With remarks to a civic group in Enfield recently, Superior Court Judge Howard Scheinblum engaged in what is seldom forgiven in Connecticut's public life: candor.
The judge asserted what can neither be denied nor acknowledged -- that public policy on drugs doesn't work. Speaking from his 15 years of experience on the bench, Scheinblum estimated 90 percent of criminal cases in Connecticut are connected in some way to the pursuit of illegal drugs, and he asserted that society would be far better off to let users of such drugs obtain them by prescription and to be charged for them according to their ability to pay.
That is, the judge said, drugs are not the problem, not the cause of thievery, robbery, and violence; drug prohibitions.
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I wonder how long it will take the wingnuts to start screaming about having him removed from the bench.
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Judge Scheinblum's analysis only seems cynical, but it has been borne out by the political action of Connecticut's prison guards union against the transfer of inmates to prisons out of state where costs of imprisonment are lower. The families of prisoners have protested as well, but the union didn't care about prisoner welfare; it cared about losing business.
The judge's analysis also has been borne out by state government's refusal to audit drug-criminalization policy. The policy's failure is obvious, but politicians are paralyzed by fear of the policy's financial beneficiaries and the fear of asking the public to challenge old but faulty assumptions.
As with many other policies in Connecticut that are never evaluated for results, the "war on drugs" is not meant to be won; it is meant to be waged. Even its racially disproportionate casualties are not enough to prompt politicians to engage in candor like Judge Scheinblum's. Indeed, Connecticut's politicians are happy to put half the state's young men of color in prison if the other half can be hired to guard them. [Link]
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It's all about money and votes [power].