken the brunt of the punishments. So, let people have them. The people who know better won't take them, most people who do take them won't cause a lot of other problems, and we can focus on the ones that really cause bigger problems.
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Old 06-12-2019, 04:24 PM
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. With these kinds of drug recidivists, in your experience how common is it for these people to get high and then go on to commit other crimes vs simply violating the terms of their release by taking drugs?
Addicts don't tend to use then commit crimes. If they've been properly detoxed and then are in some decent treatment regimen, with or without medication assisted treatment, they tend to be basically law abiding. It's when they go into withdrawal that they act irrationally, and will often then steal to get their next fix.

But once you're fully disabled by drugs, living on the street every day means just surviving tends to require breaking some laws; loitering, public urination, petty theft for food, etc.
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Old 06-12-2019, 09:49 PM
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If I understand your point, it was that we should release drug prisoners and spend $20K a year on rehab and job training for them, instead of $30K keeping them locked up. However, read Dr. Qadgop's post. Most of them are going to relapse and get sent back to prison. Some may achieve sobriety, eventually. The question remains if saving $10K per year minus whatever it costs to send them back to prison is enough to offset the cost to society of them doing whatever it is they do while not being sober.
So don't send them back to prison for relapsing; send them to rehab, or a sober living house or treatment group or addiction counselor instead. Try to deal with the actual problem (addiction), rather than warehousing them for a few months or years. (I'm sure Qadgop can attest to the wide availability of drugs in the prison systems; in many states, budget cuts to anything resembling educational or recreational programs mean there is not much else to do EXCEPT get stoned and stay stoned, which doesn't really do much for the underlying problem.)
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Old 06-12-2019, 11:07 PM
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But once you're fully disabled by drugs, living on the street every day means just surviving tends to require breaking some laws; loitering, public urination, petty theft for food, etc.
This part doesn't jibe with the programme I've laid out so far, such as it is. But it is a good point- treating drug use as an aggravating factor to petty crimes could become draconian. The crackhead pissing in the alleyways needs to be brought indoors, maybe hydrated, definitely counseled, probably fed, maybe clothed, and if he/she really is a street dwelling crackhead, brought in for addiction treatment at least. We can still interrupt them pissing on walls &etc, but we want to fix the crackhead part rather than punish the whole person. No?
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Old 06-13-2019, 12:00 AM
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So don't send them back to prison for relapsing; send them to rehab, or a sober living house or treatment group or addiction counselor instead. Try to deal with the actual problem (addiction), rather than warehousing them for a few months or years. (I'm sure Qadgop can attest to the wide availability of drugs in the prison systems; in many states, budget cuts to anything resembling educational or recreational programs mean there is not much else to do EXCEPT get stoned and stay stoned, which doesn't really do much for the underlying problem.)
In my experience, judges will give first time dealers (who are dealing only to support their habit) a chance to go to rehab. Then they leave rehab and relapse and commit more crimes. Some judges will give second and third chances. Then what?

And, far from the Libertarian ideal that these are just free citizens using drugs in the privacy of their own homes and harming nobody, these people are drains on society, choking the social welfare system and committing property crimes to support their habit. They leave needles in the street and will steal anything not bolted down.

What do you do after the chances fail (and statistics show that we are very poor at actually treating substance abuse)? Further, it is a perverse incentive. The convicted defendant does not want to go to prison, but he really isn't ready to get clean yet. However, he gives the judge a song and dance about needing rehab, thereby taking a spot away from someone who has not committed any crimes but asks for help. But the latter guy doesn't have a lawyer and a judge leaning on the rehab place to open up a spot for him.
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Old 06-13-2019, 12:58 AM
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In my experience, judges will give first time dealers (who are dealing only to support their habit) a chance to go to rehab. Then they leave rehab and relapse and commit more crimes. Some judges will give second and third chances. Then what?
At least from what I've seen (and I'm sure it varies by jurisdiction), the judge will give them a chance to go to rehab, IF AND ONLY IF the defendant can find a rehab willing to take them. It's not the court's job to assign them to rehab, but rather the defendant's job to locate a bed and make a case to the court. For those who can afford private rehab, this can be a viable option, but for those who don't have the money or the insurance to pay themselves, this is too often NOT a viable option. There's too much demand and too few beds in the state- or grant-funded facilities, and the defendant who has to tell the court "I am on the waiting list at XYZ Facility but have no idea when a bed will be available there" gets sent to jail or prison instead.

Per the Kansas Dept of Corrections, for example, 29% of those received into the Kansas prison system in fiscal 2018, and 20% of those in custody at year-end, had a drug charge as their most serious active charge.
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Old 06-13-2019, 01:54 AM
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At least from what I've seen (and I'm sure it varies by jurisdiction), the judge will give them a chance to go to rehab, IF AND ONLY IF the defendant can find a rehab willing to take them. It's not the court's job to assign them to rehab, but rather the defendant's job to locate a bed and make a case to the court. For those who can afford private rehab, this can be a viable option, but for those who don't have the money or the insurance to pay themselves, this is too often NOT a viable option. There's too much demand and too few beds in the state- or grant-funded facilities, and the defendant who has to tell the court "I am on the waiting list at XYZ Facility but have no idea when a bed will be available there" gets sent to jail or prison instead.
That is mostly true in my state. I end up acting as a coordinator to try to find programs for my clients in preparation for sentencing. The problem is that most reputable programs (usually) see the attempt to get the client into the program as simply a way to stay out of prison and not as a legitimate desire to get help. In response, a number of "programs" of questionable efficacy have sprung up which will accept these people (with Medicaid funding of course).

We have a rule of criminal procedure that allows a judge to "reconsider" his decision up to 120 days after sentencing. So, the judge sentences the client to prison with the implicit understanding that once a bed is available, he will "reconsider" his sentence and send the client to one of these rehabs while they get on the waiting list for a better one.

But again, the problems come to the forefront. First, even under the best circumstances, our track record at treating addiction is very poor. Second, these individuals largely do not want help; they are just upset that they got caught, but will go to rehab because it beats prison. This is a recipe for failure and it takes the precious little resources from those who have made a decision to beat addiction.

And while I understand that relapse is a part of recovery, it breeds contempt throughout the system. If one guy on probation gets busted because he got caught missing curfew and was spotted at a bar and he gets nailed, he can rightfully point with indignation that he got treated harshly if we accept as part of recovery that another guy on probation went on a month long heroin binge and got treated leniently.

There really are no simple solutions. Any solution must start at the root cause of addiction, and that starts with helping people to never use hard drugs in the first place. In that sense, legalization of those hard drugs would be a disaster.
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Old 06-13-2019, 01:56 PM
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There really are no simple solutions. Any solution must start at the root cause of addiction, and that starts with helping people to never use hard drugs in the first place. In that sense, legalization of those hard drugs would be a disaster.
Your last point is key to this whole question. How sure are you that there is a cause and effect relationship such that War on Drugs ---> people never use drugs in the first place? If the drug war were a good tool for achieving that, I might have more respect for it. But check out the last 20 years of data on drug overdose deaths:
https://www.drugabuse.gov/related-to...se-death-rates

The numbers have skyrocketed, to over 70k overdose deaths last year. I would call that a disaster. How many drug users does it take to generate 70k deaths a year? I don't know, but it must be a lot, and it suggests the War on Drugs is Not "helping people to not use hard drugs in the first place."

Contrast with Portugal, which decriminalized drugs in 2001:
https://www.theguardian.com/news/201...orld-copied-it
Their drug use has plummeted. As you say, there are more factors in play, but it does not seem to be the case that there is a link between drug prohibition and drug abstinence. The data suggests the opposite.
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Old 06-13-2019, 10:18 PM
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Originally Posted by Try2B Comprehensive View Post
Your last point is key to this whole question. How sure are you that there is a cause and effect relationship such that War on Drugs ---> people never use drugs in the first place? If the drug war were a good tool for achieving that, I might have more respect for it. But check out the last 20 years of data on drug overdose deaths:
https://www.drugabuse.gov/related-to...se-death-rates

The numbers have skyrocketed, to over 70k overdose deaths last year. I would call that a disaster. How many drug users does it take to generate 70k deaths a year? I don't know, but it must be a lot, and it suggests the War on Drugs is Not "helping people to not use hard drugs in the first place."

Contrast with Portugal, which decriminalized drugs in 2001:
https://www.theguardian.com/news/201...orld-copied-it
Their drug use has plummeted. As you say, there are more factors in play, but it does not seem to be the case that there is a link between drug prohibition and drug abstinence. The data suggests the opposite.
Keep in mind that (as I'm sure you know) there is a difference between de-criminalization and legalization. I can agree that if we catch a kid with a personal amount of a hard drug that the criminal justice system does very poorly with handling that and we could think of better ways.

But legalization is a different ball of wax. I think common sense would say that if you could buy heroin at a store the same way we now buy liquor, there would indisputably be more heroin users because of the ease of access. And although alcohol abuse is certainly a problem, the overwhelming majority of people are able to use it moderately and responsibly. I don't know anyone who gets off work after a long day and relaxes with an injection of heroin; a cold beer sure.

As much that is made in these debates about how much alcohol abuse costs society, most people handle it responsibly. I don't believe there is such a thing for hard drugs. For those that relapse from alcohol addiction, the stories are pretty similar: they were at a party and thought one drink would be fine; they passed a liquor store and thought they could handle it, etc. At least now with hard drug addiction, you don't find yourself at a picnic in the park where bowls of methamphetamine are sitting around.

Portugal has tried an innovative way to help reduce drug addiction, but it does not involve legalization.
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