Preckwinkle Damns a Drug Warrior to Hell

I don’t know much about Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, but as reported by Monique Garcia and Hal Dardick in the Chicago Tribune, here’s a sentiment that you won’t hear from too many politicians:

CHAMPAIGN — Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle on Tuesday said former President Ronald Reagan deserves “a special place in hell” for his role in the war on drugs, but later she regretted what she called her “inflammatory” remark.

I think that’s a little more partisan than necessary — it’s not as if the Democrats tried to roll back any much of the war on drugs — but Preckwinkle sounds like she’s got the right idea:

Preckwinkle was defending the recent move by the city of Chicago to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana by allowing police to write tickets, saying out-of-whack drug laws unfairly lead to more minorities behind bars.

Downstate Republican state Rep. Chapin Rose of Mahomet questioned whether such an approach includes drug treatment for those who are ticketed. Preckwinkle said no, arguing that drug treatment should be part of the health care system, not criminal justice.

That seems right. Usually when authorities talk about treating drug use as a health issue, they mean that instead of forcing drug users into a cage, they’re going to force them into drug treatment. But forcing people into drug treatment doesn’t work very well, and by using force they’re actually doing the opposite of what they’re saying: They’re turning a health issue into another way to punish people.

“Ronald Reagan wasn’t the first or the last, but he was certainly the most prominent at the very beginning,” Preckwinkle told the Tribune in a phone interview.

“Drug policy in this country has been in the wrong direction for 30 years,” she said. “I think that’s something they should acknowledge. If I had it to do over again, I certainly wouldn’t say anything quite so inflammatory. But my position basically remains the same.”

I’ve heard that a lot of people in local governments have expressed that sentiment in private but are afraid to say anything in public. It’s good to hear a sittling politician say it out loud.

2 Responses to Preckwinkle Damns a Drug Warrior to Hell

  1. She’s 100% correct. That’s she’s now backing off of her statements a little is just plain sad. This is something that needs to be discussed but likely won’t. The War on Drugs, while a complete and total failure, is imminently fundable. A lot of jobs were and continue to be created to fight this ‘war’.

    The taxpayers pay to fund the efforts and all that’s been done is that more people are in prison, which leads to overcrowding and then funding to build more prisons. This is big business. I think just over 50% of people in IDOC custody are there for small drug offenses.

    The problem that needs to be addressed is addiction. As long as there is a supply and demand, they will find each other. Addiction, however, is not an easy issue to tangle because it’s so complex and person to person. Instead of spending money on multi-genre scientific studies into addiction across a population and funding comprehensive rehabilitation facilities, we’ve chosen to just lock people up. Why? It’s much easier and it creates the notion the we, as a nation, are tough on drugs. This is an illusion, however.

  2. Thanks for stopping by, Marcus. My preference would be to stop imprisoning people for victimless crimes, ideally by legalizing pretty darned near every currently-illegal drug. It would save a lot of money, greatly reduce the misery of needless imprisonment, and hopefully stop our steady drift into a militarized police state.

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