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A Model for the Rest of Us
December 27, 2010 1:50 PM   Subscribe

The AP reports that the drug policy in Portugal is paying off.
posted by gman (39 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
The White House has a drug Tsar?
posted by a non e mouse at 2:06 PM on December 27, 2010



Pffftttt! Enlightenment is not popular here.
posted by notreally at 2:06 PM on December 27, 2010 [4 favorites]


Drugs in Portugal are still illegal. But here's what Portugal did: It changed the law so that users are sent to counseling and sometimes treatment instead of criminal courts and prison

While I'm firmly convinced that this absolutely needs to happen, I'm equally convinced that the money that keeps the private prison system running in this country will do everything within its power to stop it.

Portugal seems to have pulled this off by focusing on the associated health risks, our country appears too interested in punishing those damn dirty criminals than we do with helping the sick, even when they are the same person.

But my cynicism is strong today, and I'd be happy to be proven wrong.
posted by quin at 2:08 PM on December 27, 2010 [25 favorites]


the money that keeps the private prison system running in this country will do everything within its power to stop it.

QFMFT

You only have to look at how the private prison industry was instrumental in helping write the AZ "ask for their papers" law to see how this is possible.
posted by hippybear at 2:15 PM on December 27, 2010 [13 favorites]


I'm equally convinced that the money that keeps the private prison system running in this country will do everything within its power to stop it.


Our corporate masters know what their doing, just keep quiet and spend please.
posted by Max Power at 2:18 PM on December 27, 2010


Hey, maybe there's hope for the US, too, when even, yes, Pat Robertson suggests decriminalization.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 2:23 PM on December 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Portugal seems to have pulled this off by focusing on the associated health risks, our country appears too interested in punishing those damn dirty criminals than we do with helping the sick, even when they are the same person.

DoubleTrue.

You only have to look at how the private prison industry was instrumental in helping write the AZ "ask for their papers" law to see how this is possible.

Unbelievable!
posted by jnnla at 2:28 PM on December 27, 2010


This sort of health risk based approach could never work. Drugs are a criminal problem because we made it one. Logic does not work here.
posted by inedible at 2:43 PM on December 27, 2010


The corporatization of legislation will not allow this approach to succeed here. In Portugal, the government seems to serve the people to some extent. Here, they serve the big corporations lining Congressmens' pockets. As long as the private prison companies are able to afford lobbyists, the status quo will go on.
posted by reenum at 2:47 PM on December 27, 2010


Pffftttt! Enlightenment is not popular here.

Sure it is. They just think they achieved it in the 50s.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 3:00 PM on December 27, 2010 [5 favorites]


You only have to look at how the private prison industry was instrumental in helping write the AZ "ask for their papers" law to see how this is possible.

Oh, it's a growth industry. I can almost hear a VP at one of these privatized prisons making this pitch:

"Everyone breaks a law or two sometime in their life. Why not make a two-year sentence mandatory for all U.S. citizens? BOOM! Guaranteed profit margins!"
posted by valkane at 3:13 PM on December 27, 2010


The White House has a drug Tsar?

The head of the Office of National Drug Control Policy is unofficially called the drug czar.
posted by dhartung at 3:23 PM on December 27, 2010


Really, all that needs to happen is for the Democrats to call for stiffer penalties and I'm positive that would be enough of a push for the Republicans to get drugs decriminalized.
posted by gman at 3:57 PM on December 27, 2010 [4 favorites]


previously
posted by caddis at 4:00 PM on December 27, 2010


There have been a number of good articles about Portugal's drug policies recently. The British Journal of Criminology published an evaluation that "concludes that contrary to predictions, the Portuguese decriminalization did not lead to major increases in drug use. Indeed, evidence indicates reductions in problematic use, drug-related harms and criminal justice overcrowding." I have the pdf but can't find it linked online, just the abstract.

The Beckley Foundation's analysis from 2007.

Glen Greenwald's paper for The Cato Institute is pretty much what you would expect from Cato and a good overview of the program. "The data show that, judged by virtually every metric, the Portuguese decriminalization framework has been a resounding success. Within this success lie self-evident lessons that should guide drug policy debates around the world."

A few other links. And maias' take on it.
posted by gingerbeer at 4:13 PM on December 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


We just need to find a way to make privatized treatment as expensive profitable and effective as privatized prisons, and the free market will take care of the rest! Right?
posted by Western Infidels at 4:38 PM on December 27, 2010


Fox News version:

Thirty seconds of describing the AP story, followed by a ten-minute-long interview with Lisbon's Second Assistant Associate Dogcatcher who loudly decries the policy as wrongheaded and pernicious nanny-state mollycoddling because of something he heard once from his sister-in-law's third cousin's best friend who works mall security.

Fair and balanced. Fuck me.

I do not believe we (Amurricans) will ever have a rational drug policy because doing so would mean facing hard truths about the prison-industrial complex and the wholesale annexation of state power into private hands, and if there's one thing Amurricans excel at it's the avoidance of hard truths.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 4:40 PM on December 27, 2010 [9 favorites]


A bold move for the republicans would to latch on to existing laws and help commerce then strip a weapons program for re-hab facilties. Run with decrim, hop on the medical semantics argument (valid IMO) and watch the cash and tension ease.

holy shit Im a fed
(thang yagman ah thang ya veri muach)
posted by clavdivs at 4:56 PM on December 27, 2010


...the money that keeps the private prison system running in this country will do everything within its power to stop it.

The corporatization of legislation will not allow this approach to succeed here...As long as the private prison companies are able to afford lobbyists, the status quo will go on.
from the article (first link):
The first drug court opened in the U.S. 21 years ago. By 1999, there were 472; by 2005, 1,250.

This year, new drug courts opened every week around the U.S., as states faced budget crises exarcebated by the high rate of incarceration on drug offenses. There are now drug courts in every state, more than 2,400 serving 120,000 people.

Last year, New York lawmakers followed counterparts across the U.S. who have tossed out tough, 40-year-old drug laws and mandatory sentences, giving judges unprecedented sentencing options. Also, the Department of Health and Human Services is training doctors to screen patients for potential addiction, and reimbursing Medicare and Medicaid providers who do so.

posted by K.P. at 5:02 PM on December 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


The drug policy in the US is paying off, too. Just ask Hamid Karzai's brother.
posted by grounded at 5:51 PM on December 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Hooray for Portugal, that's great news for them!

Regarding the U.S., citizens/voters need to find a way to penalize office holders who don't represent the will of their constituents. (def:one who authorizes another to act as agent : principal)

There has to be more process than simply voting one into office. There has to be an oath of allegiance, a binding contract, anything that ties an office holder to their primary responsibility of representing the will of their constituents.
posted by snsranch at 7:58 PM on December 27, 2010


One little-noticed act of the recent Congress was to revisit the sentencing disparities for crack and powder cocaine; while it has yet to eliminate them, it revised them substantially downwards. This is indirectly related to a years-long judicial argument, in which opposition to mandatory sentencing guidelines was led by certain rather unexpected individual, though their architect remains unconvinced. The legal landscape in the US is not as simple as it first appears.
posted by anigbrowl at 8:02 PM on December 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


more over...

The case is Percy Dillon v. U.S., and the issue is whether the two level reduction in federal sentencing guidelines for crack cocaine implemented a few years ago allows judges, when implementing the reduction, to conduct a complete resentencing.
posted by clavdivs at 8:09 PM on December 27, 2010


Hamsterdam?
posted by Scattercat at 8:15 PM on December 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh, thanks - I wasn't sure whether it was sensible to include that one, since Scalia hadn't written anything expanding on his joining vote.
posted by anigbrowl at 9:09 PM on December 27, 2010


The corporate criminal justice machine is just too damn profitable for one to expect any big changes soon.
posted by rmmcclay at 9:09 PM on December 27, 2010


Yeah, as someone currently watching season three of The Wire, this is interesting reading.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 10:07 PM on December 27, 2010


as someone currently watching season three of The Wire, this is interesting reading.

I'm jealous. Wish I could see those again for the first time.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 10:18 PM on December 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


I've never watched The Wire, but I've been through drug court. Does that count?
posted by BitterOldPunk at 11:16 PM on December 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


Does that count?

Only if you left the courtroom and went straight back to your connection for the re-up, then right back to the corner to start selling again.

Extra points if it was west Baltimore.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 12:10 AM on December 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


Stranger article about the weird legal status of cannabis dispensaries in Washington state.
posted by Neofelis at 12:58 AM on December 28, 2010


Almost all opposition to the legalisation of intoxicants is based on some form of puritanism. There is a class of people who simply find distasteful the idea of human beings choosing to become intoxicated for pleasure. A subset of this class includes people who believe that things they find distasteful should be denied to others under force of law.

I find these people distasteful. However, I do not seek to have their personal preferences outlawed. Because I, unlike them, am not a dictatorial little shit who thinks his own preferences, opinions and sensibilities should be enshrined in law for everyone else.

Nobody tells me I can't choose to adjust my consciousness if in doing so I harm no one else. Nobody.
posted by Decani at 1:12 AM on December 28, 2010 [8 favorites]


As K.P. noted above, drug courts are increasing in number in the United States. I know a local official involved in the drug court and it is an unqualified public good. They identify the offenders who show the most promise for rehabilitation and spend a fraction of what would otherwise be spent on incarceration to give them treatment and a new life. The recidivism rate is less than 10%, which is unheard of in the general prison population.

The Portugal model is impressive, but there are some signs that rational responses can prevail here as well. The main threat to the drug court is a "tough on crime" politician who doesn't care or understand the value proposition of rehabilitation.
posted by dgran at 6:03 AM on December 28, 2010


Hooray for social problems and their associated 5 dvd box sets.
posted by sgt.serenity at 7:17 AM on December 28, 2010


You only have to look at how the private prison industry was instrumental in helping write the AZ "ask for their papers" law to see how this is possible.

Also, let us not forget that the DEA has (in 2009) 10,784 employees and a 2.6 billion dollar budget. That is a lot of political momentum. And, that doesn't take into account all state and local police and other government employees that depend on this for their livelihoods, and the tough on crime politicians who love them.
posted by lordrunningclam at 1:11 PM on December 28, 2010


The U.S. is spending $74 billion this year on criminal and court proceedings for drug offenders, compared with $3.6 billion for treatment.

Wow. Just wow.
posted by bystander at 2:52 PM on December 28, 2010


>>The U.S. is spending $74 billion this year on criminal and court proceedings for drug offenders, compared with $3.6 billion for treatment.

Wow. Just wow.


Not that I don't believe the US should reassess priorities the way Portugal's experience points, but this is a poorly stated and thus useless statisticoid. It's meaningless unless the reporter/source specifies that "drug offenders" here means only people charged with possession or very small-time (support one's own habit level) dealing--as opposed to these folks plus professional traffickers up and down the chain (fewer in number but I imagine much more expensive to prosecute). Does $74 billion also include prosecuting other crimes at the same time (theft, assault, tax evasion, bribery)? Unless "drug offenders" here means exclusively people who are candidates for rehab, this tells us not-very-much.
posted by K.P. at 6:24 PM on December 28, 2010


Let us not forget asset forfeiture. The feds/local cops really don't want to give that revenue stream up.
posted by dejah420 at 7:46 PM on January 17, 2011


How did the US become one of the least enlightened countries in the world?
posted by mike3k at 8:40 PM on January 17, 2011


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