by Beth Francisco
"In questions of power, then, let no more be heard of confidence in
man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution"(Tuerke,
1990, 1991). - Thomas Jefferson
The film Demolition Man illustrates very well where the path might lead if, through our panic over certain drugs, we continue to allow ourselves to plunge headlong into total hegemonic control and mindless obedience. We must emerge to sort through the discriminations, contradictions, and outright lies to reclaim our rights. Three groups of people are portrayed in this film. The "surface dwellers," the dittoheads who blindly follow the "mayor/governor," are rewarded with a peaceful, healthful society where everyone loves everyone else (at least those who reside on the surface). The only thing they have to do for their reward is eat, say, do, and think what the "mayor/governor" tells them to and--one last minor thing--wear a computer chip inserted under the skin. Second, the "scrap," depicts the mala prohibita "criminal" who wants to use drugs (including coffee and tobacco), eat meat, read uncensored material, and have "traditional" sex instead of "virtual reality" sex. This demonized "underground" resident wants to think, God forbid, and they don't want to be tracked by computer chip. The third element is the mala in se criminal, but they can't bother anyone; they are in the cryonic prison.
Before the "scraps" went underground, they were a "constant irritation" to the dittoheads. People were fed up with the "thugs and hooligans," the cesspool of the inner city. Enter mayor/gov Newt who took advantage of the situation to rid the "surface" of these undesirables. Newt, Rush, and the Christian Coalition combined forces to rescue the "good people" of the city. With the lower classes gone, the moral entrepreneurs could prevent infection of inferior values, take responsibility for the people's lives, and prevent decline of "family values."
The Addict and Discrimination
"If the aborigine drafted an I.Q. test, all of Western civilization would presumably flunk it' (Tuerke, 1990, 1991). - Stanley Garn
Moral entrepreneurs believe poor morals, lack of "family values," and/or skin color cause addiction, and evidence for this is plentiful at least as far back as the 19th century. Discrimination exists today in race and class and are large determinants in tolerance or punishment. In the 1800's, they thought of drug use as "laissez-faire." If a person wanted to use a substance and another wanted to sell it, what difference did it make? (Oakley, & Ksir, 1987, p. 22). "During the Civil War [1861-1865], opium and morphine were in such demand to control dysentery and ease the suffering of wounded soldiers that addiction among veterans was tolerantly known as 'the Army disease'" (King, 1974, p.18). "The first two laws prohibiting opium smoking were passed in . . . 1875 and 1876 in response to discrimination of the Chinese" (Monson, 1980, p. 48) whom they thought of as an inferior race. In 1910, they requested legislation regarding cocaine since it was " . . . authoritatively stated that cocaine is often the direct incentive to the crime of rape by the Negroes of the South and other sections of the country" (Monson, 1980, p. 48). In the early 1900s, approximately 200,000 "victims [of addiction] were believed to be preponderantly female, middle-aged, white, Southern, rural, and from privileged or middle classes. No one then dreamed of associating drug abuse with criminality" (King, 1974, pp.18-19).
Though "federal intervention into matters of local choice and personal concern was virtually unprecedented" (King, 1974, p. 21), discrimination continued with the further transition from the medical profession's control of opiate distribution to governmental control over the lives of its citizens:
With the Harrison Act in 1914, a series of events occurred that linked addiction with crime. As the addict population became typified by lower-class black males, moral hostility increased and 'the image of the addict changed from a sick to a contemptible deviant' (Datesman, 1981, p. 85).
In the 1920's, they linked heroin to "promiscuous urban gangs [and] alcohol
was associated with immigrants" whom they did not trust (Monson, 1980, p. 48).
Thus, the stage is set for greater and greater social control of minorities and,
by extention to the criminal justice system, the whole country.
As ever, poor and minorities were discriminated against, but those with "sufficient prominence" and good connections had the protection of the first commissioner of the Bureau of Narcotics to maintain their addictions. "The payoff for this was what Commissioner Anslinger wanted in the way of appropriations for his forces, and new federal legislation he usually got virtually for the asking" (King, 1974, p. 24). Senator McCarthy was of "sufficient prominence" to qualify for the arrangement to have narcotics supplied to him. This was done by a Washington pharmacy without the interference of narcotic officers (Oakley & Ksir, 1987, p. 42). However, Anslinger opposed any treatment which supplied narcotics to addicts who did not have connections, and he rigorously enforced laws against them.
More recently, several statements by Peele, (1991) suggest contempt for the "lower class" addict:
Cocaine came to be addictive among some inner-city users and among a very small percentage of middle-class users who tried the drug . . . Why didn't most of these people become cocaine addicts? The answer is so simple that we are left wondering why scientists can't figure it out: Most people have better things to do than to become addicted to cocaine.
We have reached a strange impasse in our civilization when we rely for information and moral guidance about habits on the most debilitated segments of our population--groups who attribute to addiction and drugs what are actually their personal problems. What, really, are we to learn from people who stand up and testify that they couldn't control their shopping sprees, that they spent all their money and went bankrupt to get material possessions we were smart enough to resist, and that they now want us to forgive them and their debts? (Peele, 1991, p. 42-43)
Whom should we listen to regarding addiction--the moralist or the addict?
Though considered unscientific by many, it's not difficult for me to use Cooley's "sympathetic introspection," a method in which the sociologist attempts to analyze consciousness by putting "themselves in the place of the actors" they study (Ritzer, 1983, p.48). Peele judges, but I know how the addict really feels, and I don't think most of us are all that much different. There are different stories, but we all have pretty much the same feelings. I became addicted to prescription drugs after an automobile accident in 1981. The doctor maintained me on narcotics for almost four years, and after he decided I was addicted (I was addicted long before then), he decided to quit treating me; I ended up finding my drugs on the street. I had always been very responsible and careful with money, looking for bargains and saving; I always paid the bills before they were due. When I had to buy drugs on the street, I went through all of my accident settlement, all of my savings, all of my bill money, proceeds from the sale of my house, and all I could beg, borrow, and steal. I used to fight with myself when I was using, "Why can't I quit? What's the matter with me? Why can't you just use will power?" I asked myself, "But it just isn't as easy as that. I felt as though I were two people." When I read the following, I identified immediately:
There is an almost constant internal conflict between the Self and the Addict. In this struggle, the Addict wins. This is what is meant by 'loss of control.' The longer the struggle, the more control the addictive personality gains and establishes. Each time the Self struggles against the addiction, the Addict becomes stronger. To fight and struggle against something that has more power than you drains your energy. For each defeat there is some loss of self-esteem . . .
People and family members often desperately ask themselves and others, 'Why does he act like this? Doesn't he care about us anymore?' The truth is that the Addict within (emphasis mine) doesn't care . . . The Addict doesn't care about the Self either. A statement such as, 'At least if you won't stop for me, stop for yourself!' falls on deaf ears. The person who suffers from an addiction often asks the same question long before anyone else: 'Why do I act this way? Don't I care?'
It's often a great relief for people suffering from an addiction to realize that they are not 'bad people', as they believed, that their addictive personality is not all of them, but only a part of them, having grown as a result of the illness" (Nakken, 1991, pp. 36-37).
The moral entrepreneurs scoff at this, but I could have written it because that's
the way I felt. There is a loss of control, and no amount of moralizing can change
that. After being on the street for awhile, I learned how to maneuver to find the
drugs I needed, but sometimes I didn't maneuver very well. My drug of choice was
Dilaudid--a prescription drug that cost about a quarter (twenty-five cents) through
legal channels. Since it wasn't legal, the addict had to pay between $35 and $45(1)
for a tablet smaller than an aspirin. It was the equivalent of heroin but it
didn't have all the adulterants. We knew what we were getting--we never knew with
heroin. One day, I had a girl take me to cop'(2) a Dilaudid, but the girl
needed the fix' more than I did. She ended up with my money while I ended up with
the meat hanging out of my leg where she cut me. I drove myself to the emergency
room at the nearest hospital thinking they would treat me the same as I ever had
been going into a hospital. Was I naive? You bet! I was cut, but I was an addict.
I guess the doctor doesn't like addicts either, because he didn't use small, single
stitches. He stitched my leg with long, running stitches--and none too gently I might
add. I've got a big scar to prove it. Even doctors discriminate, and that's too bad,
but it doesn't really surprise me. Most medical personnel receive very little education
in the area of addiction. This makes the "drug fiend" propaganda effective
with many of them although many doctors and nurses are addicted also.
It makes no difference whether addiction is due to an illness or the addict's personal problems, as Peele (1991) asserts. However, what does matter is the fact that the moral entrepreneur's attitude effectively demonizes the addict. This justifies the "War on Drugs," legitimizes the erosion of the Bill of Rights, and is one of the most egregious results of the war. It not only affects the addict but the entire criminal "justice" system as well. We don't need to fear the drug or the addict nearly as much as the laws and propaganda against them which have been moving this country steadily toward a police state. The addict is not a bad person. The addict is a human being just like you and will usually leave you and your property alone when they have the drug they so desperately need in order to feel normal--government agencies won't. We need to start sorting through the contradictions and figure out if we want to keep turning our freedoms over to the government and live in a police state or take our lives back.
"Smart is when you believe only half of what you hear. Brilliant is when you know which half to believe' (Tuerke, 1990, 1991). - Orben's Current Comedy
We are a society of drug takers. We have a pill for everything from headache to backache, to go to sleep or stay awake, contraceptives or fertility pills, and we want to feel good right now. The problem is, the government has decided which drugs are no good for us (as in Demolition Man) and which are okay. People can't help but be confused--myself included. It was okay for me to take narcotics for a long time while addicted under the care of a doctor. There was no social stigma, they were affordable, and I could function. When I first started buying drugs on the street, I was taking the same drug that I got from the doctor (though it wasn't long before I was using drugs intravenously), but it was at that point that I became stigmatized as a weak, incompetent person. What had changed? Not the drug certainly, and I still had the same pain, so what had changed? My status, overnight, and the fact that I had to buy my drug at such an inflated price that everything I had worked for and saved became the drug dealer's property (usually another addict supporting his or her own habit) because the doctor could not legally prescribe for me. I was sent to a psychiatrist who diagnosed me as manic-depressive (this was THE diagnosis of the day) and prescribed Lithium and an antidepressant. Don't take their drugs--take mine!' was the message I got. I took his drugs, and I couldn't function. I had to hang onto the walls to walk because I was so disoriented, and I couldn't write because my hand jerked too badly. When I told the doctor I could not take his medication, he said, Well, I'll prescribe another drug to counteract the other drugs.' If I took his drugs, I would not be a social outcast but I wouldn't be able to function; if I didn't take mine, I wouldn't be able to function. If I did take mine, I would be an outcast and a criminal because possession is a crime."
This is madness. The addict, just by virtue of being an addict, is labeled a "criminal" and a bad person. There is much "ambivalence in dealing with . . . [addiction]. It is perhaps best reflected in the Supreme Court's decision to invalidate the crime of being an addict, but continue the felony penalty for possessing the necessary material for addiction (Robinson decision)" (McGlothlin & Tabbush, 1974, p. 117). Addiction is "a disease" (Wellisch, Anglin, & Prendergast, 1993, p. 11), but we treat that disease by making sure the addict ends up in prison. I don't know of another disease that includes jail as part of its treatment but, even then, "only a small portion of those who need treatment receive it" (Peters, 1993, p.49). When an addict does receive treatment, "it is important to appreciate that altering a drug-dependent existence is often a prolonged process involving periodic relapses to drug use" (Dembo, Williams, & Schmeidler, 1993, p. 121). However, we ignore that part of the equation, and when the addict relapses (the very act of relapsing is a crime), the parole or probation officer violates the addict's probation. We do this in spite of the fact that:
Addicts who are fortunate enough to have been well educated, have steady incomes, and good social support and thus do not need to turn to crime to support their addictions, often experience...problems with relapse. The fact that many TASC [Treatment Alternative to Street Crimes] clients more often than not have additional burdens and problems to overcome makes relapse even more understandable in their circumstances (Swartz, 1993, p. 135).
Also, "there are many phenomena in the prison environment that make rehabilitation
difficult" (Pan, Scarpitti, Inciardi, & Lockwood, 1993, p. 34), but we continue
to condone the conditions which makes prison certain for most addicts. Many people
insist on building more prisons, and if we have them, it is certain we will have
to keep them full to justify the fact that we built them. This will give us one more
excuse not to look for alternatives.
Another contradiction involves the dangers of illegal drugs. These dangers are the ones that make headlines. Alcohol does not and, in fact, we glamorize it with commercials. We can see a "hard drug" commercial one minute, "this is your brain on drugs," showing a picture of eggs frying. Then we see a football hero drinking a Lite beer or a sexy lady having a glass of wine with an equally sexy-looking man. When one of our sport heros or screen stars dies of a drug overdose, the country is in a renewed panic over illegal drugs. Any premature death is tragic, but we do not seem to realize that there are 200,000 alcohol-related deaths per year compared to 3,600 deaths from all illegal drugs combined (Kappeler, Blumberg, & Potter, 1993, p. 154). It is interesting that our society makes a distinction between drugs and alcohol. Alcohol is a drug; it is the number one drug of abuse in the nation, and it is "associated with 3/5th's of all murders" (Oakley & Ksir, 1987, p. 28). In light of this, it is especially difficult to understand the hysteria in the campaign against 'illegal' drugs.
When I saw the article by George Cantor (1989 October 2), I had to wonder who made him judge, jury, and moral superior. He states that most of those who drink are not doing it for the purpose of getting drunk, but those who take drugs are essentially moral degenerates because they take drugs to get high. He states, "I know of no one who would argue that illegal drugs are harmless at any level of use" (p. 3B). However, in actuality "taking of narcotics results in no measurable organic damage," (Monson, 1980, p. 51) whereas alcohol destroys brain cells, causes cirrhosis of the liver, and is responsible for many birth defects. It is ironic that many of these moral entrepreneurs profess their concern over the possibility of overdose, the sanctity of life, and "family values." Many of them are the very ones who want to cut welfare to what they call "welfare queens," women with small children because they say, "these women just want to have more children and don't want to work."
We have all been taught that the American Dream can be attained by everyone as long as they work hard, but herein lies another contradiction. It becomes harder and harder for some just to survive. The very basis of our system is that we have winners, and we have losers; we have rich, and we have poor. If we don't happen to be in one of the favored categories, it suggests that "something" is wrong with us. Spencer's philosophy, vis-a-vis Sumner, is that those who succeed deserve it, and those who do not succeed deserve to fail (Ritzer, 1983, p. 43). In other words, those who did not succeed did not work hard enough. This is just not true.
We have some very serious problems in this country which cannot be solved by the simplistic "family values" banner that is being waved around so casually today. There is no doubt we have some real issues to be dealt with but they are being camouflaged by politically expedient slogans such as "War on Drugs," "Tough on Crime," and "Welfare Reform." If the focus can be kept off the real problems (racism, poverty, discrimination, civil liberties, etc.) by assignment of a simple cause to all social ills by what Ryan (1971) calls "blaming the victim" (Ritzer, 1983, p. 33), so much the better for those in power. A good example of "blaming the victim" is the fact that "jails frequently serve as the repository for socially disadvantaged populations [such as] mentally ill, substance abusers, [and] the homeless" (Peters, 1993, p. 46). Nevertheless, the brainwashing we have been given has been so effective that we are willing to spend $25,000-$40,000 per year per prisoner to keep addicts in prison, and we continue to cut back on programs which attempt to go to the root of the problem.
Drugs and crime are always politically popular issues because addicts and "criminals" have been so successfully demonized, discredited, and discarded that most people don't listen to or care what happens to them. Unfortunately (or fortunately depending upon how you look at it), it doesn't hurt one group exclusively. There is no small injustice, and when one person or group of people's rights are violated, it affects all of us. Hopefully, we will wake up soon--before it's too late.
Exaggerations & Outright Lies
"Be not so bigoted to any custom as to worship it at the expense of Truth" (Tuerke, 1990, 1991).
- Johann Georg Von Zimmermann
The obsessive-compulsive actions of the addict pale in comparison to the obsession generated by the "Drug War." The lengths to which certain people will go, including exaggeration and lies, keeps the "drug fiend" myth alive. Sixty years ago, The Atlanta Georgian, 27 February 1935, ran a poem named 'The Jaws of Death' by George E. Phair:
A slinking thing with hellish sting, The reptile known as Dope.
Its poison breath is living death Beyond the pale of hope,
And in the blight of endless night Its countless victims grope.
In stricken homes the reptile roams On hearthstones bare and bleak.
Ambition dies in youthful eyes, Slain by the noxious reek.
For Dope is strong and prospers long Because the laws are weak
(Inciardi, 1986, p. 20).
The call for stiffer punishment is the 'classical-utilitarian' theory which was
"the prevailing theory at the time our nation was founded" (Glaser, 1974,
p. 71). Even though most criminologists today don't subscribe to that theory, politicians
and moral entrepreneurs get a lot of mileage out of it even to this day.
Anslinger was not at all subtle, and his "crusade appears to have been the ravings of a madman. Using the mass media as his forum, Anslinger described marijuana as a Frankenstein drug that was stalking American youth" (Inciardi, 1986, p. 22). In American Magazine, he wrote:
The sprawled body of a young girl lay crushed on the sidewalk the other day after a plunge from the fifth story of a Chicago apartment house. Everyone called it suicide, but actually it was murder. The killer was a narcotic known to America as marijuana, and to history as hashish. It is a narcotic used in the form of cigarettes, comparatively new to the United States and as dangerous as a coiled rattlesnake . . . (Inciardi, 1986, p. 22).
The same magazine ran this from Anslinger, who was vicious and colorful in his attacks on marijuana but seldom accurate:
An entire family was murdered by a youthful addict in Florida. When officers arrived at the home, they found the youth staggering about in a human slaughterhouse. With an ax he had killed his father, mother, two brothers, and a sister. He seemed to be in a daze . . . He had no recollection of having committed the multiple crime. The officers knew him ordinarily as a sane, rather quiet young man; now he was pitifully crazed. They sought the reason. The boy said that he had been in the habit of smoking something which youthful friends called "muggles," a childish name for marihuana [sic]" (Inciardi, 1986, p. 22).
There is no end to the exaggerations regarding the "drug fiend" which are many times blatantly racist and have done much to perpetuate the myth:
Colored students at the Univ. of Minn. partying with female students (white), smoking (marijuana) and getting their sympathy with stories of racial persecution. Result pregnancy. Two Negroes took a girl fourteen years old and kept her for two days under the influence of marihuana [sic]. Upon recovery she was found to be suffering from syphilis" (Inciardi, 1986, p. 22).
The film Reefer Madness shows a marijuana smoker "turning into a werewolf-like
creature after inhaling marijuana smoke" (McBride, 1981, p. 106). This whole
campaign was very effective for Anslinger. The Marijuana Tax Act, which was enacted
in 1937, labeled the weed a dangerous "narcotic" and "the result was
merely another nationwide enforcement empire and new categories of federal crime"
(King, 1974, p. 25). "Dr. Sydney Cohen, whose voice has been considered the
most rational in an irrational world of drugs, writes in Cocaine: The Bottom Line
that scare tactics are counterproductive and should be avoided . . . " (Hyde,
1990, p. 19). We still haven't learned though, and we continue to use scare tactics
Less than a decade ago, President Bush was involved in "a contrived incident--the purchase of cocaine in Lafayette Park, across the street form [sic] the White House . . . . Lafayette Park is not a center for drug dealing after all, but . . . a drug dealer elsewhere was lured there for this transaction just so the president could go public with the cocaine purchased across the street" (Sowell, 1989, October 2). These "ambitious lawmakers and empire-building policemen appear to have created social attitudes instead of, as the system is supposed to work, merely reflecting and responding to them" (King, 1974, p. 18). Even though:
hard core cocaine addicts are increasing . . . they are still less than one-half of one percent of the American population. Are the other 99½ percent of the people to see their country and its institutions and civil liberties jeopardized to try to keep one small group from destroying itself? (Sowell, 1989, October 2).
The more afraid we are of the drug "epidemic," the easier it is to secure
our agreement to be controlled.
Erosion of Rights
"Ignorant men don't know what good they hold in their hands until they've flung it away" (Tuerke, 1990, 1991). - Sophocles
In a way, it's quite amusing to think that all this hysteria is over these small, inanimate objects we know as drugs and the people who use them. Now that the Soviet threat is gone, we must have something to take its place. I actually have to laugh that people are handing over their precious Bill of Rights with no fight at all because they have been made to be afraid of and/or hate addicts. I have to laugh--or I'll cry. Addicts are not monsters as Anslinger would have you believe, and they are not bad as others would have you believe. It is absolutely amazing how many personal freedoms people are willing to give up to the government in the name of the drug war. Most people don't even realize who the enemy is. It's certainly not the addict, but:
The sacrificial principle of victimage (the 'scapegoat') . . . explains why it is such a sad truism that . . . 'it is indeed probable that more harm and misery have been caused by men determined to use coercion to stamp out a moral evil than by men intent on doing evil.' In my opinion, this is not just probable, it is quite certain (Szasz, 1990, Foreword xvi).
Americans are a peculiar people . . . they have avowed their dedication to the highest principles of freedom. They have written and enforced a constitution emulated the world over for its protection of the major freedoms of the common man from the government which he has set above him. On the other hand, Americans have tolerated almost without qualms, restrictions on their rights of personal privacy (Greenberg, 1974, p. 189).
The sad part is that, not only are we not putting up a fight, we are asking that our rights be taken. Check lanes were set up in a neighborhood to crack down on drug traffic. No drugs were found, but 44 traffic tickets were issued, and one person commented, "I got a ticket because I left my license at home, but I think it's great if they're doing it to fight drugs" (Musial, 1989, September 20, pp. 3A, 19A). I can't understand that attitude; don't we realize what's happening?
As James M. Buchanan has noted, using the state's power to control your neighbor's annoying habits is a risky business. 'Let those who would use the political process to impose their preferences on the behavior of others be wary of the threat to their own liberties,' he writes. 'The liberties of some cannot readily be restricted without limiting the liberties of all (Scullum, 1991, p. 78).
Don't we realize that the government actually has control over what we can put
into our bodies, and more than that, their propaganda controls our minds? "One
hundred years ago the concept that the State could tell Americans what they could
and could not ingest would have been ridiculed" (Monson, 1980, p. 51). Not so
today--we don't even question.
"The Comprehensive Crime Control (CCC) Act of 1984 [involved] a major rollback of the rights of the criminally accused." Under this act, "a (serious) drug charge alone can justify pretrial detention, which all authorities agree severely handicaps the preparation of an effective defense." Also, "post-conviction bail" used to be granted unless the government could show the defendant would be "likely to flee or pose a danger to others." It now "shifts the burden of proof to the defendant." The CCC Act also authorizes the government to take "money or property, including land, that was obtained directly or indirectly through such violation" when the defendant is convicted on drug charges. These are all horrible, but one of the worst is the "tactic of using the criminal forfeiture provisions of the act against fees paid to defense counsel." This goes a long way in depriving the defendant of counsel in drug cases (Wisotsky, 1990, pp. 120-121). An attorney who thinks his fee might be confiscated is not likely to take the case. It's astonishing what is happening (what we are allowing to happen) due to this "war."
One morning, a 27-year-old woman dropped her children off at school when she noticed a car following her. She pulled off the road to let the car pass, but instead three men got out of their car and into hers, told her they were police, and drove her home. They handcuffed her and her husband, told her they were looking for drugs, and proceeded to ransack the place. When the husband asked for a search warrant, they said, 'We don't need one, we work in the drug department' (Wisotsky, 1990, p. 126). There is some question as to whether or not the men were officers, but it seems to be the prevailing attitude of police officers and citizens. That's sad! And more than that, it's dangerous.
Tom Kenworthy wrote in the Washington Post (1988, September, pp. A1+), "During a meeting of House Democratic floor leaders, Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) suggested to one of his colleagues that before the final vote at week's end on the $2 billion omnibus drug bill, the House ought to vote to suspend the Constitution." This was in response to bills on the floor of the House's war on drugs which had been "turned into a war on the Bill of Rights." At the time, this was thought by many to be a political "football" in an election year and that many items probably wouldn't pass the Senate. What were some of those items? Broadening of the exclusionary rule, civil fines for possession of "small amounts of controlled substances, including marijuana, even if the individuals are not convicted . . . a new federal death penalty for individuals found guilty of a killing in the course of a drug-related felony." Denial of "federal benefits . . . to repeat drug offenders" was another, along with "random drug testing of some federal probationers." Members were saying, "'I don't care if it's constitutional, we can leave constitutionality up to the courts.'" While all this was going on, they began "each day's legislative session with the Pledge of Allegiance and its promise of 'liberty and justice for all'" (Kenworthy, 1988, pp. A1+). Strange that most of the things they joked about probably not passing because of their unconstitutionality have come to pass not quite eight years later.
This disregard for constitutionality for drug offenders isn't a new attitude, and it affects all of us. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, representatives from law enforcement went before Congressional committees saying that "agencies were hampered by excessively restrictive laws that tied their hands in the fight against drug violators. Legal obstacles to efficient investigative techniques needed to be removed." Apparently, congressmen agreed with them. One said that "the laws were a nuisance to enforcement . . . [and] 'in the war on narcotics, we have met the enemy, and he is the U.S. Code [emphasis mine]. I have never seen such a maze of laws and hangups.'" There were even "two bills proposed to amend the Constitution to eliminate the exclusionary rule" (Wisotsky, 1990, p. 119). That "maze of laws and hangups" and the U.S. Code are there for a reason, supposedly to protect the citizens of this country from government, not from addicts.
The "good faith exception" to the exclusionary rule did become law, but all officers do not act in good faith, especially when it comes to the drug war:
A significant minority of police officers consistently, deliberately, and ruthlessly violate the rights of the citizens with which they deal, and violate the Constitution and laws they are sworn to uphold. Police, acting in the line of duty, may be responsible for more violations of the law per capita than any other group. Probably in no other area is the police officer as abusive of his authority as in the area of drug arrests. Because of the nature of society's response to the drug abuse crisis, the controls that would ordinarily be placed upon the policeman has been removed or ignored by his superiors and by the general public" (Greenberg, 1974, p. 198).
The fact of the matter is that there is no end to the abuse even when involving
legal drugs which are used in the treatment of addiction.
After being in and out of detox and treatment centers, I was finally put in touch with a methadone maintenance center where I am being treated and have been for the last several years. One Saturday afternoon in March 1995, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) stormed that establishment in Detroit, Michigan. Those on the premises were held at gunpoint; hands on the wall, assume the position. Three snipers were in place at strategic points; one was on top of the building, one was on the roof of the church across the street, and one was somewhere in the back of the building. Offices were broken into, desk drawers were broken open with crowbars, arrests were made, and records were confiscated. One employee was forced to the floor, another was taken into a room and interrogated because she protested the harsh language directed at her by a DEA agent.
Well, of course! This was a drug bust, what do you expect? How do you expect the DEA officer to treat drug addicts and those delivering DRUGS?(3)
The only problem is, those dispensing DRUGS were registered nurses, the offices broken into were private counseling sessions, and the records confiscated were supposed to be confidential records of patients receiving treatment at this methadone center. The warrant presented was vague and global, and the fact that there was a warrant makes this even more sinister--that a judge would allow confidential records of patients who are trying to get well to be taken. The DEA officers confiscated everything EXCEPT drugs.
Oh, well, that's okay. They are only drug addicts; I mean, it's not as though the DEA broke into a legitimate physician's office with legitimate patients. The DEA didn't take the records of law-abiding citizens.(4)
The war on drugs and get tough on crime is a bunch of propaganda and a free ride for politicians. It's a very good deal for them when they can keep people focused on "degenerate" addicts, "criminals," and welfare recipients--those who usually don't have a say--that way they can do their dirty deeds, chip away a little more at our rights, and have the support of the public whose rights they erode. People don't become concerned until one of their rights become involved and have the attitude that, "If I'm not where I'm not supposed to be and do what I'm supposed to do, I shouldn't be worried." That is just not true. A conservative estimate of people who are wrongly convicted each year is 6,000. These are not just those who say they are innocent--they are people who could not possibly have done what they are accused of. In some cases, evidence was planted by the police and/or suppressed and withheld by the prosecution.
Another area of concern is urine testing which began as a result of the panic over drugs. It is highly unreliable, and it was initially supposedly only to test aircraft controllers because of the nature of the job. Now, many employers and prospective employers test for drugs, and recently, the Supreme Court ruled that it is legal to test high school athletes. However:
According to a report by the Los Angeles Times News Service, a study of 161 prescription and over-the-counter medications showed that 65 of them produced false positive results in the most widely administered urine test. Ronald Siegel, a psychopharmacologist at UCLA said 'The widespread testing and reliance on tell-tale traces of drugs in the urine is simply a panic reaction invoked because the normal techniques for controlling drug use haven't worked very well. The next epidemic will be testing abuse.' (Jefwriter, 1995).
False positives are not the only things wrong with drug testing. Even if it wasn't
an invasion of privacy, labs make mistakes which can result in serious consequences
for those being tested. Reputations can be ruined, parolees can be sent back to prison,
and probationers can be violated. Although an employee from Syva Company stated in
an internal document that "more than 250 over-the-counter medications and prescription
drugs. . . can cause false positives [in] the widely used EMIT test" (Jefwriter,
1995), what recourse does the "criminal" or the "addict" have?
No one believes them when they say they did not use a certain drug.
Clinics have random drops(5) to make sure patients are injesting the methadone themselves, not selling it on the streets, and to make sure they aren't taking any other prohibited drugs. I once tested positive for amphetamines, once or twice for cocaine, and several times I tested negative for methadone. These should not have occurred because I was not taking anything illegally, and I was taking the proper dose of methadone every day. How was I supposed to prove' it though? My word? If you're an addict, your word doesn't count for much. These occurred over a period of time, but as a result of the negative testing for methadone, I had my take-homes' taken away, and I had to go to the clinic every day for two or three months--a 70-mile round trip. I had just been assigned a new counselor--mine had quit, and the new one didn't know me from Adam, so what could I say to her? She believed the test until she got to know me, but by then it was too late--the punishment had already been inflicted.
Since being in the clinic, I've accomplished a lot even with all the setbacks clinic rules and government regulations cause--it's as though they set us up to fail. I had to come up with $70 per week out of a waitress' wage to stay at the clinic because of those regulations, but I completed my two-year associate degree at the local community college with a 3.8 G.P.A. I'm presently at a university and have a 4.0 G.P.A. I have been extremely lucky; most addicts are in prison or will be there shortly unless they can afford a clinic or their drug of choice."
The addict is not the enemy, but drug testing could certainly qualify. Who in this room would put thier job or career on the line on the basis of a drug screen knowing the rate of false positives and potential for human error, not to mention the invasion of privacy.
The forfeiture laws certainly qualify as the enemy too. You don't have to be guilty to have your property taken--you don't have to be convicted of anything--you are preseumed to be guilty, then you have to prove you did not do anything wrong. Presumption of innocence, one of our basic tenets, is turned around. And, we keep allowing these things to happen. Why are not people hollering to high heaven?
"We know nothing of what will happen in future, but by the analogy of experience" (Tuerke, 1990, 1991). - Abraham Lincoln
The Demolition Man seems like a pretty far fetched story, and no one thinks it could happen here, but a hundred years ago no one would ever have thought that government controls would be so much a part of our lives. America was synonymous with freedom and "liberty and justice for all." We had one bad experience with prohibition, and you might think we would have learned from its dismal failure. Maybe we did--those in power learned better how to demonize the segment of the population it wanted to control. It does it very well even if it doesn't control the drug, and if there are millions of casualties, so what? "Those" types of people don't matter much anyway, and besides, we've got them where we want them.
The problem is that we have more than a million people in prison, most of them poor, minorities, and addicts--there will no doubt be many more unless we insist that this idiotic war' be abandoned and put harm reduction measures in its place. Congress may be preparing to cut off aid to addicts on Social Security Disability (SSD), and it sounds as though the taxpayer will be getting a good deal. To anyone worried about their tax dollar, however, these are the hard facts: The total to maintain an addict is $5,500 disability per year, and Medicaid pays $2,500 for methadone maintenance, for a total of about $8,000 per year. When the addict is on the street, many times that is stolen per year, and that is reflected in higher costs to the consumer. When the addict gets caught, the state then picks up the tab--$25,000-$40,000 per year to incarcerate that person. The cost of imprisonment is nothing compared to the cost of one case of AIDS which can cost upwards of two hundred thousand dollars, to say nothing of the cost in human misery. Now, why in the world would anyone want to jeopardize any addict who is attempting to become a productive member of society by receiving treatment? When these programs are cut, we are told that we have to cut the budget and we need to get government out of people's lives. Huh? Then why do we take the part out that helps (SSD and Medicaid) and then dictate regulations for methadone maintenance, a program that is proven to help keep the addict out of prison, but makes the program unaffordable? Logic would tell us that we want the addict in prison at a cost of $25,000-$40,000 per year instead of helping them become productive citizens at $8,000 per year.
If we would look further and attempt to get past the exaggerations and lies that keep the "drug fiend" myth alive, we might see that drugs aren't the problem but a symptom of the problem. We don't want to do that though because then we might have to do something about it. It's easier to speak of "family values" and blame the victim than to do something about the problem. It would never do to be "soft on addicts" or to coddle "those" people. Some of "those" people happen to be "youngsters in the drug culture [who] are often completely on their own. Family members may be living apart or may be dead . . . . Seventy-two percent of the boys and girls in a correctional institute study said they had grown up without one or both parents" (Berger, 1989, p. 37). But, there I go again--just because those kids don't have anybody, that's no excuse for their lack of "family values."
More punishment, less coddling, and we only need to give up a few more freedoms to the "health police" and moral entrepreneurs in order to win a few battles:
To achieve this, though, would require, at the least, multifold increases in manpower, a suspension of Fourth Amendment restraints on police searches, seizures and wire-taps, wide-scale pretrial detention, abolition of the exclusionary rule and border controls so extreme that they would substantially hinder foreign commerce (Wisotsky, 1990, p. 136).
Really, it's not too much to ask to give up to live in a peaceful society. Is
"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere" (Tuerke, 1990, 1991) - Martin Luther King, Jr.
1Dilaudid is a synthetic opiate which
is used interchangeably with heroin. It can be taken orally. However, its popularity
is that it can be crushed up, mixed with water, and used intravenously (a "fix");
it cost $35-45 on the street in Flint, Michigan - 1985-88. The range in price reflects
whether or not the addict had to have someone "cop" (see next footnote)
2To have another addict buy a controlled substance for him/her. Since there is a long prison term involved in the sale of narcotics, most people won't sell to a person they don't know and/or trust.
3The italics at the ends of the paragraphs indicating an answer to the paragraph are the kinds of attitudes you might expect from an uninformed person regarding what they think the addict's rights should (or should not) be. In fact, this was not a drug bust but a confiscation of addicts' confidential medical records, and they have not been returned to date.
4This is a legitimate physician with a license to dispense methadone legally to addicts. The addicts are just as law abiding as anyone else who goes to a physician--unless or until they are convicted of a crime. Their records are supposedly just as confidential as any patient. The words "addict" and "criminal" are not synonymous.
5A random urinalysis.
Cantor, G. (1989, October 2). Smoking crack differs from drinking a beer. The
Detroit News, p. B3.
Datesman, S. K. (1981). Women, crime, and drugs. In J. A. Inciardi (Ed.), The drugs/crime connection (pp. 85-104). Beverly Hills: Sage Publications, Inc.
Dembo, R., Williams, L., & Schmeidler, J. (1993). Addressing the problems of substance abuse in juvenile corrections. In J. A. Inciardi (Ed.), Drug treatment and criminal justice (pp. 97-126). Newbury Park: Sage Publications, Inc.
Glaser, D. (1974). Interlocking dualities in drug use, drug control, and crime. In J. A. Inciardi & C. D. Chambers (Eds.), Drugs and the criminal justice system (pp. 39-56). Beverly Hills: Sage Publications, Inc.
Greenberg, S. M. (1974). Compounding a felony: Drug abuse and the American legal system. In J. A. Inciardi & C. D. Chambers (Eds.), Drugs and the criminal justice system (pp. 183-202). Beverly Hills: Sage Publications, Inc.
Hyde, M. O. (1990). Drug wars. New York: Walker and Company.
Inciardi, J. A. (1986). The war on drugs: Heroin, cocaine, crime, and public policy. Palo Alto: Mayfield Publishing Company.
Jefwriter. (1995, July 20). Conquering the urine tests. America Online.
Kappeler, V. E., Blumberg, M., & Potter, G. W. (1993). The mythology of crime and criminal justice. Prospect Heights: Waveland Press, Inc.
Kenworthy, T. (1988, September 19). House's tough antidrug bill called war on bill of rights: Measure would transform the legal system. Washington Post, pp. A1+.
King, R. (1974). "The American system": Legal sanctions to repress drug abuse. In J. A. Inciardi & C. D. Chambers (Eds.), Drugs and the criminal justice system (pp. 17-38). Beverly Hills: Sage Publications, Inc.
McBride, D. C. (1981). Drugs and violence. In J. A. Inciardi (Ed.), The drugs- crime connection (pp.105-124). Beverly Hills: Sage Publications, Inc.
McGlothlin, W. H. & Tabbush, V. C. (1974). Costs, benefits, and potential for alternative approaches to opiate addiction control. In J. A. Inciardi & C. D. Chambers (Eds.), Drugs and the criminal justice system (pp. 77-124). Beverly Hills: Sage Publications, Inc.
Monson, M. C. (1980, November). The dirty little secret behind our drug laws. Reason. Reprinted in Drugs, Volume 3. (Boca Raton, Fla: Social Issues Resources Series, Inc., 1980), Article No. 19.
Musial, R. (1989, September 20). First traffic check lanes set up. The Detroit Free Press, pp. 3A, 19A).
Nakken, C. (1991). An addictive personality may cause chemical dependency. In D. L. Bender & B. Leone (Series Eds.) & C. P. Cozic & K. Swisher (Book Eds.), Chemical dependency: Opposing viewpoints, (pp. 30-37). San Diego: Greenhaven Press, Inc.
Oakley, R., Ph. D., & Ksir, C., Ph. D. (1987). Drugs, Society and Human Behavior. St. Louis, Missouri: Times Mirror/Mosby College Publishing.
Pan, H., Scarpitti, F. R., Inciardi, J. A., & Lockwood, D. (1993). Some considerations on therapeutic communities in corrections. In J. A. Inciardi (Ed.), Drug treatment and criminal justice (pp. 30-43). Newbury Park: Sage Publications, Inc.
Peele, S. (1991). Personal choice causes cocaine addiction. In D. L. Bender & B. Leone (Series Eds.) & C. P. Cozic & K. Swisher (Book Eds.), Chemical dependency: Opposing viewpoints, (pp. 38-44). San Diego: Greenhaven Press, Inc.
Peters, R. H. (1993). Drug treatment in jails and detention settings. In J. A. Inciardi (Ed.), Drug treatment and criminal justice (pp. 44-80). Newbury Park: Sage Publications, Inc.
Ritzer, G. (1983). Contemporary Sociological Theory. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.
Scullum, J. (1991). Secondary Smoke is not harmful to nonsmokers. In D. L. Bender & B. Leone (Series Eds.) & C. P. Cozic & K. Swisher (Book Eds.), Chemical dependency: Opposing viewpoints, (pp. 72-78). San Diego: Greenhaven Press, Inc.
Sowell, T. (1989, October 2). Bush's war on drugs another Vietnam? The Detroit News.
Swartz, J. (1993). TASC--The next 20 years: Extending, refining, and assessing the model. In J. A. Inciardi (Ed.), Drug treatment and criminal justice (pp. 127-148). Newbury Park: Sage Publications, Inc.
Szasz, T. (1990). Foreword. In S. Wisotsky Beyond the war on drugs: Overcoming a failed public policy. Buffalo: Prometheus Books.
Tuerke, T. (1990, 1991). Quote for the day, v1.1. Courtesy of Gravesend BBS.
Wellisch, J., Anglin, M. D., & Prendergast, M. L. (1993). Treatment strategies for drug-abusing women offenders. In J. A. Inciardi (Ed.), Drug treatment and criminal justice (pp. 5-29). Newbury Park: Sage Publications, Inc.
Top of Page
To Home Page