Stop Arresting Them Stupid

I love the New York Times, though admitting it here may be akin to screaming, “I love Satan” in the middle of a church. I think that the paper does a fairly decent job of reporting the news. I don’t care that people call it left leaning. It is, so what? With the NYT, I can get some national news coverage. My own city paper barely covers state events. In fact, the only thing my city paper is good at is omitting important information from its readers.

Anyway, the NYT reported today that the hardest part of prison is staying out. Duh. The article opens in Providence, RI and speaks of the issues facing parolees as they start their lives anew. The first person profiled was sent back to prison because she failed a urine screen,

In April, Debra Harris took her 15-year-old son along for what she thought was a final visit to her parole officer. Instead, because of a “dirty urine” test two weeks before, proof of her relapse to crack use, state troopers led her straight back to prison for three more months.

And then moves to,

The strains on families take many forms. Not far from the Harris household, Alberto Reyes, 27, a forklift operator, was put on probation last winter for burglary. But in March, Mr. Reyes failed to meet his parole officer and was sent to prison for three and a half months. Without his help, his girlfriend, who makes just $280 a week as a nurse’s aide, was left in desperate straits, he acknowledged, and had to rely on charity to get summer clothes for their baby.

Before moving here:

Erick Betancourt, 26, spent 2 years in prison for dealing crack and will be on probation for the next 10 years, leaving him vulnerable to confinement for any mistake. “Everybody you bump into is on probation or parole,” said Mr. Betancourt, who has landed a job counseling youths in the streets.

All of you know that I think drugs should be legal. You need only read the comments here to know that I experimented in my past. Drug use should not be a reason to put people in prison. In the case of Mr. Reyes, there was a crime committed against another person’s property. Under current law, he rightfully went to jail, though in a perfect world he would have paid for damages incurred by the person injured by his crime. I am not asking to debate the (de)merits of the “War on Drugs.” What I am wondering about today is the notion that once imprisoned for a crime; you are indeed property of the state.

I am thinking of old books. The ones in which a petty crook says, “I have paid my debt to society.”

I am thinking that we must overhaul not only the drug laws in this country, but the ones that dictate jail for any non-violent offender. We need to change laws that make former non-violent inmates continue to live as a criminals and we certainly need to overhaul laws that give Mr. Reyes an excuse to live apart from his partner and child. His girlfriend and child live in public housing and public housing policy prohibits a felon from living on premises. But, of course, I disagree with tax funded subsidized public housing. And that is a whole other libertarian issue, ain’t it?

41 Comments
  1. With restitution for theives and the death penalty for rapists and murderers, we would have no need for prisons at all.

  2. “Drug use should not be a reason to put people in prison. ”

    I think it’s an extension of slavery.
    We need someone, or some race or class, to subjugate in order to feel superior. So we imprison people with
    “dirty” urine. Strange country.

    The prison industrial complex turns into a money issue.
    It’s about money. Forfeiture, fines, seizures, etc.

  3. “Drug use should not be a reason to put people in prison. ”

    I think it’s an extension of slavery.
    We need someone, or some race or class, to subjugate in order to feel superior. So we imprison people with
    “dirty” urine. Strange country.

    The prison industrial complex turns into a money issue.
    It’s about money. Forfeiture, fines, seizures, etc.

  4. People in government (e.g. cops, prison guards, DEA, politicians, etc.) make way too much money and get far too much power from the war on drugs for it to ever be ended.

  5. In reply to the previous comment: “death penalty for rapists and murderers”

    I’m not comfortable handing anyone the right to kill people, especially the god damn government.

    Why not privitize the prisons? Sick of all the profits from manufactoring contracts going abroad? Well private prisons would supply a cheap labour force and it would keep profits in the country.

  6. There is no profit in reforming prisoners.

    Just as the Drug testing industry lobbies for more drug testing the prison industry lobbies for longer sentences. Having someone come back to jail just means you don’t have to waste time retraining them to the system.

    In college sports they always show graduation rates for players as a benchmark for success. Why not show how long a person stays out of prison as a benchmark of success for prisons. But of course that would hurt the bottom line.

    I don’t know if anyone else has seen it or not but in the tycoon series of video games they actually released “Prison Tycoon” probably not much different than “Zoo Tycoon” just replace the animals with people and try to keep them in their cage.

  7. The fact that the blog author is worried about admitting her love for the NYT is exactly what is wrong with the LP. We need to purge the right wing from our midst.

  8. Stuart Richards: “I’m for limited government. A government limited to killing its citizens. i.e. a government that isn’t limited at all.” When you empower the state to kill, you are giving it the ultimate power. Such an obvious statement need not even be uttered. The “death penalty” is a greater injustice than Medicare, Social Security, public education, and would-be Hillary-Care all combined. And you embrace it?

  9. undercover_anarchist writes; “The fact that the blog author is worried about admitting her love for the NYT is exactly what is wrong with the LP. We need to purge the right wing from our midst.”
    Sorry U_A if been reading the NYT for some 20 years, but I don’t think we need to “purge” anyone from the LP.
    We do need to get serious about the Drug issue. I have certainly heard a number of people say that we need to ignore that issue. Far more people have said something to that affect than have commented on the NYT. Fact of the matter IMHO we need to get specific on a number of issues and quit beating around the bush. Anyone can say they are for smaller government and less taxes, but how you gonna get there? That’s where the rubber meets the road and the drug issue is a tough one. It scares people.
    M.W.

  10. heh, a so called libertarian wanting to purge people on the newspapers they read.

    just a _wee bit_ NOT libertarian is he. More like undercover_libertarian.

  11. I sympathize with having to “apologize” for liking the New York Times. I believe that THE most professional and valuable national newspaper on the market today, bar none, is the Christian Science Monitor… but I’m constantly having to fend off apprehension and evil looks from people ignorant about it not being a religious publication.

    By the way, and I going to be the first complete pig to give the huge nod of approval to Michelle’s new profile photo? I don’t know if it’s because she’s female, or if it’s just because she’s the only HoT blogger who actually SMILES. Hang on just a moment… runs off to look at Stuart’s photo again… nah, it’s because she’s female.

  12. I’ll co-sign Steve on that pic. You fine, girl…

    It is a rarity when brains & looks converge, we should be thankful for every moment in our otherwise miserable lives that women like Michelle even exist.

  13. B-psycho — you scare me, man. ‘Course, I’ve got one of my own at home. So how miserable is my life? >:)

  14. I agree wonderfull pic

    on the drug war issue I just found out through the rumor mill that my work is probably going to drug test me because I wrote a few LTEs about drugs, legalization and the drug war. Life can be fun.

  15. Say, can you tell me what states are missing ballot access for the Libertarian Party? I need to get my staff to work on this, no matter who is the Presidential Candidate in 2008.

    Thanks,

    Gene Chapman

    [email protected]
    ChapmanForPresident08.com

  16. When did I say people should be purged based on the newspapers they read? I say that people who wish to purge people for the newspapers they read are the people to be purged. Tim West, I am a fan of yours and in agreement with you 99.9% of the time. Don’t get it twisted. I don’t even know how what I wrote could have been so grossly misconstrued.

    Christian Science Monitor is a good paper with diverse viewpoints.

  17. The fact that the blog author is worried about admitting her love for the NYT is exactly what is wrong with the LP. We need to purge the right wing from our midst.”

    Ah, I gotcha. On first read, it sounds like you are calling for a right wing purge from our midst.

    Probably not getting it. Is there another meaning there somewhere? (seriously)

  18. oh never mind, duh. Just got it.

    right wing LP!
    left wing LP!

    whose’s purgin who?

  19. I’m against all purges. Just speaking hyperbolically. I feel my kind have been indirectly purged by the sweeping right-wingedness of the party. And on re-reading my comment, I can see how it was poorly worded and easily confusing.

    I read the Wall Street Journal and Investor’s Business Daly. I don’t agree with the editorial content, but I enjoy their perspectives nonetheless, and the reportage is top notch.

  20. Regarding the death penalty: the government shouldn’t carry it out; the jurors should. If you ain’t willing to pull the trigger, don’t condemn.

  21. I do not agree with the The legalization of illicit drugs of any kind. I have devoted the last 20 years to working with youth who have lived hard lives because of drugs and the abuse of parents on drugs. I have seen parents beat their children in a fit of rage because they could not get a “fix” While “recreational” drug use is something we all have taken part in, we cannot ignore that drug use is a huge problem in this country, not only with the poor but also the wealthy. Having no oversight of this problem would only lead to a drug epidemic of epic proportions.

  22. The legalization of illicit drugs of any kind. I have devoted the last 20 years to working with youth who have lived hard lives because of drugs and the abuse of parents on drugs. I have seen parents beat their children in a fit of rage because they could not get a “fix”. While “recreational” drug use is something we all have taken part in, we cannot ignore that drug use is a huge problem in this country, not only with the poor but also the wealthy. Having no oversight of this problem would only lead to a drug epidemic of epic proportions. Legalizing would only lead to a much larger problem.

  23. The legalization of illicit drugs of any kind. I have devoted the last 20 years to working with youth who have lived hard lives because of drugs and the abuse of parents on drugs. I have seen parents beat their children in a fit of rage because they could not get a “fix”. While “recreational” drug use is something we all have taken part in, we cannot ignore that drug use is a huge problem in this country, not only with the poor but also the wealthy. Having no oversight of this problem would only lead to a drug epidemic of epic proportions. Legalizing would only lead to a much larger problem.

  24. The legalization of illicit drugs of any kind. I have devoted the last 20 years to working with youth who have lived hard lives because of drugs and the abuse of parents on drugs. I have seen parents beat their children in a fit of rage because they could not get a “fix” While “recreational” drug use is something we all have taken part in, we cannot ignore that drug use is a huge problem in this country, not only with the poor but also the wealthy. Having no oversight of this problem would only lead to a drug epidemic of epic proportions. Legalizing would only lead to a much larger problem.

  25. Ben, I think you are a bit confused if you think simply legalizing drugs would cause some kind of epidemic. You think having drugs be illegal is making some real difference? Simply take a look at an historical reference fo absolute refuation of your point. The repeal of phrohibition saw an increase in folks seeking help for the alcoholism they fell victim to while it was illegal. The stigma was, apparently, too great for them to seek help while it was illegal.

    Instead drug prohibition has only weakend our society and our civil rights in massive ways. We should be far less concerned with putting druggies in jail (which does NOTHING to actually help those families and kids you mention) and worry more about educating on the dangers and drug use. Even some basic research into the subject will pretty clearly disprove your theories of why legalization would somehow be a travesty.

  26. Lenny, while we may discuss and disagree on historical reference, the fact remmains we live in the present. Not the past. 100-50-30 even 20 years ago life in the country was much different. I am afaid to say that educating people on the dangers of drug use will have the same affect as educating kids on how to use a condom. They know what a condom is, they know why they should use one, but at the end of the day, they relly don’t care. I have yet to see and education that will work. Keeping drugs illegal is the only solution I see at the present. I encourage you to spend a day at a shelter of at a children’s hospital in your area. Walk a mile in the addicts shoes and then tell me how legalization and “education” will keep them clean.

  27. Ben,
    Please enlighten us, if addicts can’t be helped if some more drugs are made legal, then how do cigarette and alcohol addicts stay clean?

    If more drugs were made legal right now, would you run and try some out just because they were?

    I also agree with yitmo gizmo:

    “I think it’s an extension of slavery.
    We need someone, or some race or class, to subjugate in order to feel superior. So we imprison people with
    “dirty” urine. Strange country.

    The prison industrial complex turns into a money issue.
    It’s about money. Forfeiture, fines, seizures, etc.”

  28. Are you serious? You equate cigarette smoking with heroin or cocaine or a crack addiction? And your argument that “just if it were legal would you try it” is sophomoric. Kids who are in our country’s inner cities do not care about the legality of drugs they use to sustain an addiction and sell to sustain a meager existence. The flaw in your argument is that you think that just by making it legal all of our problems go away. No, they just get bigger. Like I said before, get out from behind your computer and see the “real” world. Go to a shelter or a children’s hospital. Tell them at the shelter that you are trying to make crack legal and see what sort of response you get. It is easy to try and change the world for middle class white folks, have you tried to sell your idea to African American leaders or Preachers? No probably not. Try it, see what they say. I’d like to hear it.

  29. Flipping out the race card rings really hollow in regards to the war on some drugs.

    Black and Hispanic leaders should be outraged that a disproportionate number of them are in prisons, but for some reason they aren’t. It has been shown that people with disposable income are more likely to use illegal drugs and whites are a group with more disposable income and a higher percentage of drug use. Blacks and Hispanics are shown to be less likely to use drugs, but find thier numbers behind bars are way higher than whites.

    The war on some drugs will come to a screeching halt when more white, rich people are put away for drug use, but that will never happen because the rich can afford lawyers.

  30. Ben,

    You forgot about my comparison to alcohol. I remember learning that the reason that alcohol is banned on indian (native american) reservations was because of thier predisposition for alcohol abuse. Go to a reservation and notice the numbers of liquor stores just outside the boundary and tell me that alcolhol is no different than crack or heroin.

  31. Ben;

    One other thing, if cigarette addiction is no big thing, then why not nicotine prohibition? I’ll bet there would be a huge black market for it. And it will cause all the social problems crime and corruption that has been associated with some other drugs.

  32. You win! You are right. As an African American male I don’t know what I’m taking about. Make it all legal, then you and your white friends can sit back and say “what the hell is the negros problem, can’t they show some restraint. Just because it’s legal do they have to go out and try it?” I’m trying to type with a Southern twang but by Confederate flag keeps getting in the way. How easy it must be for you to sit back and comment on the African American or Latino communities.

  33. Ben;
    In Libertarian World, the individual is the smallest minority and is a sovereign, independent individual. We believe in limited government to protect people from each other, but not from themselves. Life is a struggle for everyone, but to ask the jack boot of the law to take care of a medical / health problem is just wrong.

    I can not speak for any person of color, I am so white I sunburn when I see a photo of the sun. But I can see very clearly that a significant proportion of Blacks and Hispanics are in prison for drug crimes and the leaders are just sitting on thier hands. (I say the same thing about the “moderate” muslims that won’t say a word while thier “brothers” go off and blow up civilians while shouting holy war.)

    Where is the cry of racism for these people?

    I also listen to George Clinton and the P-Funk All Stars and I believe he said, “If you’re not part of the solution you are part of the problem.”

    Peace

  34. Ben
    Here is the thing legalization is not meant to fix the drug problem it is to fix the crime and violence associated with the black market. On the comparison of cigarettes to herion and cocaine lets see cigarettes are more addictive and the leading cause of preventable death in the US how many of us are watching a family member or two slowly killing themselves from using cigarettes. How have we cut down the use of cigarettes in this country through education not making them illegal.
    Since they are drugs how about using science and medical research to decide drug policy not myths and morality and in case you missed it /2006/08/07/uk-science-panel-lists-marijuana-ecstasy-lsd-behind-tobacco-alcohol/
    it ranks drugs based on their harms and not surprisingly bith alcohol and tobacco ranked higher than many illegal drugs
    and finally since drugs are psychoactive yes they change your thinking and the government has no right to decide what I get to think

  35. One of the main differences between cigarettes and alcohol versus illegal drugs is the percentage of people that can enjoy them responsibly without serious or acute detrimental effects.

    I’m not making the argument that any drugs should be illegal – just trying to enhance the conversation.

    Some argue that cigarettes are one of the leading causes of death. This is still not nearly as much of a concern compared to other drugs, because the negative health effects typically emerge after your peak of productivity. You can’t OD on cigarettes by mistake. Also, everybody eventually dies. Living a longer life (on average) increases the chances that we will die of some form of cancer. Age is a significant risk factor.

    Alcohol is also rarely associated with an OD death (alcohol poisoning).

    Many of the illegal drugs do have a greater acute affect on a persons health, even if you exclude ODs. MJ is one of the exceptions that just doesn’t make sense, not that government does.

  36. I think that the current drug laws only catch the “little fish” and give them harsh, disproportionate penalties. Most of this came as a result of politics and the ‘get tough on crime” campaign.

    The laws rarely ever catch and/or punish the people on top of the drug loop though. Reform needs to be done to catch the people on top and not penalize the smaller fish disproportionately

    Harold Hunter Jr

    Hunter Law Office, PLLC
    464 Eastway Drive
    Charlotte, NC 28205

  37. “Alcohol is also rarely associated with an OD death (alcohol poisoning).”

    Marijuana has never been associated with an OD death.

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