Friday, September 10, 2010

The Drug War and Friendly Fire

Maybe the drug war would be a good idea if it targeted only the enemy, but as Pogo said "We have met the enemy and he is us." 

Now we have this:
Sheriffs in North Carolina want access to state computer records identifying anyone with prescriptions for powerful painkillers and other controlled substances.
The state sheriff's association pushed the idea Tuesday, saying the move would help them make drug arrests and curb a growing problem of prescription drug abuse.
"We can better go after those who are abusing the system," said Lee County Sheriff Tracy L. Carter.
We already have more people in prison, in both an absolute and per capita sense, than any country in the world, in large part because we treat public health issues as criminal matters. The results are not good. If you trust the results in On the Rate of Wrongful Conviction: Chapter 9.5, you can see that drugs account for nearly 1/3 of all wrongful convictions (32%). If instead you trust the all-trials table from Chapter 11.1, you can see that drugs account for nearly 1/3 of all wrongful convictions (31%).

(It's interesting that two so differently-derived numbers provide the same answer. Perhaps the answer is correct, or nearly so.)

Since we are, as I type, wrongfully incarcerating a quarter million of our fellow Americans, I argue that we are wrongfully incarcerating more than 80,000 people for violating laws that possibly shouldn't have been laws in the first place. Apparently, that number is insufficient for the law enforcement community of North Carolina.

I ask once again: have we reached the point where we have more to fear from those who would protect us than from those who would consciously do us harm? My guess is that Cory Maye would answer in the affirmative.

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