Reason‘s Jacob Sullum points us to the story of New Orleans District Attorney Keva Landrum-Johnson’s new policy of inflating her felony prosecution statistics by charging minor marijuana offenders with felonies. Lousiana law allows second and following offenses to be charged as felonies, but hardly anyone ever did it before.
There is a myth in this country that U.S. prisons are filled with drug users. This assertion is simply not true. Actually, only 5 percent of inmates in federal prison on drug charges are incarcerated for drug possession. In our state prisons, it’s somewhat higher–about 27% of drug offenders. In New York, which has received criticism from some because of its tough Rockefeller drug laws, it is estimated that 97% of drug felons sentenced to prison were charged with sale or intent to sell, not simply possession.
Intent to sell. That’s where they’re caught with drugs which they are intending to sell, but which they have not in fact been caught selling. That sounds like possession to me.
The page is full of an amazing number of not-quite-lies about the War on Drugs. For example,
The Michigan Department of Corrections just finished a study of their inmate population. They discovered that out of 47,000 inmates, only 15 people were incarcerated on first-time drug possession charges. (500 are incarcerated on drug possession charges, but 485 are there on multiple charges or pled down.)
In other words, 500 people are incarcerated for drug possesion. Just because the police had to catch them twice doesn’t make the incarceration any easier. And I don’t know what to make of the “pled down” factoid. From what, possession with intent? Sale? Some other victimless crime?
According to the DEA, most drug offenders get drug treatment programs, not jail time:
Drug treatment courts are working. Researchers estimate that more than 50 percent of defendants convicted of drug possession will return to criminal behavior within two to three years. Those who graduate from drug treatment courts have far lower rates of recidivism, ranging from 2 to 20 percent.
What makes drug treatment courts so different? Graduates are held accountable to the program. Unlike purely voluntary treatment programs, the addict–who has a physical need for drugs– can’t simply quit treatment whenever he or she feels like it.
Or it could be that unlike voluntary treatment programs, the court-ordered programs don’t distinguish between drug addicts and ordinary non-addicted drug users. It’s pretty easy to “cure” someone of an addiction they don’t have.
I don’t really have a point here. I’m just pissed off.