July 12, 2005

THEY'RE JUST BROKEN WINDOWS...:

RAND FINDS IMPRISONED LOW-LEVEL DRUG OFFENDERS IN ARIZONA AND CALIFORNIA TYPICALLY COULD HAVE FACED MORE SERIOUS CHARGES (Rand Crporation, June 23, 2005)

Most people imprisoned for low-level drug convictions in California and Arizona made plea bargains to avoid tougher charges, have criminal records, were involved with hard drugs such as cocaine and heroin, or were arrested possessing substantial quantities of drugs, according to a RAND Corporation study issued today.

The study is the first analysis of the characteristics of imprisoned low-level drug offenders in the two states, where voters approved initiatives to divert low-level drug offenders from prison and jail. The study addressed only the prison-bound portion of the population in the two states.

Researchers from RAND and Arizona State University found that a majority of those imprisoned before the initiatives were approved were more serious criminal offenders than the “low-level” label implies. Prosecutors in both states opposed the initiatives, fearing they would reduce incentives for people accused of drug crimes to plea bargain.

The term “low-level” describes offenders charged with use or possession of a small quantity of drugs, or possession of drug paraphernalia.

“One of the most important findings in this study is that the low-level label is misleading,” said Jack Riley, the study's lead author and associate director of the RAND Infrastructure, Safety, and Environment program. “These offenders typically either have serious criminal records or plea bargained down from more serious arrest charges.”

“Many people backed these initiatives because they believed prisons were crowded with low-level offenders. However, we found that the people sent to prison on drug charges were not law-abiding citizens who simply made one mistake,” Riley added. “We cannot say, however, whether large numbers of low-level offenders may be in jails, as opposed to prisons.”

Researchers said the prison sentences given to these low-level offenders are not as harsh as previously believed, since most were involved in a variety of serious criminal offenses.

“These reforms were well-intended, but they lacked empirical information about the criminal history of these drug offenders,” said Nancy Rodriguez, co-author on the study and an associate professor of criminal justice and criminology at Arizona State University. “The reforms should have been more clear about the population they were trying to divert to drug treatment.”

Posted by Orrin Judd at July 12, 2005 11:06 PM
Comments

"shoot zem...shoot zem both"

What movie?

Posted by: BB at July 13, 2005 2:03 AM

They are addicts without the means to earn the money legally that they need to buy illegal drugs. So, they turn to illegal acts in order to pay for those drugs.

The simple reality is that if we legalized drugs, they would cost little to produce and distribute, far less than tobacco. Nobody holds up a 7-11 or mugs an old lady for cigarette money.

But then the iron triangle of police, politicians and organized crime would all have to get real jobs.

Posted by: bart at July 13, 2005 8:25 AM

If we legalized them we'd tax them and they'd cost more. There'd also be more addicts. So crime would rise.

Posted by: oj at July 13, 2005 9:08 AM

Indiana Jones?

Posted by: oj at July 13, 2005 9:34 AM

oj,

Nonsense. The cost of producing drugs is lower than the cost of producing cigarettes. The worst of narcotics in terms of social pathology, crack, would disappear because cocaine would be so cheap. Even if we taxed them to make them equal to the cost of cigarettes, users wouldn't need to rob and steal.

Maybe there would be more addicts, maybe not. If people make dumb choices, that ain't my problem.

Posted by: bart at July 13, 2005 10:15 AM

Yes, Bart, once you so order society so that you are not responsible for anyone else, you won't be responsible for anyone else. It won't be a society by that time, of course.

Posted by: David Cohen at July 13, 2005 10:34 AM

bart:

regular people smoke. Scum use drugs. They'd be taxed far more than cigarettes or alcohol.

Posted by: oj at July 13, 2005 11:01 AM

This is not just a drug issue. It has to do with a huge prison population and how to reduce it. It's simply costing too much money to simply throw people into prison.

We need new and original thinking of what kinds of punishment are appropriate and cost effective while keeping people safe.

Posted by: Chris Durnell at July 13, 2005 11:35 AM

bart: I'm trying to imagine the packaging and disclaimers required on your new, cheaper, Government-controlled wonder doses of Crank. Just think about the stack of forms the addict would be required to sign in order to get a fix. The tobacco class action circus would be a joke by comparison.

Posted by: John Resnick at July 13, 2005 12:53 PM

I find it amusing that the people demanding the legalization of drugs from mariguana to heroin are often the same people demanding everything up to and including of criminalization of the use and possesion of tobacco.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at July 13, 2005 1:40 PM

oj,

You mean scum like Lawrence Kudlow?

John,

There shouldn't be anything different than on cigarettes. If you are so stupid as to use narcotics to excess, then you probably are too stupid to read or understand the warning label. The tobacco litigation, including the underlying concept, is drying up because, as a culture, Americans understand that anyone dumb enough to smoke a cigarette is digging his own grave.

Raoul,

Not me. Straw man, eh?

Posted by: bart at July 13, 2005 3:07 PM

bart:

Yes. Ask him what he thinks of himself.

Posted by: oj at July 13, 2005 3:19 PM

how many writers, painters, muscians were drug users ? not to say the drugs enhanced their work, but you can't say they were scum and also enjoy their output.

the number of addicts would increase marginally, unless your view of humankind is that everyone but you is an addict in waiting. make all the excuses you want for alchohol, but it is by far the most damaging drug available.

something like 80% of all crime is to pay for drug habits. for crack and other psychosis inducing drugs, distribute them freely in special facilities (see crack motel).

legislating morality creates a bad intersection of faith and government.

Posted by: cjm at July 13, 2005 7:39 PM

Yes, you can. Their work is uniformly drek when on drugs and ruined, for instance, jazz.

Legislation is just expression of morality.

Posted by: oj at July 13, 2005 9:38 PM

Ruined jazz? Satchmo was ruined by weed?

Posted by: ted welter at July 13, 2005 11:51 PM

Jazz was ruined by people thinking Satchmo was great because of dope.

Posted by: oj at July 14, 2005 12:33 AM

Raiders of the Lost Ark

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at July 14, 2005 3:07 AM

oj: Nice bait and switch. First you write "Their work was uniformly drek when on drugs..." and when countered with Louis Armstrong (who we all know was probably stoned to the gills on some great sides), switch to him being a poor role model. Same with Ray Charles, I suppose.

I don't think that the drugs made them great. I suppose at most you could argue that the personal demons that led them to abuse drugs also led them to some compelling things in their art.

There is also the fact that an obsessive personality can have many obsessions, and most of the technically finest musicians I've known have been obsessive types. The compulsion that leads to locking yourself in a room to practice 10 hours straight and the compulsion to finish that 12 pack and then have another are often related.

Posted by: ted welter at July 14, 2005 1:16 PM

oj: Nice bait and switch. First you write "Their work was uniformly drek when on drugs..." and when countered with Louis Armstrong (who we all know was probably stoned to the gills on some great sides), switch to him being a poor role model. Same with Ray Charles, I suppose.

I don't think that the drugs made them great. I suppose at most you could argue that the personal demons that led them to abuse drugs also led them to some compelling things in their art.

There is also the fact that an obsessive personality can have many obsessions, and most of the technically finest musicians I've known have been obsessive types. The compulsion that leads to locking yourself in a room to practice 10 hours straight and the compulsion to finish that 12 pack and then have another are often related.

Posted by: ted welter at July 14, 2005 6:42 PM

ted:

exactly. The drugs ruined them.

Posted by: oj at July 14, 2005 8:29 PM
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