There's something to be said for talking to warm human beings rather than correlating cold data. Now admittedly being "data-driven" does beat the alternative of just making shit up. But the problem one sees in the "data-driven" fields (and Brooks is an economist) is that if you don't understand the data in the first place, you can be "data-driven" till the polynomial regressions correlate with statistical certainty... and still be wrong.
The fact of the matter is in today’s state prisons, which hold about 90 percent of all of our prisoners, only 17 percent of the inmates are there primarily for drug charges.No shit. But who really thinks that only convictions related to the War on Drug are "drug charges"? (It's worth mentioning that a violent drug dealer might cop a plea to a "non-violent possession" charge, but still be sent to prison for the crime actually committed.)
The War on Drugs doesn't just create "drug" prisoners. Prohibition creates unregulated public drug markets. That's where the violence is. Prohibition doesn't lessen addiction. And that's where you find the property crimes. We need to end the drug war not to release a bunch of pot-heads from prison but to change the violent culture of the streets.
The main problem with the War on Drugs -- and it's not locking up too many non-violent drug users -- is the violence inherent in an illegal public drug market. Pacifists don't last long slinging on the corner. Arresting a drug dealer creates a job opening for another potentially violent street-corner dealer. Lawyers and economists should be able to understand that.