Friday, March 23, 2012

send this book to your legislators!

Michelle Alexander's The New Jim Crow is an important book; more people should read it. At first, I was a bit put off by her assertion that mass incarceration is a method of keeping black people under control (as the Jim Crow laws were used) but there is much more to the book than that.

The facts are indisputable: the War on Drugs has affected black men disproportionately. While drug use is fairly evenly distributed across races, black men have borne the bigger burden of searches, prosecution and imprisonment. The War on Drugs has been a pointless exercise. Has it diminished the number of illegal drug users? Nope. Has it stopped drug-related crime? Nope. Prohibition has taught us nothing, evidently.

Her remedies include decriminalizing drugs and making drug treatment programs more easily available. I agree. She is eager to lay part of that on the government--the government should provide drug treatment programs--but I would rather leave that to the private sector. Putting the government in charge of these programs is a sure path to corruption. Not exactly the best environment for addicts who are hoping to live a better life.

Without the huge number of drug convictions populating our prisons, what will happen to the huge number of people who depend on prisons for their livelihood? Prison guards and administrators, investors in private prisons, law enforcement agencies (among others) will fight to keep their position, arguing against decriminalization. It is likely that another source of criminals will be found to keep these people employed and to keep the federal money flowing to law enforcement agencies.

Any idea which criminals are an easy pick and likely to fill the breach?

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