Smart On Crime vs. Tough on Crime
The Drug War as we know it has been raging for over 40 years…nearly as long as I have been alive. I still remember wondering as a child, why any society would lock up people who either simply were looking to have a good time or who had a problem which is considered medical in nature. In the 1980s, the War on Drugs took an especially ugly turn under Ronald Reagan, who decided we needed to get tough on drug crimes. But I wondered then, as I continue to wonder today, why is drug addiction a “crime?”
“New” Smart of Drug Crime Initiative
Just today, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the United States Justice Department is changing its position on drug crimes. What it did not say was that drug possession will no longer be a crime in the U.S. Instead, the United States DOJ will no longer treat non-violent offenders harsher than some violent criminals. Good news.
We cannot simply prosecute or incarcerate our way to becoming a safer nation. Today, a vicious cycle of poverty, criminality and incarceration traps too many Americans and weakens too many communities. However, many aspects of our criminal justice system may actually exacerbate this problem, rather than alleviate it.
Agreed, for I have been saying for years that the current system only makes the situation with drugs worse. It is kind of like Alcohol Prohibition, which most will agree was a bad idea. It seemed smart at the time, but time proved that position wrong and the nation quickly altered course. However, rather than continuing to work towards eliminating alcohol abuse in society, the government simply went from one extreme to the other. In so doing, alcohol has become a serious problem in society.
New Smart of Crime Approach…Really New?
Is this recent announcement really a “new” approach or is it the same old, same old in new clothing? The only reason I ask this is because to date, this Justice Department really does not seem all that innovative. Let’s hear what Attorney General Holder has to add on the issue…
By targeting the most serious offenses, prosecuting the most dangerous criminals, directing assistance to crime ‘hot spots,’ and pursuing new ways to promote public safety, deterrence, efficiency and fairness — we can become both smarter and tougher on crime.
Ok, so it seems that he is saying that we are going to get “tougher on crime” by being “smarter.” What can Holder mean by this?
I hope I am wrong, but given the fiascos by this DOJ (aka, Fast and Furious, failure to detect Boston bombers, and more), this smells like politics as usual. He goes on to mention 17 states which are already shifting from non-violent offenders and creating programs to help them. Given the recent votes in Washington and Colorado to legalize marijuana, the pressure is on the DOJ to react…to respond. In other words, Holder appears to only be responding to state pressure to lighten up. So IS he?
Look again at this words–
smarter AND tougher
What does “Smarter and Tougher Mean?
It is difficult to say what “smarter and tougher” really means, but all evidence related to the modern Drug War indicates that these policies have been nothing more than power plays over the lives of Americans. Given the historic direction of this so-called “war,” these words could mean that the DOJ is now going to appear to be helping drug abusers while simultaneously gaining greater control over them…in line with the policies begun under Nixon. To learn more about these policies of control, see the book Cowards in Charge.
Now let’s add another layer. Obamacare.
Given the impetus of the Affordable Health Care Act to implement greater control over the lives of Americans primarily on the lower rungs of the socio-economic scale, this Act could forseeably be used against non-violent drug offenders. If we bear in mind that some of the elements of this Act implement potentially coercive tactics, there could be serious ramifications for anyone switching from facing prison to facing Obamacare. If the critics are right, there could be so-called “death panels” awaiting drug offenders. Indeed, how else could we BOTH get tougher AND smarter? What could be tougher than long-term incarceration? What would be “smarter” in the eyes of those who support the Drug War? I personally have heard many holding such a position state that drug users “should be shot.” You have likely heard the same.
Only time will tell what Attorney General Eric Holder means by ‘tougher and smarter.’ But if history is any indication, the Department of Justice is not going to give up the power it has gained through the Drug War without a fight. Given the history of this DOJ to say one thing and do quite the opposite, call me crazy, but I don’t trust that they have the best interests of the people in mind with these “new” policies. Be warned. The worst is yet to come.