Who is the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition?

Our mission is to reverse the trend of mass incarceration in Colorado. We are a coalition of nearly 7,000 individual members and over 100 faith and community organizations who have united to stop perpetual prison expansion in Colorado through policy and sentence reform.

Our chief areas of interest include drug policy reform, women in prison, racial injustice, the impact of incarceration on children and families, the problems associated with re-entry and stopping the practice of using private prisons in our state.

If you would like to be involved please go to our website and become a member.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Quillen: Time to surrender - The Denver Post

Quillen: Time to surrender - The Denver Post

A fortnight ago, a respectable 19-member international commission announced that the "war on drugs," which the United States has been fighting for at least 40 years, is a catastrophic failure.

This announcement is about as surprising as "Sun rises in east," "Dogs tip over trash cans," or "Mayor-elect denies allegations." If you've paid any attention to this topic, you don't need the former president of Switzerland, or more recently some retired police chiefs, to tell you that in this war on drugs, drugs have won.

What we should do is arrange a televised surrender ceremony. Somebody dressed up as a giant pill or vial accepts the signature (on hemp paper, of course) of the American president and the Senate hastens to ratify the document.

But instead of taking the sensible approach, America persists in spending billions of dollars each year in a lost cause. And you have to wonder why.

The answers aren't that hard to find. As the classical expression goes, "Cui bono" (Who benefits?). Or, to go with a classic expression, "Follow the money."

The federal government spent about $15 billion last year on the war on drugs, and state and local government spent at least another $25 billion. One beneficiary is the pharmaceutical industry. If you could legally grow and roll your own analgesic, you wouldn't need to spend so much supporting an industry that spent $242 million on lobbying last year. Our representatives and senators doubtless appreciate the attention.

Beyond the drug-industry lobbying, the drug war offers an excellent employment program for federal, state and local enforcement agents, undercover agents, customs agent, snitches, snoops, prosecutors, investigators, lab technicians, prison guards, parole supervisors and the like. They all eat at the public trough, directly or indirectly, and naturally want to keep their jobs. So you can count on them to support the war on drugs with a passion and, during slow times, to create new threats ("We've got to outlaw bath salts before they corrupt a generation") to justify increasing their budgets.

That's a big group of supporters of the war on drugs, and we should remember that there's bound to be some bribery to increase the incomes of some enforcers — whose job can be to determine which criminals stay in business. Recall that J. Edgar Hoover certainly had his faults, but he refused to have his FBI agents enforce drug laws on account of the possibility for corruption.

And, of course, there are the criminals enriched by our drug laws. Making certain substances illegal drives the price up, thereby making for big profits for those cartels we read so much of these days. Obviously, they benefit from the war on drugs.

Given all this, it's easy to see why the war on drugs continues, even though it's a waste of time and money. Society at large suffers, but the cops and crooks who do benefit will do whatever it takes to preserve the status quo.

There are two presidential candidates this year who take their party's rhetoric seriously, in that they oppose the war on drugs: big government, intrusive government, government interference in medicine, waste of tax dollars, etc.

But neither Ron Paul, a Texas congressman, nor Gary Johnson, former governor of New Mexico, appears to have any chance of getting the Republican nomination. Which is a pity. As a way to save money and shrink government, eliminating the war on drugs makes a lot more sense than messing with Medicare.

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