About . . . . . . Classes . . . . . . Books . . . . . . Vita . . . . . . . Links. . . . . . Blog

by Peter Moskos

June 30, 2011

New York closes seven prisons

This is noteworthy in its rarity. Keep in mind that New York is one of the few states that has de-carcertaed over that past decades (and no, crime has not gone up).

Notice too how most of the article is about jobs and the economy, not crime.
Notably, Mr. Cuomo spared several large prisons in the northernmost section of the state, where lawmakers had warned of possible economic ruin if the prisons were closed, and he did not shut down any maximum-security prisons, which have no surplus of beds.
...
Over all, the closings will allow the prison system, which currently houses about 56,000 inmates, to shed about 3,800 of its 64,000 beds.

The governor’s office said closing the seven prisons, which together operate at about 70 percent capacity, and moving the inmates to other facilities would save $184 million over the next two years.

Today on CNN

Me. At 2:45pm Eastern Time. Stream Team with Fredricka Whitfield. A mega 5-minute segment.

John McAndrew Sr.

Western District Officer McAndrew retires after 50 years of service. From the Sun:
He had no idea that he would carry this passion for 50 years of service. Asked how many police commissioners he had served under, McAndrew smiled, and said: Everyone.


(anybody know his sequence number!?)

"Real Men Get Their Facts Straight"

From the Village Voice, debunking everybody from Ashton Kutcher to CNN and the New York Times who repeat the absurd claim that there are "between 100,000 and 300,000 child sex slaves in the United States today!"
We examined arrests for juvenile prostitution in the nation's 37 largest cities during a 10-year period.
...
Law enforcement records show that there were only 8,263 arrests across America for child prostitution during the most recent decade.
...
Compare 827 annually with the 100,000 to 300,000 per year touted in the propaganda.

The nation's 37 largest cities do not give you every single underage arrest for hooking. Juveniles can go astray in rural Kansas.

But common sense prevails in the police data. As you move away from such major urban areas as Los Angeles, underage prostitution plunges.
And keep in mind that while a 17-year-old drug addict busted for turning tricks in Baltimore is not, shall we stay, on the straight on narrow. She is not a child sex slave.

June 28, 2011

Really?

Generally I support the goals of prison reformers. Prisons are not supposed to be torture chambers that destroy the lives of all who enter. So I support efforts to make them better. But in my book I compare that to asking for comfier seats on the train to Auschwitz. It's kind of missing the big picture.

But this guy seems truly delusional. From The Week:
Yes, we have a prison problem, but Moskos assumes that prisons are just violent holding cells, a theory that "has been thoroughly discredited." Unlike the "judicial brutality" he proposes, correctional facilities "expend resources for 24/7 custody, care, rehabilitation and retraining" to help criminals come back to society.
What world is he living in?

Turns out he's the policy and compliance director for the Minnesota Sex Offender Program.

According to the Star Tribune:
Minnesota has civilly committed 554 men and one woman to the Minnesota Sex Offender Program (MSOP), designed to treat paroled sex offenders until they are no longer dangerous. ... But the system's spiraling cost and lack of measurable success are causing growing unease. Twenty four offenders have died, but no one has been permanently released.

Research Methods

"Come now, E.B.! It's time for us to venture out and continue our study of early 21st century society..."

"Aww. Can't we just stay in and do our research online?"

"I'm afraid not... to truly understand a people and culture, we must walk among them! Document their daily routines and observe them in direct face to fact interactions."
Fine advice from Jim Meddick's excellent Monty.

Retribution on Bernie Madoff

The New York Times has an article about the absurd sentence (150 years) Madoff received. Why is absurd? Not because he doesn't deserve it. It's absurd because Madoff was then 71 years old! Seems to me a good defense of flogging:
Judge Chin’s recollections resurrect all the anger, shock and confusion that surrounded Mr. Madoff’s crimes, and provide a rare peek at the excruciating pressure faced by a judge who had to balance the law, the public’s emotions and his own deeply held beliefs while meting out a sentence that was just and satisfied the court’s need to send a message.
...
“I’m surprised Chin didn’t suggest stoning in the public square,” [Madoff said].
...
Judge Chin noted in the interviews that 20 or 25 years would have effectively been a life sentence for Mr. Madoff, and any additional years would have been purely symbolic. Yet symbolism was important, he said, given the enormity of Mr. Madoff’s crimes.
...
But he decided that a term of 150 years would send a loud and decisive message. He felt that Mr. Madoff’s “conduct was so egregious,” he said, “that I should do everything I possibly could to punish him.”
...
By the time Judge Chin entered his chambers on the morning of Monday, June 29, he had decided what his draft was missing, he said. In explaining how the 150-year sentence was symbolically important, he had neglected to include a third, crucial reason: retribution.

A defendant should get his just deserts,” Judge Chin remembers thinking.
...
Judge Chin read his passage on retribution, which, after the length of the sentence itself, appeared to have the greatest impact. In the headlines and news accounts that followed, the words “extraordinarily evil” seemed to be everywhere.
No rehab. No bettering of the soul. Punishment.

In New York, a 150-year sentence would, should Madoff live to be 221-years old, cost me and other good citizens of the Empire State more than $7 million. There has got to be a better way.

Don't "Come Here!"

One cop I worked with would constantly get into foot pursuits. For the rest of us, it was kind of annoying, especially for those of us who hated running. What frustrated me was that these pursuits were entirely preventable. The problem was this officer would see a kid he wanted to stop and say, "Come here!" Naturally, not being a fool, the kid would take off running.

If I wanted to stop somebody, I would calmly walk right up to him and grab him. If I wanted to talk to someone, I would politely ask, "Can I talk to you for a second?" and lead him away from his friends. I can't remember these tactics ever failing.

Here is some good tactical police advice from, of all places, Mother Jones:
Consider why barking the command "Come here!" doesn't really work. Thompson explains in his article,

You have just warned the subject that he is in trouble. "Come here" means to you, "Over here, you are under my authority." But to the subject it means, "Go away—quickly!" The words are not tactical for they have provided a warning and possibly precipitated a chase that would not have been necessary had you, instead, walked casually in his direction and once close said, "Excuse me. Could I chat with [you] momentarily?" Notice this question is polite, professional, and calm.
And it works.

June 27, 2011

"Whoop whoop whoop"

That's the bullshit detector going off after seeing this:

Expert: 40,000 - 50,000 slaves currently in U.S.

How much you wanna bet he just made up that number?

Being exploited for cheap labor does not automatically mean you're a slave.

Have we forgotten what slavery was?

You live a jackass, you die a jackass

"Police: 'Jackass' star Ryan Dunn was drunk and driving over 132 mph."

I guess it's not surprising. But it is sad. I love Jackass!

Kill Kill Kill (part 2)

The decision just seems to be just a general free-speech issue. They compare video games to books:
Reading Dante is unquestionably more cultured and intellectually edifying than playing Mortal Kombat. But these cultural and intellectual differences are not constitutional ones.
Just because there's a new media doesn't mean there's a new exception to be carved out of the 1st Amendment. I like our Court in general on 1st-Amendment issues. It's all too rare to see the government limiting the power of the government (unlike, say, in cases involving the 4th Amendment). Here's what I think is the meat of the Court's decision:
We have long recognized that it is difficult to distinguish politics from entertainment, and dangerous to try. “Everyone is familiar with instances of propaganda through fiction. What is one man’s amusement, teaches another’s doctrine.” Winters v. New York (1948). Like the protected books, plays, and movies that preceded them, video games communicate ideas—and even social messages—through many familiar literary devices (such as characters, dialogue, plot, and music) and through features distinctive to the medium (such as the player’s interaction with the virtual world). That suffices to confer First Amendment protection. Under our Constitution, “esthetic and moral judgments about art and literature . . . are for the individual to make, not for the Government to decree, even with the mandate or approval of a majority.” US v. Playboy (2000).
But I still don't understand why nudity is worse than violence. For speech to be banned, it needs to be obscene. But I don't follow this logic:
Because speech about violence is not obscene, it is of no consequence that California’s statute mimics the New York statute regulating obscenity-for-minors that we upheld in Ginsberg v. New York, 390 U. S. 629 (1968). That case approved a prohibition on the sale to minors of sexual material that would be obscene from the perspective of a child.
Why is violence somehow less obscene than, say, a naked woman?

But the best part of the decision? This attack, in a footnote, directed at the court's worst justice:
JUSTICE THOMAS ignores the holding of Erznoznik, and denies that persons under 18 have any constitutional right to speak or be spoken to without their parents’ consent. He cites no case, state or federal, supporting this view, and to our knowledge there is none.
...
Our point is not, as JUSTICE THOMAS believes, merely that such laws are “undesirable.”... Such laws do not enforce parental authority over children’s speech and religion; they impose governmental authority.
...
This argument is not, as JUSTICE THOMAS asserts, “circular.” It is the absence of any historical warrant or compelling justification for such restrictions, not our ipse dixit, that renders them invalid.
Damn, yo! This is a full-on Supreme Court Smackdown! (And now I gotta look up ipse dixit.) Why didn't Scalia just straight up call Thomas an idiot? Oh, wait, he did.

I also like that Choose-Your-Own-Adventure books are now officially enshrined in constitutional law (I admit: I "turned back." Didn't we all?). Says the Court: "All literature is interactive."

And Scalia, who lives up to his reputation as the liveliest writer on the bench, has one final dis for one those idiotic over-reaching psychological studies:
One study, for example, found that children who had just finished playing violent video games were more likely to fill in the blank letter in “explo_e” with a “d” (so that it reads “explode”) than with an “r” (“explore”). The prevention of this phenomenon, which might have been anticipated with common sense, is not a compelling state interest.

Three Cheers for Chicago Police Supt. McCarthy

Here's the story with the video.

Here's the story about the inevitable backlash to anybody who talks about the harms that guns cause to people in our cities. They tend to be ad hominem.

Kudos for not being afraid to talk about race. Yes folks, racism used to not only be legal, but mandatory. And yes folks, that still matters. Even today. Even with a black president. Even if you're sick of hearing about it. And no folks, bringing this up does not excuse crime. Nor does it mean you're a racist.

Shall we continue?

From the Sun Times:
McCarthy went on to say that in the debate about gun control, there has to be “a recognition of who’s paying the price for gun manufacturers being rich and living in gated communities.”

McCarthy told parishioners an anecdote about a brutal night of killings in Newark, N.J., where he was previously head of the police department. McCarthy said that after he got home that night, he turn on the TV to relax, and tuned in to Sarah Palin’s Alaska.

“She was caribou-hunting and talking about the right to bear arms,” McCarthy said. “Why wasn’t she at the crime scene with me?”
P.S. I've met McCarthy at John Jay College. I like McCarthy... But, chief, you know it's wrong to be stepping on casings at a crime scene. You shouldn't be there messing up the crime scene in the first place! (But maybe he was speaking figuratively.)

History of bike cops in NYC?

I got this query and and would be curious to learn the answer:
I'm working on a story on the history of police riding bikes in New York City.... I'm looking to explore when the NYPD used bikes as transportation, why they did, and how their utilization has changed over time as policing strategies/ideologies have shifted.
Let's see how good this new-fangled media thing really is.

Feel free to comment or email Noah Kazis directly.

Anybody?

Ferris?



Pic credit: Shorpy.

Kill kill kill

If the state can censor sex from the eyes of children, why can it not censer violence? Isn't sex better than violence? It certainly is more fun.

I guess I'll have to read the Supreme Court's decision...

And consider this: perhaps the more violent video games of the past few decades have actually contributed to the drop in crime. I'm not saying it has, but it's a hypothesis I'd be very willing to consider.

$90 Billion and Counting...

Crime & Justice News reports on this story:
As Congress debates border-security funding and as governors demand more assistance, the Associated Press investigated what taxpayers spend securing the U.S.-Mexico border. Using White House budgets, reports obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests, and congressional transcripts, the tally is $90 billion in 10 years. For taxpayers footing the bill, the returns have been mixed: fewer illegal immigrants but little impact on terrorism, and certainly no halt to the drug supply.

A Q & A

In the Crime Report:
The Crime Report: A lot of people have compared your book to Jonathan Swift’s essay, “A Modest Proposal.” But Swift’s work was pure satire, where yours is an honest look at a possible alternative punishment. Does the comparison frustrate you, or is it apt?

Peter Moskos:
Neither. I like the comparison. True, I don’t think Swift was really proposing eating babies; (while) I am seriously proposing giving the choice of being flogged. But I do see the book primarily as a thought experiment, having a little intellectual fun. In that sense, I think it is somewhat like “A Modest Proposal.” My book isn’t a satire, but I am trying to address real issues and be a bit provocative. So it’s not a crazy analogy.

The Right Choice

I like this line from Time Magazine:
Reading In Defense of Flogging is a lot like reading Woody Allen's classic "My Speech to the Graduates," in which he declares, "More than at any other time in history, mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly."

June 26, 2011

NYPD Officer Samuel Battle

The Times has a story about Samuel Battle, one of New York's first black police officers.

But what is really interesting is his oral history. In his own words. "They had riots. Many riots." Worth a read:
I went on down, and we got there, with my squad. The whites and Negroes were battling. I saw the white cops beating up the colored people, and I thought, "Here's my chance to get even with them." I saw them whipping black heads, and I was whipping white heads. I'll never forget that.

We quelled it, we didn't make many arrests, because in those days you didn't have to. Today you'd be forced to arrest a lot of people to prevent them from taking civil action.

What was the cause? Just interracial conflicts. They'd sometimes start a fight over a crap game, or anything. Just some little thing like that. One will start a fight and then they'll all get together, and you have a riot as a result

The Brotherhood Ride

Cops and bicycles and a good cause... what's not to like?

In Defense of Introversion

In the New York Times today, there's an article extolling the benefits of introversion. I love reading pieces like this, which make it clear that introversion is a personality trait and not a medical problem that needs to be "cured" or treated with drugs.

My understanding of introversion began after I realized that being introverted is not the same as being shy. Rather, and more simply, introversion is simply the opposite of being an extrovert. This came to me in a great moment of self-realization after picking up a copy of Marti Laney's The Introvert Advantage that was lying around the house (my wife is more introverted than I am). I am not shy and have no fear of public speaking, yet I positively dislike mingling with strangers at parties and usually find extroverts extremely tiring. It turns out I am in introvert. This was news to me. But then it all made sense.

So I got thinking about the nature of introversion (which is in itself a very introverted reaction) and decided (conveniently) that being an introvert is better for academic participant-observation research. Why? The Times article puts it like this:
[Introverts] notice more things in general.... [and] tend to digest information thoroughly, stay on task, and work accurately ... even though their I.Q. scores are no higher than those of extroverts.
This comes from my chapter, "In Defense of Doing Nothing: The Methodological Utility of Introversion” which was recently published in New Directions in Sociology: Essays on Theory and Methodology in the 21st Century:
My goal is to introduce the psychological concept of introversion into the sociological world.
...
The interpersonal nature of qualitative research and the perceived “action” of participant-observation research may perpetuate a belief that extroversion is a good quality for ethnographers. In fact, nothing is further from the truth.
...
If you’ve ever seen a group of ethnographers party, you may be struck by a general sense that we may not have been the most popular kids in high school. Despite what is often a very lively style of writing, ethnographers can be be soft-spoken and introverted. Now don’t get me wrong: As a group, we ethnographers are hardly the dorkiest in school (a few other academic disciplines spring to mind, but for politics’ sake I’ll refrain.).

Certainly qualitative researchers must have basic social skills, but let’s be honest, no prom king or queen ever went on to write an ethnography. As a group, almost by definition, academics are nerds. We like the library. We don’t mind being alone. We walk down the street reading. We thrive in small groups and intellectual conversations. And yet mingling and making small talk with strangers is tiresome at best or frightening at worst.
...
Without a clear function in a social setting, the introvert’s natural reaction is to withdraw and become silent. While this may be a problem at the annual Christmas party, it can come in handy for the researcher.
...
With a greater understanding of introversion, I hope sociologists can take advantage of psychological traits that come naturally to many already in the field.
Are you an introvert? You can take this self assessment for introverts. I scored 21 out of 29 (which makes me a moderate introvert).

June 25, 2011

"I mean this in the most flattering way..."

A friend and former roommate writes:
By the way, and I mean this in the most flattering way - In Defense of Flogging: great toilet read!
Coming from him, I know it is a sincere compliment.

He says he's averaging 10 pages a day, not that I asked, and not that he used the word "day."

June 24, 2011

The $35,800 dinner

If you have $35,800 to casually drop on dinner, you have too much money. Rich Democrats should be taxed more, too.

More productive uses of $35,800? How about paying the tuition of seven students for a year of study at my public university.

Obama's dinner also cost me $12, because I had to hop off a bus and take a cab because traffic wasn't moving on 57th Street. On the plus side, I had a most enjoyable ride with what might be the last smart-talking NYC-born cabdriver in the city! Deep down, I'm pretty sure he was Ernest Borgnine.

God Bless The Economist

For their review:
Imagine that you--or, if you prefer, a younger, more reckless version of you--committed a crime.
...
And say you were offered a choice: you could either spend those years behind bars, or you could get ten lashes.
...
You may think flogging is barbaric, but is there any question which you would choose if you could? According to Peter Moskos, a sociologist whose previous book, “Cop in the Hood”, detailed his year spent as a Baltimore beat cop: “If flogging were really worse than prison, nobody would choose it.”

The modern American prison system evolved as an alternative to flogging: penitentiaries were designed to “cure” prisoners of their criminality—to render them penitent—rehabilitating them into productive members of society. On this score, as on most others, it has failed.
...
“We build prisons for people we’re afraid of and fill them with people we’re mad at.”
...
Brutal and archaic it may be, but Mr Moskos convincingly argues that America’s prison system is at least as inhumane.
...
Perhaps the most damning evidence of the broken American prison system is that it makes a proposal to reinstate flogging appear almost reasonable. Almost.
Now will you buy my book?

June 23, 2011

Man Robs Bank of $1 and Waits for Police...

In an attempt to get health care. What a country!

I am curious to see how this will play out. He probably won't be sentenced to the three years he wants. Will he then commit more crime?

And he might disappointed about the quality of health care in prison. But it is better than nothing.

Buy my book, damnit!

If you're reading this, you're in the good company of about 400 others.

If you're reading this, you probably have at least some interest in what I write.

But here's the thing, if you're reading this, you probably have not bought my book, In Defense of Flogging.

Yeah, I'm calling you out. How, you may ask, do I know you haven't bought my book? Because according to BookScan, my book hasn't sold 200 copies! Last week my book seems to have sold, get this, 30 actual physical copies. You know what makes it worse, I bought 20 of them!

So do your part and buy my book. If not, I don't know, you'll have to read more posts like this.

[p.s. If you're in Canada or bought an electronic version, you're off the hook. These don't count in the total.]

Whitey Bulger nabbed!

How about that? Maybe that guy in 1996 at the Abbey Lounge in Somerville wasn't him after all.

The Times article leaves out the details regarding his relationship with his younger brother, who was a long time state representative and then President of of the University of Massachusetts.

If my older brother was on the lam, I wouldn't rat him out, either.

And note this from the LA Times:
Using a "ruse," authorities lured the man out of the apartment, concluded it was Bulger and arrested him without incident. They arrested Greig inside the home. They provided no details about the ruse.
Gosh, a "ruse"! What a novel way to apprehend a criminal suspect.

I'm guessing it went something like this, "Hello... UPS... What?... No, I need your signature."

"Arrested without incident"? Whatever. Seems like they wasted a good opportunity to suit up, bust down some doors, and send in a SWAT team for no good reason.

[p.s.: He lived a block or two from my mom in Santa Monica!]

Geert Wilders is a Prick

But his acquittal in Dutch court is an important victory for free speech in the Netherlands.

As a side note, the Dutch legal system has some peculiarities from an American perspective, and not just the fact that somebody can be tried for what they say:
The verdict had been expected as prosecutors themselves had called for his acquittal, arguing that the statements were directed “against a religion as such and not against individual persons or a group of people.”

Under the case law... it was not possible to convict him....But the Muslim organizations that brought the case won a Court of Appeal ruling that it should go ahead over the objections of the prosecution.
...
The complainants had little ground for appealing the case: “In our system, only the prosecution can appeal a judgment,” and that is “highly unlikely.”

June 22, 2011

These *were* a few of my favorite things

These are a few of my favorite things...



I stumbled across an Asian grocery store in The Bronx that had some of the feistiest crabs I've seen a while. Decent sized, too (for New York). I bought six. I was tempted to let one loose on the subway home, but I resisted. But a good eye would have seen some some of the claws poking through the bag.

Come here, my pretties...

[I have Old Bay... too bad I don't have rock salt]

There's a hole in your boat!

This is good news for Republicans, supply-siders, and those who like to stick their ideological economic heads in the sand: the rich are getting richer. The top 0.1 percent of the population (those making about $1.7 million or more) now have an average income of $5.6 million per year. This is a 385% increase since 1970 (inflation adjusted).
Think of all the jobs the rich people must create! Think of the rising tide, which raises all boats! You do understand how the tide works, right? Except for the fact it's a pretty shitty analogy when applied to the economy.

The bottom 90%? The 137 million rest of us (my income happens to be in the 89th percentile--personally, I'm doing just fine)? Our income decreased 1% since 1970. The average income for 90% of Americans: $31,244.

You might think this is fair. Capitalism at its finest. But it's not. You see, it's easier to make money when you have money. Because then you can charge rent (literally and figuratively). Because then you can lobby (ie: bribe) politicians to have the system give you more money. Because you can create virtual monopolies. Just cause it's (barely) legal doesn't make it right.

You see, the system? It ain't on the level. I think of Paddy "Chicago Ain't Ready For Reform" Bauler's other line: "Them guys in the black suits and narrow ties, them Ivy-League types, them goo-goos - they think the whole thing is on the square." Except these days it's not the Ivy-League types who think that. It's too many of the rest of us who have been deceived. It's people who, despite all the evidence to the contrary, buy the crazy idea that tax breaks for the rich benefit the rest of us.

It's no surprise that the rich look out for their own self-interests. But the rest of us don't have to help them! For starters, we have to put words and concepts like "income redistribution" are taboo. There is nothing "communist" about progressive taxation. And there is much evidence to support the idea higher taxes on the rich benefits all of society. And that even benefits the rich.

June 21, 2011

The Elusive Search for "Mr. Kingpin"

The LA Times reports that the ATF Director is expected to resign over the "Fast and Furious" gun program. It sure does seem a little strange for law enforcement to watch guns being sold to criminals and not acting.
The operation marked a rare instance in which ATF agents allowed guns to "walk" into the hands of criminals, ostensibly with the goal of catching higher-ups in gun-trafficking organizations.
But is this any more strange than watching drugs be sold and not acting in the name of gathering evidence, going up the ladder, and building a case?

Ah, the illusive search for "Mr. Kingpin." If only we could nab him, the whole criminal enterprise would tumble. Witness how we're all safe from terrorism after the killing of Osama bin Laden. And notice how the drug war in Mexico has been won after the death or arrests of not one but at least six drug kingpins: one, two, three, four, five, and six!

Update: This just in! Another kingpin has just been arrested! Seven is the charm.
Mr Calderon described the capture as a great blow to organised crime.... Mexico's security spokesman Alejandro Poire said the arrest had "destroyed the chain of command" of the cartel.
This drives me to drink, but excuse me if I don't break out the champagne!

"Not enough room to swing a cat"

I just received an email with a subject line that baffled me: "Enough room to swing a cat." I've actually heard that absurd expression, which as far as I knew, came (at least in print) from Mark Twain. I was introduced to the phrase by a Russian translator in Moscow circa 1991 who liked to show off his learned "colloquial" English skills. Once, standing in cramped quarters, he proudly said, "There is not enough room to swing a cat."

He was baffled that we had no clue what he was talking about. Ever since, I have chuckled at the image of a class of English-learning Russian students who repeat, in unison, and with thick Russian accents: "Not enough room to swing a cat."

Well Peter Dodenhoff, a colleague at John Jay College, was nice enough to school me (schooling is, after all, what what we professors like to do):
In the days of Rule Britannia, as I suspect you’re familiar, discipline was maintained on board by the use of the cat o’ nine tails. When floggings were called for, they were carried out on deck, for two reasons: This way they would be public events that served as a warning to others, and also the cramped spaces below deck did not provide “enough room to swing a cat.” That cat, of course, was the cat o’ nine tails.

Cool stuff, eh?
That is cool stuff. And no, I never put two and two together to realize the link between the expression and flogging. I always pictured a real cat, which makes the expression all the more bizarre, especially when said with a thick Russian accent.

I became aware of the the naval history of flogging only in response to my article in the Chronicle of Higher Education (which was kind of my book's public "coming out"). So it didn't make it into my book, which is a shame, as it would have fit in perfectly.

The Navy also liked flogging because it didn't take an essential seaman out of commission by throwing him in the brig. If you weren't needed, you wouldn't have been on the ship in the first place! I like to think there is a good analogy here vis-à-vis all of us and why we shouldn't throw people in society's brig.

Drug Dealers vs. Business

[I just stumbled across this post from 2008 and rather liked it (if I do say so myself). I don't really remember writing it. And since I don't remember writing it, I figure you don't remember reading it! So here it is again:]

A liquor store in Baltimore is being forced to close because a man was killed there and drug dealers congregate. I'm of mixed feelings. Liquor stores in the ghetto are hardly the most sympathetic businesses. But if they were all shut down, it's not like the neighborhood's problems would suddenly disappear.

It's a shame there aren't more locally run business in the ghetto. In many ways, the Eastern District is typical. Here's a quick, perhaps inaccurate, and certainly unpolitically correct history of business life in the Eastern.

In the old days, or so I hear, many of the local businesses were run by Jewish people. At least that's how the story is told on the street. Were they exploitive? Some think so. But, no, I don't. Are all businesses exploitative? I don't think so. Many of these Jews had grownup in the neighborhood. Many had stayed in the neighborhood when other whites fled. Yes, they were there to make money. But they also spoke English and hired locals to work in their stores. In hindsight, these were the good old days.

After the riots in the late 1960s, many of these store owners felt betrayed by the anger, left broke by the destruction, and realized that a little profit wasn't worth their life. A lot of businesses packed up or closed for good.

Over the next 30 years, more businesses closed. And not an insignificant number of these after the owner got killed in a robbery.

Today there's not much left. Monument St is still filled with stores. And there's a excellent (black owned) produce store that deserves special mention (Leon's Produce, 1001 N. Washington St.).

Other stores include laundromats, bars, Chinese takeout (called "yakamee" in Baltimore), and corner stores. The corner stores are now mostly run by Koreans (who are still referred to as "Chinamen"). If the store owners can't afford a home in the suburbs, they may they live upstairs, in a sort of a castle-like fortress setup.


I can see the causes for resentment on both sides. At it's worst, think L.A. riots and Koreans guarding their stores with guns. The store owners sit all day behind plexiglas selling overpriced crap. Many don't speak English. Most hate their customers. And because they're behind glass and won't come out, they can't control what goes on in the lobby of their own store. And unlike the old days, these store owners, by and large, couldn't care less about the well being of the neighborhood. Still, and this is important to remember, the bigger problem in the neighborhood is too few stores, not bad store owners. Besides it's not easy to run a business in the ghetto. That's why so few people do it. I wouldn't. If running a store in the ghetto were such an easy way to make money, why don't you do it?

Now I don't know Mr. Yim, the owner of the closed liquor store. But my guess is 1) he felt helpless to control what went on in and around his store, 2) he was helpless to control what went on in and around his store, and 3) he didn't really care as long as his 1,000 daily customers kept giving him money so he and his family could survive.

From the story: "More than 300 residents signed a petition in the spring asking the city liquor board not to renew the store's license.... 'With those doors locked, [the drug dealers] don't have a place to hide anymore.'"

But here's the problem: with the doors locked, the drug dealers will still have places to hide. Drug dealers don't want legitimate stores. Business owners are a pain in their ass. Business don't want drug dealers scaring customers. Businesses call police... until eventually the business owner gives up.

For drug dealers, a vacant building is better for business than a store. Vacants don't attract people who don't want to buy drugs. Vacants don't call police. Vacants are good places to hide your stash. You can run away from police through a vacant. You can party and fuck your girl in a vacant.


I was friends with a local man man who ran a corner laundromat. From behind the glass we'd drink coffee and talk about politics and race and I'd chuckle at the junkies who came in and paid 50 cents for a cup of sugar with a little coffee. The owner believed he was doing good. He was. If he closed, how would the old people on the block do their laundry? He was right. He also closed around 2pm because it was too dangerous after that.


His corner was a bad drug corner. The worst we had in Sector 2. And that's saying a lot. For a while he called police because of drug dealing on his corner. When police pulled up, the dealers would run into his store (and cause trouble). After a while, police became convinced that he was a drug dealer. Because whenever police pulled up, there were drug dealers in his store. There's a certain logic to that, except it's wrong.

As much as I can guarantee anything, I can guarantee that this man was not dealing drugs. But what was he to do? He stopped calling police and continued to yell at dealers when they came in his store. There's nothing the dealers would have liked more than him closing for good. And that's why it's sad whenever a business closes. Every time a store closes, the drug dealers win. And by and large, the drug dealers have been winning a lot.

June 18, 2011

The Voices Grow Louder: End the Drug War

Jimmy Carter writes in the New York Times.

And Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle tells it like it is. And before you dismiss a Cook County Board President, consider that Cook County (Chicago) is larger than some 30 states. And in the article there are some very good words from the new Chicago Police Superintendent, Garry McCarthy (whom I've been impressed with when I've heard him speak at John Jay College):
“It becomes the issue of mass incarceration,” he said during an interview.... “There is an issue here. And law enforcement has gotten this wrong. Narcotics use is a criminalized social issue. It causes crime. Drug dealers get into violent disputes over turf. It’s about the money.”

He added: “It’s been so twisted up that law enforcement looks at narcotics as the crime, when it’s not. It’s the cause of the crime. So, we’ve had this wrong for a long time in law enforcement.”
Bold.

June 17, 2011

Perpetual Peonage?

“I crave felicity.... I’m in a state of peonage that seems perpetual.”
Whoa. Is this really how outlaw cowboys talk? Who doesn't crave felicity? I've just never put it quite like that.

Just another day at the office...

Shooting don't get much more "good" than this one in Texas.

June 16, 2011

Moskos is 1 and 0!

And he has a 0.79 ERA in 13 games! Moskos is young, but damn good. Daniel Moskos, that is (no relation).

Anti-Union B.S.

Thanks to the good people at Target for the video explaining just how bad unions would be for their "team members."

[You know, if Target really considers me their "guest," how come nobody ever offers me a drink? They're not being a very good host.]

You should watch the video. It's shocking the way those "union businesses" exploit their workers! "With a union, you no longer have your own voice.... Somebody else will do your talking for you." The horrors! (yes, I'm being sarcastic)

Starting salary at Target comes out to around $25,000 a year. But don't worry, if you have a family, you make so little the government will have to kick in some earned income tax credit!

I remember when I went through waiter job training with Lettuce Entertain You in Chicago (Papagus on State Street, which did have excellent food). This was back in maybe 1993.

I remember being told, "At Lettuce Entertain You restaurants, you don't need a union." That was awfully nice of management to tell me. I would think how great my union-free life was whenever I was cut at lunch after doing a few hours of opening sidework and tipping out money I never made. (What? Was I not going to give the hard-working Mexican coffee guy his $2 just because I didn't make any?) And then, if I still had any money in my pocket, on my hour-long L ride home, I could celebrate my union-free freedom!

Seriously, though, who can put a monetary value on the ability to flambé a delicious saganiki while yelling, "Opa!"?

[Update: There was a unionization vote at a Target store in New York State. The workers voted against the union.]

Canadian Riots

Americans riot when their team wins. Canadians riot when they lose.

There's video of two police cars being torched in Vancouver.


There was some pretty hard-core looting and dozens of injuries. But even their riots seem relatively polite. Apparently, nobody was shot. From the Vancouver Province:
Just after 11 p.m., in the aftermath of violence, the street was a deserted war zone. Very few businesses were left unscathed and sidewalks were littered with shattered glass.

One shoe store had virtually no merchandise left, while the London Drugs on Georgia and Granville, where alarms still blared, had its doors smashed in, and coat hangers and shoes strewn outside.

Unruly, booze-fuelled mobs also broke into Sears at Robson and Howe. One looter managed to break into Chapters bookstore, but apparently no one bothered entering.
Looters have never been known for their discerning literary tastes.

Police, of course, are damned if they do and damned if they don't. The Boston Herald reports: "While some members of the crowd expressed dismay that the police didn’t take a more aggressive approach to the early vandalism, others said officers were heavy-handed."

June 15, 2011

In lieu of prison, bring back the lash

I have an op-ed in the Washington Post:
Suggest adding the whipping post to America’s system of criminal justice and most people recoil in horror. But offer a choice between five years in prison or 10 lashes and almost everybody picks the lash. What does that say about prison?
Read the whole article here.

Narcotics Officer Says End War On Drugs

Neill Franklin was my commanding officer when I graduated from the police academy. Now we're co-authors and friends. Here, on WBAL, he talks about ending the drug war.

You can also read a good article about Neill Franklin in The Fix.

June 13, 2011

Five Year, or Ten Lashes?

Josh Rothman writes in the Boston Globe:
His book is, as promised, a well-reasoned defense of flogging. It's also an attack upon the penal system.
...
It's hard to say how serious Moskos is being (though my money is on "pretty serious"). Even if you aren't convinced that flogging is the future, though, Moskos' deeper argument is still compelling.

India Seeks a Good Hangman

There's a story about this in the New York Times. But what struck me was this:
Today, even prison officials encourage death row inmates to draft appeals. “At times, we also help the person draft the petition,” said K.V. Reddy, president of the All-India Prison Officers Association, who opposes capital punishment. “Normally, everybody sympathizes with a person who has spent a number of years in prison.”

June 11, 2011

Oh, Canada

Macleans, the Canadian news magazine, has a great article and Q&A with me. There's some very good new material here, even if you think you're heard everything I have to say about In Defense of Flogging. What is it about the Canadians? Why are their articles smarter and more insightful than ours? And they are awfully nice people. I mean, there must be some bad Canadians out there, but I've never met one.

They also have health care, a homicide rate that is a fraction of ours, and many fewer people in prison. (Though, as I learned in the interview, they might be about to go on a US-inspired prison building boom.)

June 10, 2011

A Sixth Season of The Wire...

...As soon as the Department of Justice is "ready to reconsider and address its continuing prosecution of our misguided, destructive and dehumanising drug prohibition."

Irrelevant academic research

By journalist Mara Hvistendahl in the Chronicle of Higher Education:
I turned to academic papers because I wanted to do more than throw back a fleeting image.

But scholars are haunted by their own demons. I recently polled a few journalist friends, asking them how often they rely on academic research, and how useful and accessible they find that information. David Biello, environment editor at Scientific American, said he felt spoiled with information, particularly on the subject of climate change. But several others described being led astray by studies that turned out to be immaterial or steeped in opaque discourse. Adam Minter, a journalist covering the recycling trade who is writing the forthcoming Wasted: Inside the Multi-Billion Dollar Trade in American Trash, told me via e-mail that while there is a growing body of work on his topic, "The material is outdated, oriented toward creating new types of jargon totally irrelevant and indecipherable to the industry that I cover, and rarely concerned with primary source material."
...
Beginning in the 1970s, academe became increasingly specialized. That, especially in the social sciences, the reward structure worked against accessibility: Tenure hung on publishing in peer-reviewed journals or with university presses, while more-popular work went largely uncompensated. ..."To parody it, the fewer the number of people who could and would read your work, the more sophisticated it must be."

"Honestly, but unreasonably"

Officer Gahiji Tshamba was found guilty of manslaughter. From the Sun:
"He drew his gun when it was not at all necessary," [Circuit Judge Edward R.K.] Hargadon said in court, finding that Tshamba lied about the incident and never identified himself as an officer. "The defendant grossly overreacted and in fact exacerbated this whole tragic set of events."

Yet Hargadon also found that Tshamba was not the legal aggressor and that the officer was indeed afraid of Brown, a much bigger man, who set off the fateful chain of events by inappropriately groping a woman's buttocks after a night of drinking.

"The defendant was acting honestly, but unreasonably, in defense of himself," Hargadon said, rejecting harsher verdicts of first-degree and second-degree murder.

Street Justice

Justin Fenton has a good article describing a killing and a revenge killing in Baltimore. It doesn't provide the answers, but it does help clarify the picture as to why things are so damn F-ed up.

June 9, 2011

U.S. can't justify its drug war spending, reports say

Duh.

But what gives this report a little twist is that it comes from the U.S. Government. Despite the obvious, "Obama administration officials strongly deny that U.S. efforts have failed to reduce drug production or smuggling in Latin America." What is it about being President that makes one keep fighting a failed drug war?

From the LA Times.

A step toward crack/power cocaine sentencing parity...

...but not is the way I wanted. From the Washington Post:
The Supreme Court has unanimously upheld a 10-year prison sentence for cocaine possession, rejecting a claim that harsh penalties in federal law apply only to crack cocaine.

June 8, 2011

Don't bash the 'stache

It's weird there is such a thing as a "cop mustache." Most cops don't have them. But some do. From 10-66, Unusual Incident.

Defense of Flogging

After 15 (count 'em) radio interviews today, I have one tomorrow on Virtually Speaking with Jay Ackroyd.

Thursday, June 9, 2011, 9:00PM, New York time.

I mention this because

1) He asked me to.

And 2) it will also be done on Second Life. I like to think I'm tech savvy, but I'm a little confused by the concept. But the software is on my computer and I am a quick learner.

Update: OK. I've learned a bit, thanks to a kind personalized walk-through. I bought some shoes and, er, skin. I also ditched the tie.

To just listen to the interview, this is the url for BlogTalkRadio: http://bit.ly/kaVliS.

But here's what it looks like in Second Life, which is much cooler.

Here's me chillin', thinking, "we'll never fill this barn."


And me, making sure the seat is comfortable.


See you tomorrow!

More Info:

From within Second Life, you can use this url.

And if the rest makes sense, good on ya'. And no, I do not offer tech support.
Join the conversation with IRC (internet relay chat) Simple!

1. Before or during a program, connect to http://webchat.freenode.net/
2. Give yourself a name.
3. Enter #vspeak into the channel field.
4. NOTE: 'Relay Rinq' is not a person but a bridge to IRC chat.
5. While listening to a live program on BlogTalkRadio, type comments and questions into the text field. Read what others write.
6. Begin your question with 'QUESTION' so it's easy for the host to spot. and/or:

Join the Studio Audience in Second Life

1. Download a Phoenix viewer: http://www.phoenixviewer.com/downloads.php
2. Create a free account @ secondlife.com (pass on their viewer)
3. Orientation: learn to drive your avatar. Type the link into chat, select enter then double click: http://slurl.com/secondlife/Virtual%20Ability/128/128/23
4. Use SL search to find and join two groups: Virtually Speaking and Phoenix Viewer Support. Find and use the orientation at Virtual Ability Island.

Just for the record...

I never liked Anthony "I'm going to tear our your f*cking bike lanes" Weiner. Normally I try and save my schadenfreude for hypocritical Republicans... but I'm happy Weiner won't be my mayor. (Though I do hope Democrats keep his seat.)

Why is it too much to ask politicians to have the common sense of, say, me? Honestly, that's not setting the bar too high.

And this just in: his wife is pregnant. And this, supposedly, is how that works.

Welcome Home, Dear!

My wife is out of town. I think for her return I'll surprise her with a slightly used Mexican car. I'm sure she'll love me more than ever. No doubt. The problem is that parking around here can be a real bitch.

Just when you think you've heard it all...

...The Department of Education comes with a SWAT team to bust down your door for an unpaid student loan(?). The Federal Department of Education?! Why do they have a SWAT team? For a student loan?! And, oh, yeah, turns out the woman they wanted wasn't there.

I'm thinking there must be more to this story... Man, I hope so. If this was a search warrant, you know, what were they searching for? I'm just trying to think out loud here. But of course, there may not be more to this story.

I always thought it was mean and petty to make a person pay for a door, after police bust it down. Especially if the person with no door isn't the person you're looking for.

I like how the guy says, "The hole is the least of my worries!" "They busted down my door for this," Wright said. "It wasn't even me!" No, it wasn't. But this is us.

[Update: here's a working link. And we'll see where this story goes. Wherever it goes, you'll never hear me badmouthing the Office of the Inspector General, whoever you are. No sir, you Department of Health & Human Services people are some bad boys!]

Oops, I think this is what I meant (thank you, commenter).


[thanks to Marc]

June 5, 2011

The Virgin king

An interview with Richard Branson about drugs. In the Guardian: "I've seen the war on drugs and I've not been impressed." That must be what they call classic British understatement.
"I'm the sort of person who is extreme at anything they do. I'm therefore careful not to overindulge." He has admitted to taking other drugs including cocaine and ecstasy in the past. The vast majority of people, himself included, can use drugs safely and occasionally, he says.

It's the sort of candour that doesn't play well with politicians, even in an age when the president of the US has openly admitted he has taken drugs, and that he even inhaled. Branson isn't expecting to convert David Cameron or any other politician overnight: "I talk to a lot of politicians and, individually, almost every single one of them knows that this is the right approach. They all are just terrified of the Daily Mail. If the Daily Mail changes its approach, the politicians will change their approach. If the Daily Mail don't, they won't." The situation is "sad" he says.
...
But the problem is that politicians use the war on drugs to score points off each other. "The opposite of war on drugs is soft on drugs in some people's minds," says Branson.

The same arguments hold true for prostitution, he says. Politicians don't want to say it, but if prostitution were decriminalised and brothels were safe places for sex workers and their clients, society would benefit.

From the UK

Ian Birrell give a nice new twist to the same-old-same-old in the Guardian's Observer Magazine:
In 1998, the United Nations committed member states to achieve a "drug-free world", pledging to eliminate or "significantly reduce" use of opium, cannabis and cocaine by 2008. Instead, global opiate use rose by more than one-third over that time, with big rises also for cocaine and cannabis.
...
Politicians say they fear drug use would rise if prohibition is lifted. Evidence from abroad shows they are wrong. Look at Scandinavia, where the tough Swedes and more liberal Norwegians have similar addiction rates. Or Switzerland, where heroin demand and crime fell sharply following new policies based on public health rather than legality. Or Portugal, where heroin use fell by half after decriminalisation.
...
So here is a suggestion for our three main party leaders, who are all young enough to know better: why not hoist the white flag and work out a unified way to end a struggle that does so much more harm than good?

The alternative is to carry on fighting like generals in the First World War, ignoring the deaths, the devastation and the wastelands created around the world in a battle than can never be won.

June 4, 2011

Real Prison Reform

I like this model, which isn't that rare in much of the world: "Where Prisoners Can Do Anything, Except Leave."

Why not? It's cheaper. And more humane.

June 3, 2011

"As limp as it is dubious"

So says the Washington Times about my defense of flogging. Though I'd say overall it's neutral (to mildly negative).

The reviewer seems upset that the book is actually more about prison than flogging (but of course, that's the point) and also that I didn't convince her that flogging is the answer. Oh well.

Here's the full quote:
“Flogging” is intriguing, even in - or because of - its shocking premise. As a case against prisons, Mr. Moskos' is airtight; as for the case for flogging, it’s as limp as it is dubious.
Not so positive. A bit critical. But fair enough. It's not a bad review and certainly could be worse. And, as they say about publicity, at least they spelled my name right!

"How do you know it's mine?"

This must have been one of the easiest suspect-IDs in world history: Bangladeshi woman cuts off rapist’s penis and gives it to police.

Tasers safe on people who won't be tased

An NIJ report says Tasers are fine when used on "healthy, normal, nonstressed, nonintoxicated persons." Okaaaay...

[Thanks to The Agitator]

[Update: I just read the report. It is quite an unambiguous green-light for Taser use: "Law enforcement need not refrain from using CEDs to place uncooperative or combative subjects in custody." It's that "uncooperative" part I do not like. The report concludes: "CED use is associated with a significantly lower risk of injury than physical force, so it should be considered as an alternative in situations that would otherwise result in the application of physical force." But what about when the alternative is verbal persuasion? And isn't some risk of increased physical injury justified if it saves a life? An approximately 1 in 400 chance of serious injury or death are not odds I would want to play.

Here's the latest one. And Electronic Village keeps a pretty good list of Taser deaths. Or, should I say, people whose time happened to come coincidentally just a few moments after they happen to be Tasered.

I'll smoke to that

I just got this gem of a line from a police officer who just turned in his retirement papers: "This job is like cigarettes--hazardous to your health, addictive, and occasionally strangely satisfying."

June 2, 2011

Prison for life, as a free man

I received an email yesterday from Lorne Caplan, who gave me permission to republish it with attribution. I've edited it slightly:
As a former investment banker and having recently been freed from prison in 2007, I have to agree with much of what you said today. Most importantly, it is the culture of eternal punishment that has developed in this country.

My own situation suggest you are absolutely right to try to avoid prison, since once you have a felony on your record, it is like being branded for life. My own prospects for work have been essentially taken away by what I did and what the system continues to do, as Google can't seem to lower the references to my incarceration and conviction, and any company with an HR department won't even consider me.

As for qualifications, that is also funny, since I have been published in trade and consumer magazines, have the Masters, etc. It doesn't matter. It only makes me overqualified.

I am curious if you have run across organizations for white collar criminals that have found no support and a complete taking away of family (my children haven't had food on occasion because I can't find work, UPS won't hire me, McDonald's and so many others), friends, work prospects etc.... Yes, there should be consequences to peoples actions, but a lifetime of no prospects hurting family, children, etc? I don't think that is what the US population really would want.
...
I was first interrogated as a witness in 2002 and after 21 or so meetings with the FBI, a wire tap, and the usual threats to family, I heard nothing for 3 1/2 years, until one day they showed up at my ex-wife's door looking for me. The perp walk ensued, lawyers and their expensive (useless) defense, the pleading, sentencing, etc. And all the while, no work, income, devastation to the family, etc. I got out to no prospects, the joke of half-way house, and programs that are menial and insulting. All to say, almost 10 years into this and I am still suffering from the decisions and consequences. I don't believe those in industry understand that it isn't just a couple of years and some time playing tennis at a minimum security prison in the US. Your life will be destroyed, completely.

Probation for Baltimore Officers

These were the two officers who stranded two 15-year-olds far from their home. They were not the first officers to do this. They may be the last. (My earlier post.)

From the Sun:
[Judge] Doory said the fact that Johnson was left in Howard County without shoes "stood like a monument" in the middle of the case and remained inadequately explained. "What I don't understand is the 'why,'" Doory said. "I can only conclude that this was done for fun … or as homage to the legends of the good old boys, or was a convoluted attempt to teach someone respect."
Or perhaps all three.

While I admit this activity is awfully hard to defend, I'm still not convinced it's always wrong. Especially given the alternative of arrest, CBIF, going through the system, and a criminal record.

Like the espantoon, shooting at fleeing felons, drinking at the American Brewery, and "keying" up your radio, this venerable Baltimore police tradition is probably history.

Despite the judicial slap on the wrist, the officers still risk being fired. I say cut them some slack. If the powers that be don't want this to happen anymore, bang down hard if there's a next time.

Then and Now: NYC

New York City is certainly not immune to destructive urban "progress."

Here's a shot from Shorpy of Cortland Street from 1908.

Here's the view today:

But what's really interesting is what happens when you turn around. Back then, it would have looked much like the picture above. You were in the heart of what was known as "radio row." But they tore down that area for... The World Trade Center. Here's the view today (or really about a year ago):

A black man catching a cab in New York

The other day I saw a young black man on the corner of 32nd Street and 6th Avenue with his arm up, trying to hail a cab. He wasn't particularly well dressed, but he didn't look like a hoodlum (the same could have been said of me). "How many empty cabs are going to pass him by before one stops?" I wondered.

The answer: three.

Poverty doesn't equal crime

James Q. Wilson writes some good stuff on crime in the Wall Street Journal. But this worries me:
Culture creates a problem for social scientists like me, however. We do not know how to study it in a way that produces hard numbers and testable theories. Culture is the realm of novelists and biographers, not of data-driven social scientists. But we can take some comfort, perhaps, in reflecting that identifying the likely causes of the crime decline is even more important than precisely measuring it.
Culture doesn't create a problem for social scientists like me. If social scientists can't deal with culture, who can? It's time for sociologists to step up to the plate. And it's time to take qualitative methods more seriously.

Breaking News: Global War on Drugs has Failed!!!

OK. That's not really news. But this report is kind of a big deal. So says the BBC, the "Global war on drugs has 'failed'." Imagine that. The panel included former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, the former presidents of Mexico, Colombia, and Brazil, the former US Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker, the current Prime Minister of Greece, George Papandreou, former US Secretary of State George Schultz, and Virgin rich man Richard Branson. That's a heavy lineup.

The White House?

"The White House rejected the findings, saying the report was misguided." Thanks, Obama. Hope you enjoyed that blow when you were younger. And the fact you weren't arrested for it.

The BBC story is worth quoting at length:

Their report argues that anti-drug policy has failed by fuelling organised crime, costing taxpayers millions of dollars and causing thousands of deaths.

It cites UN estimates that opiate use increased 35% worldwide from 1998 to 2008, cocaine by 27%, and cannabis by 8.5%.

The authors criticise governments who claim the current war on drugs is effective:

"Political leaders and public figures should have the courage to articulate publicly what many of them acknowledge privately: that the evidence overwhelmingly demonstrates that repressive strategies will not solve the drug problem, and that the war on drugs has not, and cannot, be won," the report said.

Instead of punishing users who the report says "do no harm to others," the commission argues that governments should end criminalisation of drug use, experiment with legal models that would undermine organised crime syndicates and offer health and treatment services for drug-users.

It calls for drug policies based on methods empirically proven to reduce crime and promote economic and social development.

The commission is especially critical of the US, saying it must abandon anti-crime approaches to drug policy and adopt strategies rooted in healthcare and human rights.
...
The office of White House drug tsar Gil Kerlikowske rejected the panel's recommendations.