This week’s video is a little different than those I’ve shared in the past. Usually, the idea is to keep things light at the end of the week. This go around, though, I wanted to share the trailer for a simply fantastic documentary by Eugene Jarecki, called “The House I Live In.” It deals with the consequences of the U.S. “War on Drugs,” including the overuse of incarceration.
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I have to say here that I have a complex relationship with this topic. I have family members who spent their entire law enforcement careers engaged in the battle against drug trafficking. To my mind, they are heroes for the sacrifices they made and the dangers they faced dealing with the dangerous thugs and narco-terrorists involved in the drug trade.
If there’s one form of entertainment I love to kick back and enjoy on a rainy Sunday, it’s a well made doc (e.g. Woodstock). Actually, I’ll even tolerate a mediocre one (The Queen of Versailles) or a gimmicky one (Super Size Me) if the story’s good enough.
This week’s vid falls cleanly into the first category. “Mexico’s Female Crime Journalists,” produced by Vice.com, tells the compelling story of the journos who cover Mexico’s incredibly violent drug war in Ciudad Juarez.
If you’re not familiar with the details and extent of narco-terrorism in that country, this recent article from The Atlantic is an excellent summary to get you up to speed before you dive into the vid.
Also, if you’re sensitive to blood, gore, or violence, be warned that the below contains all three.
Mexico’s Female Crime Journalists
Have a safe weekend! And, if you’re travelling anywhere near Ciudad Juarez, be careful out there.
While the statistics get a little slippery, nailing and jailing doesn’t appear to have had an appreciable effect on rates of addiction. This approach has also become intolerably expensive as the years have worn on. As a result, there’s now some bipartisan political agreement that the war on drugs – as well intended as it may have been – has not achieved its expected outcomes.
The funniest political video ever, but with a serious message
None of this is to say we should throw up our hands and walk away, though. The point is to learn from what’s gone before and then develop more rational policies that reduce the harmful effects of drugs on society, without going bankrupt or locking up millions of people unnecessarily in the process.
Is Decriminalization the Answer?
Other countries, such as Portugal, have taken a very radical path to this end (PDF). Decriminalization in that country, which some claimed would lead to widespread increases in drug use and abuse, as well as increases in crime, has actually had a beneficial effect on the drug problem and related social ills. According to the Cato Institute’s assessment:
[D]ata indicate that decriminalization has had no adverse effect on drug usage rates in Portugal, which, in numerous categories, are now among the lowest in the EU, particularly when compared with states with stringent criminalization regimes. Although postdecriminalization usage rates have remained roughly the same or even decreased slightly when compared with other EU states, drug-related pathologies — such as sexually transmitted diseases and deaths due to drug usage — have decreased dramatically. Drug policy experts attribute those positive trends to the enhanced ability of the Portuguese government to offer treatment programs to its citizens — enhancements made possible, for numerous reasons, by decriminalization.
What About Drug Courts?
Short of decriminalization, the U.S. has been increasingly turning to specialized criminal courts to address the problem of drug abuse. The infographic at right describes three key outcomes achieved by Drug Courts in recent years:
Lowered drug use
Reductions in criminal behavior
Those would seem to be the exact goals a rational drug policy would want to achieve.
Now it’s your turn. What are your thoughts on drug wars, drug policies, decriminalization, and drug courts?
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