Sunday, December 07, 2008

Prohibition is bursting our jails

"Jails bursting at the seams," the front page of the Sun-Herald shouted at me as I lined up at the supermarket this morning to buy my breakfast and lunch ingredients.

Back home, the SMH graphic you see was coincidentally up on my monitor. It illustrates the fall in burglaries paralleling the heroin drought of the past few years, clearly showing how much of the crime we bear and the justice system we pay for is caused by addicts who need wads of cash to buy prohibitively expensive illicit drugs.

Yes, we know they shouldn't, but the fact is they do.

While the government's response seems to be to privatise jails, neither they nor the media have the guts or the intelligence to question prohibition, a major contributor to the overcrowding problem, even as it is falling apart at the seams.

One classic response of conservatives is to claim that legal, controlled availability would increase drug use and they have small selective data sets to support this.

But globally, the trend shows the opposite: Tough-on-drugs countries almost all have higher rates of drug usage than relatively liberal countries – for example rates of cannabis use, heroin use and incarceration in The Netherlands are about half those of the US, home of the War on Drugs. In the UK, cannabis use declined significantly during the time it was downgraded to a Category C substance, in line with worldwide trends. Despite this, an electorally challenged Gordon Brown has ignored the advice of his senior advisory panel and upgraded cannabis to Category B.

In Australia, states which have decriminalised to some extent show usage trends similar to other states who have not.

If our jails are bursting at the seams, let's look at the role of prohibition in that and whether it is in fact achieving any of its aims. 

PS 8/12/08: An article in The Wall Street Journal celebrates the anniversary of the end of prohibition in 1933. It points out that people at the time not only understood prohibition had failed but also could remember a time before prohibition so they were not so alarmed at the prospect of legalisation. It's an eloquent piece. Read it here.

21 comments:

Anonymous said...

Interesting. What if any substance should be banned ? I include those substances which cause permanent brain damage.

The Editor said...

Like Vodka?

The point is that banning substances only increases the harms. You seem to assume banning them prevents people using them. Clearly that is not the case. As I pointed out, usage rates tend to be lower in the more liberal countries and states.

If you are so concerned about the risks of substances, why are you also not concerned about the 27% risk of death to people who climb the mountain K2?

Anonymous said...

"If you are so concerned about the risks of substances, why are you also not concerned about the 27% risk of death to people who climb the mountain K2?"

I am not "so concerned" as you claim.

The fact is that since 1939 sixty six (66) people have died on K2.

All I asked you was a simple question and that was "which substances should be banned" ?

Terry Wright said...

All I asked you was a simple question and that was "which substances should be banned" ?

The stuff politicians take that make them so stupid.

Anonymous said...

I agree.

Dumb politicians and their injecting centre and methadone clinics.

What were they when they did this to us ?

Terry Wright said...

"Dumb politicians and their injecting centre and methadone clinics.
What were they when they did this to us ?"


Yeah, real dumb.

Dumb enough to listen to evidence based suggestions from experts. Dumb enough to ignore right wing boneheads like you. Dumb enough to put people's lives and the safety of others before misguided views based on primary school logic. Dumb enough to follow successful programs from other countries. Dumb enough to overlook drug hysteria for pragmatism. Dumb enough to put addiction in the hands of the medical professionals. Dumb enough to realise the alternatives have never worked and never will. Dumb enough not to be applying the same strategies repeatedly hoping for a different outcome. Dumb enough to introduce these programs that actually work. etc. etc. etc.

Anonymous said...

"Dumb enough to ignore right wing boneheads like you"

Strange - we Green supporters are usually called dumb bonehead left wingers.

Oh well I guess it depends on how far left you are that everyone else is a right winger.

What is it about this site that attracts is so much immature name calling

Anonymous said...

Oh and by the way I have employed two heroin addicts in the past. But not at the same time.

Your silly silly presumption of what I am is to say the least sad.

Anonymous said...

Anonynous - is that the only thing you heard from what Terry Wright said?

Anonymous said...

Of course not. But he usually rants on over some perceived socio political " class " rubbish.

You only have to read his persistent abuse.

I do enjoy ( but not with this blogg ) the minds of the left and right intellects. At least they are not prone to name calling and hysterics.

Anonymous said...

Justice Kirby would praise Lionel Murphy with the words he would insist might one day apply to him. "Powerful ideas simply expressed can work within our legal system to plant their seeds of doubt until in due time the once dissenting view become accepted."

The Editor said...

Now, kids, stop squabbling! The blurb at the top of the blog invites comments but also asks that we all be polite! Humour of course is always welcome.

I don't moderate or censor comments because I believe in free speech and robust debate. I delete them only if they are spam or are irrelevant. Like the long piece about Robert Mugabe. What is your point, whoever posted it?

To the anonymous person who claims to be Green -- I don't believe you, Andrew. Nice try.

To Charles, thank you for your interest and your measured, polite comment. Tell your friends this debate is going on!

Anonymous said...

graysonret said:

I read liberal columns every day, and I have to say, I cannot understand the logic in most of them. They seem to be founded on “feel good” politics, regardless of consequences, based on victimhood and instant gratification. They can’t argue their points well, because they are naive and ignorant of facts, so they use name-calling and the old cliques to make their case. Most are young and have never been anywhere. Many of the older ones, are hypocrites or plain stupid"l

The Editor said...

Dear Graysonret,

Funny, that's just what I think about the more shrill of the conservative writers.

If my 'liberal' position is so flawed, why don't you tackle some of my actual points and show me the error of my ways?

I am very careful not to write in the manner you describe -- I stick to issues and back opinion with hopefully sound argument and lots of facts. I am quite capable of acknowledging a good point made against me.

Anonymous said...

You argue your points well. Its just that you too often revert to pejoratives to denigrate a different point of view.

What's your favorite? I think NIMBY.
Then again you always seem to put down Mosman. It seems you resent this area and give an impression of class warfare. Which in my mind is quite distasteful and frankly unnecessary.

The Editor said...

A fair point.

However 'Not in my backyard' is an accurate description of what these people espouse. They don't want to tolerate the problems or solve them -- they just want them moved onto someone else's doorstep. When you have moved into Kings Cross, the only "anti-suburb' in Sydney, I think that attitude is morally remiss. That's different from calling someone a 'bonehead'!

It IS a class issue too. Behind NIMBY is an assumption that "my middle-class values are the only acceptable ones" despite the daily evidence that there are many other ways of living. The motto of Kings Cross should be 'live and let live'. It's possible to celebrate the extreme diversity around here. I think my position is one of tolerance vs intolerance (or zero tolerance which is nearly the same thing.)

read my pice in The City News this coming week where I quote the current top cop in KX, talking to five only NIMBYs who turned up to a community meeting:

“Undesirable people” were targeted for person searches – “the sort that present an image you might not want down here.”

We all know what the definition of "undesirable" is, and it ain't middle class. I find this class-based persecution and social engineering cruel and offensive.

Anonymous said...

interesting. But using NIMBY is an inept description.

Mosman people not wanting a Kings Cross environment in Mosman are NIMBYS,

Kings Cross people not wanting a Mosman environment in Kings Cross are NIMBYS.

Kings Cross people who want to recreate the "wonderful" enviroment which existed pre 1980 are NIMBYS

Kings Cross people who want to clean up the Cross are NIMBYS

Kings Cross people who don't want to clean up the Cross are NIMBYS.

Using the above classification are you a NIMBY ? Or are we all NIMBYS ?

The Editor said...

LOL, That's a scream! I like your thinking.

I'd only say that those who live in Kings Cross and accept rather than try to exclude the things they don't like are not really NIMBYs.

Personally I am offended by yuppie snobs and people who will eat only in restaurants that charge over $30 a main, and I don't like endless doof music and I dislike being hit for money all the time and being woken several times a night by partying yobs in my street -- but I accept and welcome those people into my community because it's a free world, or it should be. If you get rid of all that it would no longer be edgy Kings Cross and I like edgy. That's why I'm here. It's the anti-suburb, the only one!

Anonymous said...

But Kings Cross is now so boring. Too much of the same trashy takeaways and bars Once it possessed so many interesting and culturally diverse venues open 24/7.

long gone are the
fabulous coffee/book/music/cafe/genuine strip shows/music halls/casinos/clothes. Great venues great food from $5 to $50. Your choice. Well off mixed with bikies. Hell where could you go to see Kerry Packer enjoying a McDonalds or a captain of industry lined up for fish and chips.

As a 24/7 its dead. Only seems to be open 6/07 late in the evening till early morning. Once a great tourist venue but hotels went broke and closed.

It may revive one day. Certainly it will keep changing.

Not the other Anonymous said...

As was so so succinctly put to NIMBYs a while back "Why don't you move?" There are areas of Sydney where the things KX NIMBYs want are already in the back yard without them having to change a thing.

Most KX dwellers are fairly recent - post 1980.

Kings Cross will evolve and hopefully with no assistance from those with a less than generous level of tolerance towards difference.

Terry Wright said...

Dumb politicians and their injecting centre and methadone clinics.

Say what you want but these services save lives. I can't understand how so called 'intelligent' people see Harm Minimisation as 'dumb'. It might be uncomfortable but a proper understanding of the 3 prong approach of Harm Minimisation will show that these programs are only part of a bigger strategy.

I do enjoy ( but not with this blogg ) the minds of the left and right intellects. At least they are not prone to name calling and hysterics.

Hysterics? Like the constant rants about moral decay and the downfall of society from workable drug treatment? Oh, that's not me.

The problem is not the left or the right but the modern right. The traditional right would not condone the "War on Drugs" and would take on Harm Minimisation because it's cost effective and compassionate. Sending people to prison for drug use is a cause of the modern right. Just like religion in politics dressed up as 'family values' or suppressing our rights to protect us from supposed security risks.