The Beginning Of The End Of The War On Drugs?
As E.D. notes, this is good to see:
Kain is skeptical, however, that we’ll see other politicians follow Christie’s lead on this one and embrace a more rational policy towards non-violent drug offenders:
It’s certainly a welcome brand of conservative politics. But will it really appeal to other conservative politicians? In states where the drug war is far more popular than in New Jersey, I doubt this line of reasoning is going to resonate. Furthermore, most politicians aren’t Christie and can’t pull off the tough and sincere thing the way Christie can.
I’m congenitally not one optimism, but I actually think there’s more reason to think that the height of — to put it in terms a Christie voters might like — the Big Government War On Drugs is already or will be soon behind us. The main reason being that, as others have noted within the context of debating Ron Paul’s relative merits, when it comes to incarceration, the War On Drugs is primarily an effort of the States. And as everyone is painfully aware, the Great Recession has been an absolute disaster for most States’ budgets. So that’s why we’re seeing an uptick in Governors — often conservatives ones — proposing initiatives vis-à-vis drug-related arrests that only recently would’ve been political poison.
Take Georgia Governor Nathan Deal, for example:
The Georgia House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly on Wednesday to create a commission that will recommend reforms to Georgia’s prison system aimed at curbing costs without sacrificing public safety.
The bill, which passed 169-1 and now moves to the Senate, came less than a week after lawmakers gave final passage to Deal’s plan to address a looming budget shortfall in the HOPE Scholarship program.Georgia has the nation’s fourth-highest incarceration rate, forcing the state to spend more than $1 billion a year on prisons.
“[Deal’s bill] and the reforms that it will ultimately create will allow Georgia to stop wasting money on expensive short-term prison services for drug addicts and the mentally ill,” Rep. Jay Neal, R-Lafayette, the bill’s chief sponsor and one of the governor’s House floor leaders, told his legislative colleagues.“
Instead, it will allow the state to provide treatment that helps the individual, relieves our overburdened justice system and saves the state money.”
And as this Truthout article points out, this is something with genuine bi-partisan cooperation:
The push to reform the prison system has brought unlikely allies together. Earlier this year, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People joined forces with Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich who is part of a new prison reform initiative called Right on Crime.
In September, Inimai Chettiar, policy counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union wrote about speaking alongside members of Right on Crime and the faith-based Prison Fellowship at the American Bar Association’s initiative to “Save States Money, Reform Criminal Justice and Keep the Public Safe.”
“Never before have so many legislators, governors and advocates from all sides of the aisle come together with a single unifying theme on criminal justice: we need to end our addiction to incarceration,” she writes.
This isn’t to say, of course, that the battle is won and the War On Drugs as we know it is over. But there’s definitely cause for optimism. After all, politicians are almost always following the people — and if a savvy pol like Christie is moving out in front of this issue, it’s likely that we’ll find that most people have long since changed their mind about what constitutes acceptable treatment for non-violent offenders.