Friday, May 15, 2009

It's really weird that we still call him Czar

My sister and I recently had a conversation about three-strikes-your-out laws and a legal system bursting at its seams. In my opinion, one of the functions of three-strikes-your-out laws (and mandatory minimum sentencing) is to speed up the sentencing process in an attempt to unclog our courts. Sis (and H) convincingly argued that it's not appropriate to ease the burden on our court system by taking short-cuts with defendants' trials and sentencing. Both of them proposed throwing more money at our legal system, but frankly, I don't think that's likely as there are a lot of things that need a lot of money right now. One of the solutions my sister and I discussed is the possibility of legalizing or decriminalizing drugs as a way to deal with judicial and prison systems that are completely overwhelmed. It turns out that recently her law school's chapter of the ACLU had hosted Jake A Cole.

Cole is passionate in his belief that the drug war is steeped in racism, that it is needlessly destroying the lives of young people, and that it is corrupting our police. Cole's discussions give his audience an alternative perspective of the US war on drugs from the view of a veteran drug-warrior turned against the war.

Cole is part of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), which recently featured a letter to our new head of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, Gil Kerlikowske. While the letter voices some concerns LEAP has with some Kerlikowske's statements, the Wall Street Journal had a story yesterday about his plan to "end the war on drugs." The article states,
The Obama administration is likely to deal with drugs as a matter of public health rather than criminal justice.
Already, the administration has called for an end to the disparity in how crimes involving crack cocaine and powder cocaine are dealt with. Critics of the law say it unfairly targeted African-American communities, where crack is more prevalent.
The article goes on to say,
The drug czar doesn't have the power to enforce any of these changes himself, but Mr. Kerlikowske plans to work with Congress and other agencies to alter current policies.
I think it will take some major political capital to convince members of Congress who are up for re-election and worried about being smeared as weak on crime to get behind some of these changes, but I also think we're getting closer. Something to keep an eye on.

Also, did you know that the ACLU has a blog?

And finally, check out Lock-Up from This American Life.