On Drugs, Alcohol, and Crime
There is a really interesting interview over at Wonkblog with Mark Kleiman, UCLA Professor of Public Policy that is worth a read. Kleiman is an expert on policies around illicit drugs and speak with Dylan Matthews about issues such as drug policy, alcohol, and crime.
Some notable excerpts:
On the connection of drugs and crime:
Drugs are an important part of the question if you include alcohol as a drug. Take any dimension of the problem you like, except for source country violence. All illegal drugs combined are to alcohol as the Mediterranean is to the Pacific. We have our whole navy in the Mediterranean. And that’s true both of the drug policy machinery and those who are fighting the drug war, and of the drug reform movement, which, it seems to me, neglects the problem with the one drug we’ve legalized.
Half the people in prison were drinking when they did whatever they did…Of the class of people who go to prison, a lot of them are drunk a lot of the time. So that doesn’t mean that they wouldn’t have done it if they had not been drunk. It’s just that being drunk and committing burglary are both parts of their lifestyle.
He goes on to discuss an alternative method of policing problem drinkers (that could also apply to the use of other drugs), the 24/7 program being used in South Dakota:
Long got tired of sending people to prison, so he invented a program where they could agree to come in at 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. every day for a breath test with the promise that they’d be in jail if they failed. Forty-seven percent of the people screw up at least once, but more than 99 percent of the tests are taken and passed, and the result is reduced recidivism for DUI and assaultive crime. Beau Kilmer at RAND has a couple of papers showing the impact. It’s a proven program for alcohol. We’re learning that testing and sanctions is the right way to deal with drug use linked to crime, whatever the drug is and whatever the crime is.
In short: “If someone’s drug use is a problem for other people, you should make him stop using drugs. Then you can stop putting him in jail.”
I would recommend the whole piece.