In yesterday’s Wall Street Journal (subscription required) comes this commentary by Barry R. McCaffrey and Mitchell S. Rosenthal.
Driven in large measure by harsh drug laws, our prison population has
grown from 200,000 to two million over the past 30 years. Now, the tide
is turning and, by legislation or referendum, one state after another is
changing these laws. But not New York, where the hardline Rockefeller
laws remain the nation’s most draconian.
The laws enjoy little public or political support. Just about all
interested parties — legislators, advocates of various persuasions, and
all sectors of the criminal justice system — favor change.
Wow! This is from Barry McCaffrey, former Drug Czar under Clinton and one responsible for much of that prison population and for setting the stage for Walters (our worst Czar ever). Sure, after McCaffrey left his office, he expressed some concern about the drug war — too little, too late. And now, what is he doing?
At Phoenix House, we have been treating drug-abusing offenders (in
prison and out) for nearly 40 years. We were among the first to show
that treatment, not incarceration, is a more effective, less expensive
way to curb drug use and drug-related crime.
OK, treatment. Definitely preferable to prohibition (and a big switch from his emphasis as Drug Czar). So what does he have in mind for reform?
- Reform should ensure the treatment of as many nonviolent offenders as
- Sentences for drug offenses should be reduced, but not to the point
that they no longer provide a meaningful incentive for defendants to
accept long-term residential treatment.
- In-prison treatment should be mandated for offenders with a history of
drug abuse who are not appropriate candidates for community-based
treatment — or are unwilling to accept it.
- Although other, less restrictive treatment options may occasionally be
appropriate, mandated treatment for offenders should involve no less
than 12 months of residential treatment, followed by 6 months of
- Penalties for quitting treatment or failing to comply with a treatment
regimen should be imposed swiftly and automatically….
Ahhh, now I get it. This is about lobbying for his new business. And it’s still all about prohibition, just with enforced, mandatory, lucrative treatment thrown in. And who is this Rosenthal who co-wrote the article?
Gen. McCaffrey, former director of the White House Office of National
Drug Control Policy, is a director of Phoenix House, of which Dr.
Rosenthal is president and founder.
However, they had one statement that, if you remove the fact of their naked greed in re-shifting prohibition to support their business, resonates strongly.
There is little doubt that the Rockefeller laws are ineffective. There
is no question that they are unfair. To acknowledge their flaws is not
to sanction drug use. Addicts do not, because of their addiction, belong
.. and citizens do not, simply because of their drug use, belong in prison, nor are they by definition addicts requiring treatment.