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by Peter Moskos

March 28, 2009

Rockefeller Drug Laws

It's official. I don't like them. See it says so right here:
Professor Peter Moskos, a former Baltimore police officer who teaches law enforcement classes at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said the Rockefeller laws "don't make sense from a legal level or a moral level. They treat every problem as if prison was the answer."

"Nobody leaves prison better than they were when they went in," he said. "Those laws had no deterrent effect. Frankly, I'm amazed that it took so long to get rid of them."
Read the whole story by Richard Liebson and Rebecca Baker in the Lower Hudson Valley (that's suburban NYC)Journal News.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Peter,
How exactly do the courts plan on determining who is an addict and who is not? Wouldn't it be smart for a non-addictd drug dealer to say he's doing it to support his habbit?
Also, it is very interesting that many in the "treatment" industry who were behind this bill stand to gain the most from expanded treatment. But I'm sure money is not a factor, these people support whats right. Right?
Ed

PCM said...

Ending the Rockefeller Drug Laws won't save the world. It will highlight all the hypocrisy we already have in the war on the drugs.

The "treatment" industry can be a bit of a scan. And drug dealers can be clever S.O.B.'s. All that is true.

But the fact remains that prison costs too much and doesn't do one damn thing to lessen the drug problem.

Not to mention there are some horrible cases of people getting sent away for many years for very minor offenses.

Other states manage their fucked up drug policies just fine without the Rockefeller Drug Laws.

In other words, what I'm saying is you're right! But these laws are still better off the books.

Anonymous said...

Peter,
I agree that a true addict who sells to support a habbit shouldn't waste away in jail, but doesn't a drug free dealer who is just profitting off of other people's misery deserve some penalty?
Ed

PS: I have come around to not considering marijuana to be harmful relative to heroin, cocaine, etc.

PCM said...

In theory, yes But take one drug dealer off the streets and another will fill his place.

That, more than anything, is why the prison population has gone up 700% since we started the war on drugs.

Arrests and prison, even of drug dealers, do nothing to actually the drug trade. That's the horrible truth.

I don't want to to legalize drugs because I think crack and heroin are good. I want to regulate drug distribution because clearly prohibition is not working.

Does a drug dealer deserve to be "punished"? I don't know. Perhaps. But do I want to spend my money punishing that drug dealer if it doesn't do anything to reduce drug dealing? Not really.

Anonymous said...

It seems to me that you can take one burglar or robber off the street and he will just be replaced by someone else. The overall statistics on burglary and robbery won't be affected much. The "war on sexual assault" has been fought for decades and we still have sexual assaults in this country, should we give up?
Incarceration rates are up, but I think that stat includes alot of pre-arraignment cases that are worked out to time served anyway. Even if they are up, people profitting from another person's addiction is deserving of jail in my book.
I have a real problem legalizing substances which have shown such consistently harmful results for users.
BTW: There are clearly numerous parallels between alcohol and drug prohibition, but the difference I see is the consistently harmful result of using coke, heroin and meth.
Ed

PCM said...

Drug dealing is different that other crimes.

If you take a burglar off the streets, his burglaries stop. You or I won't break into a house just because someone else doesn't. These crimes happen because criminals commit them. Robbers are not replaced by someone else.

Drug dealers, on the other hand, are driven by demand for drugs. As long as demand exists and there is money to be made, someone will fill for the arrested suppliers. That is the big difference and why drug crimes are not like other crimes.

As Chris Rock says, "Have you ever not wanted to get high and somebody sold you drugs?... Drug dealers don't sell drugs, they 'offer' drugs."

Drugs are bad. So is alcohol, for many. I'm against prohibition mot because I think drugs are good, but because prohibiting them doesn't work. (though I also think the government has no business stopping adults who want to get high are aren't harming others.)

Anonymous said...

If you arrest a burglar his crimes will stop (or be delayed a few days), true. I guess the point I'm trying to make is that we haven't been able to "arrest our way out" of having robberies or burglaries either, so why do we even try. That seems equivalent to part of the argument for legalizing drugs.
Isn't the whole idea that if society shows its disapproval of some activity by enacting a law against it, this will limit the amount of people who engage in the behavior?
Your point about adults wanting to get high is fine except that we've both seen stone cold addicts who are way beyond wanting to get high and who would give a limb to be able to leave their drug behind, but just can't. I don't believe others should profit from that.
To quickly get back to the New York laws, a big selling point in changing these laws was that we were filling the jails with addicts who sold drugs to support a habbit. About what percentage of the yo-boys that you mention would you say were addicted to some kind of drug?
Ed

PCM said...

Taking robbers and burglars off the streets makes things better (for a while). It's not the same arresting drug dealers because it doesn't reduce drug selling.

Plus robbers and burglars commit crimes against specific people. That is a big difference to me.

I just don't buy the "societal disapproval" argument. If that were the case, why does we, with the toughest drug laws in the western world, have the highest rate of illegal drug use?

Rather than societal disapproval, I think drug laws breed disrespect for the law, for mainstream society, and the police who have to enforce such laws.

I may be wrong, but I really don't think our drug laws limit behavior at all. Our laws against other crimes don't make the problem worse, but our drug laws do.

About the yo-boys... hmmmm, I would say while still on the corner most use some illegal drug, but maybe not a real addicting one. I would guess that those who don't end dead or in prison probably have a good chance of becoming junkies. I always said the difference between a yo-boy and a junkie is... about 10 years. But it's just a guess.

But I do think the line between user and seller is pretty permeable. Many users sell when the need money or sell to friends. But that is a different game, I suppose, than slinging on the corner.