Public Safety! The first priority of government, its greatest duty, is the protection of its citizens, and we have failed dramatically!
UPDATE of 2/19/18: And yes, I contend that the “war on drugs” and the habits and policies it inspired, are responsible for the senseless loss of our children in school shootings. See FBI failed to pursue January tip on Nikolas Cruz, Florida school shooting suspect – Remember Son of Sam? kra
Read this article and realize that facts don’t lie, politicians lie, and see that unsolved murders and unsolved rapes abound in much greater numbers than before America’s worst “war” in history: the war on drugs.
UPDATE of 12/23/17
Several of my articles – this one included – and I are referenced in Judge Posner’s latest book, Improving the Federal Judiciary – Second Edition – Staff Attorney Program, The Plight of the Pro Se’s, and the Televising of Oral Arguments. READ Good to be Recognized – and Good for the Public!
While it is quite flattering to have the attention of such a renowned legal scholar, the important point is that this brings important information to many, many more people. The book is available from Amazon for only $18.00 … a great gift any time of year!
December 2016 update: The CDC reports that more Americans now are killed by overdoses than by guns!
We are convicting INNOCENT people by the dozens: THIS is the worst effect of our “war on drugs”!
9/9/16 – Good Lord, just read the headlines! The nation is awash in heroin, Chicago alone had 2,300 non fatal shootings and 474 murders in the first 8 months of 2016 [about 90 % of all crime is drug related!] … and the courts are in worse shape than ever. The problems with crime and justice in America will only worsen until we end the war on drugs.
2/13/17 – Two little girls shot in the head! Little girls! Criminalizing drugs drives the $300 BILLION a year business into the hands of criminals! I have said it a hundred times, and I shall say it a hundred times more: the way to end [or at least GREATLY reduce] this senseless violence is to end the war on drugs! Start with legalizing marijuana, and watch the violence decrease! They battle for control of those street corner markets!
The out of control gun violence plaguing every major city? 84% to 92% of ALL crime is drug related (depends which study you read). The gun violence – real mothers’ sons dying on our streets – will NEVER end (introduce all the “community policing” and other tactics; they will make no appreciable difference!) until we end the “war on drugs”. Alcohol did not crate Al Capone; Prohibition created Al Capone! THINK ABOUT IT!
Millions of American lives ruined … millions! Dead … in prison. Millions! 🙁
It’s a fact – an ironic twist of fate – that our “War on Drugs” is “Public Enemy Number One”! Our entire judicial system is a train wreck due to the “war on drugs” – civil courts as well as criminal courts pay the price, because judges handle both civil and criminal cases. Swamped with criminal cases, they have less time for the others.
EVERY court is adversely affected by the war on drugs, including the Family Court, causing much harm to our children!
How bad is our criminal justice system? We are seeing an exoneration every three days! We have convicted innocent men and women by the thousands! Could it get any worse than that?!
The “war on drugs” is the root cause of ALL systemic problems in our criminal justice system. When I practiced law (1973-83) the system worked well; justice/fairness nearly always was the outcome. Not any more; I have seen the “war on drugs” destroy a process which used to work properly, to the point that countless lives have been destroyed, billions of dollars have been squandered, and large segments of the population have lost faith in the system.
I represented the first defendant to be charged in Delaware with a crime involving a mandatory minimum. It was 1981 or ’82. Mr X was a 43 year old model citizen, no prior arrest, married with two teenage daughters, and a pillar of the community (I had about 200 reference letters on his behalf, from the maid to the mayor of his Pennsylvania home town). Not even the arresting police thought he should go to prison. He had learned his lesson upon arrest; released on bail he immediately flushed down the toilet some cocaine when he go home. He got caught with about $1,000 worth of cocaine. The sentence was based on the weight, which I cannot remember.
They had him cold: he had bought the drugs from the state police, accompanied by one of his employees who had been arrested and turned on him. It was all on tape. Knowing we would lose the challenge to the constitutionality of the law (Florida and New York courts had pronounced mandatory sentences “ok”) … and we did lose, unless the cops got hit by a bus before trial, he was “toast”.
Bad luck; I drew an idiot prosecutor, (any reasonable prosecutor would have handled it differently!) who, when I called to suggest he might plead to conspiracy (no mandatory and almost surely probation only as a sentence), said to me: “Oh no Ken, he’s the first in the state under this new mandatory law and we are going to make an example of him”. My reply was “What?! Make an example of the next guy, with a record a mile long” as I showed him all the reference letters and explained that the cops agreed with me. That jackass prosecutor would not budge, my client was convicted and sentenced to five years. It was a minor miracle (call me and I’ll tell you how), and through extra effort and unorthodox means (not unethical or illegal) that I got him out in less than a month.
However, the case had made its clear impression on me: these mandatory minimum laws were going to be a disaster! Two of my best friends, both of whom went on to become Supreme Court Justices, did not agree with me when I discussed this law with them; they were with the “get tough on crime” crowd. Today they see the light.
Let us look at some of the ways the “war on drugs” is the root cause of ALL systemic problems in our system.
1. Mandatory Minimum and “Habitual” sentences; which were first enacted as cocaine became a major problem. Judges and anyone else with a brain now see that these measures do not reduce crime, do not impede the flow of drugs, and have caused widespread insanely long sentences, grossly disproportionate to the conduct or crime involved. Judges should be allowed to have the punishment fit the crime! Witness the case of Mr. X, above.
2. Wildly disparate sentences. Defendant A may get probation, while defendant B, same crime, same background, may get 20 or more years! Repeat child abuser or serious assault perpetrator gets probation, defendant with a joint in his pocket gets 20 or more years! Mandatory minimums partly to blame here, but mostly the sheer congestion of the courts. 84% to 92% (depends which study you read) of all crime is drug related. 95% of felony cases end in a plea – it’s all over in 20 minutes, so the judge is lacking vital information to ensure fairness. See my article “Rush to Sentence ” and See my video The War on Drugs Increases Unsolved Crimes
3. Wrongful convictions. Depending what study you read [nobody can know the actual number] there are from 10,000 to 100,000 innocent people in our prisons! We are convicting INNOCENT people by the dozens: THIS is the worst effect of our “war on drugs”! We see an exoneration every three days; that is how bad the system is, we are convicting innocent people in droves! These are the main reasons for wrongful convictions:
a) Prosecutor and/or police misconduct (withholding exculpatory evidence, coaching witnesses to lie, etc. – because today too many prosecutors want to sound “tough on crime”, and think their job is to get convictions. Their job IS to do justice*). The number of cases involving bad prosecutors was infinitesimal when I was practicing; now there are thousands every year. Google CPI, the Center for Prosecutor Integrity, to see the details!
I know a man who, although innocent, plead guilty because the arresting officer, with the barrel of his gun in the defendant’s mouth, told him that if he did not he would blow his head off!
b) Mistaken eyewitness identification and System Overload. The “war on drugs” is clogging the system with such a case overload that nobody has time to do things correctly or thoroughly. Family Court (though many cases here are not drug related, many are, and in any event the whole system is chaotic because police spend too much time/resources on the “war on drugs”), Magistrates Courts, and the higher courts … all are a mess due to the case overload. Cops do not investigate and/or prepare witnesses properly. As prosecutor I spent countless hours preparing witnesses to tell the truth with accuracy; this is not done today. Again – see my essay “Rush to Sentence”!
System Overload: In my state, in the Court of general jurisdiction – all lawsuits over $50,000.00 and all felonies, each judge has a caseload of 400 to 800 (yes, 800!) civil cases annually. That is on top of the hundreds of criminal cases assigned each judge! That’s several cases every day. Think about it – if any case goes to trial it will take anywhere from a day to two weeks or longer just for that one case at trial. They don’t have time to fart, much less do things right. As a matter of fact law clerks have confirmed what I thought (they told me) : with pleadings filed by inmates, nobody who should read them reads them (Judge, “Commissioner”) ; they get a quick “here is another one from a prisoner – send the form letter denying it”! This is outrageous!
c) The stacking of charges, – see my video The War on Drugs – Stacking Charges – Innocents Convicted – whereby prosecutors scare most defendants to death by charging them with so many crimes (clearly a violation of the cannons of ethics!) that if they lost at trial they would be hammered with incredibly long sentences, so they plead guilty – even the innocent! Often the judge and the defense attorney coerce these pleas, subtly or overtly, because they have so many cases they just need to “move them along” – justice be damned! 🙁
d) Perjury. As a prosecutor, I actually indicted and convicted a few lying witnesses, to send a signal that perjury would not be tolerated. Today, perjury is rampant, and the system is so clogged up that lazy/overworked prosecutors will not “bother” to bring charges!
4. Millions (about 18 million; about 1.25 million today!) of nonviolent drug offenders and mentally ill incarcerated over the past 40 years. A direct result of the failing/failed “war on drugs” leading politicians to want to sound “tough on crime”, locking up people – criminalizing – for what should be treated as a health issue!
FAMILY COURT too has been caught in the whirlwind of catastrophic consequences! How does the failed war on drugs affect Family Court?
A. Many of the 1.25 million people referenced above, and tens of millions over the course of the 40 year “war on drugs”, had children. Family Court has been flooded with cases filed by the state -CPS [BECAUSE of the war on drugs CPS has grown into a litigious monster in many states, and only the heartbroken families in their path have seen the results!]- or by individuals, seeking custody of those children, to the point that the caseloads are unmanageable and nobody has time to do things right!
B. A staggering number of PFA cases inundate Family Court. Jilted ex boyfriends, wives, girlfriends, and the like have discovered that PFAs routinely are granted, because cops are so distracted with the war on drugs that the claims are not investigated. Judges grant PFAs and worry about the truth later, and this is a major abuse of the system. This further overloads the whole system … and nobody has the time to do things right. I bet that more than half of all cases in Family Court in any state, are A or B! The result of this is that public confidence in Family Courts has deteriorated dramatically just as it has for all courts! This is a very tangible, deep distrust of “the system”, which sometimes causes people to “take things into their own hands”, causing more crime.
And who is the big loser here? As with much of the totally failed “war on drugs”, our children.
5. Out of control police violent crime and police violence toward citizens. Decades of police officers stopping and frisking/arresting young black males, to try to catch them with drugs, slamming them up against the squad car, … have made the police the “enemy”. Citizens won’t cooperate with “the enemy”. Also. citizens – witnesses – will not cooperate to solve serious violent crime because they fear for their lives because a) judges lack the time/information to know which violent defendants must be kept off the streets, via high bail, and b) there are too many guns in the hands of hoodlums – they cycle though prison’s revolving door, getting ludicrously light sentences, whereas gun crime defendants should get long sentences! Another consequence is that citizens will deal with problems themselves – with ever more violence,
6. High crime rates on VIOLENT crime. WASTE OF POLICE RESOURCES! Arresting non violent addicts is a tremendous waste/diversion of police resources! In the early ’70s the percentage of solved murders and rapes was ABOVE 94%. Today, about 43% of murders are solve and 47% of rapes are solved. The violent criminals remain at large because police are wasting their time picking low hanging fruit – the addicts and the drug dealers on the corners. THINK ABOUT IT – MURDER AND RAPE!
THINK about it! How many millions of police man hours are wasted every year with our totally failed war on drugs?! Countless drug “task forces”, “strike forces”, and “special units” exist at the federal, state, and local level. They waste incredible and untold [I cannot find any reliable estimates on details re time or money, but it is in the millions of hours and Billions of $$$!] police resources = YOUR tax money. This distraction of resources is one of the worst consequences of our “war on drugs”. These officers should be working instead to solve all the unsolved murders, armed robberies, and rapes! Raise hell about it! Write a Letter to the Editor! 🙂
Can you say “Son of Sam“? For months, a serial killer paralyzed New York, murdering people at random in the middle of the night. David Berkowitz, as seriously deranged killer, was finally caught because of a massive police effort in 1977 – just before the war on drugs got ramped up. Thousands of hours and hundreds of cops tracked down every lead. Tracking down a parking ticket is what finally led to his arrest. This case probably would not be solved today, or would take far longer to solve, because those same police resources are wasted busting drug users and dealers!
Powerful forces lobby to oppose constructive change: police unions, private prison corporations and other “service providers”, prison guard unions [these alone spend Billions of $$$ annually lobbying!], and many others. Why? Because for every 1 person arrested, 29 people benefit financially! The police, all the support staff, the judges and all their support staff, prosecutors, defense attorneys, prison guards, all those who provide “services” like “health care” [that’s a sad joke], probation officers, etc.!
In addition to this, big pharma and the alcohol industry are the biggest lobbyists trying to stop drug legalization across the country, spending Billions of $$$ on that effort!
7. 9/5/17 UPDATE The war on drugs has had a terrible effect on our Immigration Policies! Because the system cannot lock up the truly dangerous illegal immigrants (why? see comments above!), tRumpists and others are wanting to lock up ALL of them, including innocent little children, now called “dreamers”! This nation was built on immigration. Where did YOUR ancestors come from? Make no mistake about it, deportees ARE locked up for weeks, months, or years in the most awful conditions, private prisons run by ICE! Atrocities and medical neglect abound. READ the related articles on this website.
Cops are quick to shoot first and ask questions later because they almost never are held accountable (they must be prosecuted in appropriate cases!)
You name a problem in the system; I can explain how it is caused by our “war on drugs”!