Tag Archives: War on Drugs

September Links: Why We Judge, Laptops in Classrooms, Debtors’ Prisons, the Folly of the War on Drugs, and More!

* “Big chains pay better than mom and pop stores,” which is counter to the dominant narrative.

* “Don’t Send Your Kid to the Ivy League: The nation’s top colleges are turning our kids into zombies,” which matches my (anecdotal) experience.

* Suburban sprawl and bad transit can crush opportunity for the poor.

* “Study: Decriminalizing prostitution could drastically cut HIV infections,” which is sufficiently obvious that I almost don’t want to include it.

* “Another Challenge of Parenting While Poor: Wealthy Judges;” this sort of point is under-understood.

* To the surprise of no one: “Why a New Jersey school district decided giving laptops to students is a terrible idea.”

* “Why So Many People Care So Much About Others’ Sex Lives,” which makes a number of points I’ve observed at various times in various places.

* We updated our post “There Will Be No Fighting in the War Room: An Example of Nonprofit Non-Collaboration in Susan G. Komen for the Cure.”

* Weird program alert: why is the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture running a grant program for Sexual Assault Prevention Research (SAPR)? Isn’t that a bit outside their purview?

* “A brash tech entrepreneur thinks he can reinvent higher education by stripping it down to its essence, eliminating lectures and tenure along with football games, ivy-covered buildings, and research libraries. What if he’s right?”

* Did you know that Texas has an official, state-funded Emancipation Juneteenth Commission?

* Ferguson and the Modern Debtor’s Prison.

* Video shows St. Louis police murdering a man.

* “Multiple Lovers, Without Jealousy: Polyamorous people still face plenty of stigmas, but some studies suggest they handle certain relationship challenges better than monogamous people do;” has anyone written the great polyamorous novel? Could anyone?

* Disturbing stats on black-white inequality. See also Ta-Nehisi Coates, as recommended by commenter James, “

* “Elder Statesmen Declare a War on the ‘War on Drugs:’ What took them so long?” Excellent question.

* Foundation priorities can change rapidly, Ebola edition.

* In our favorite weird grant of the month, the Department of the Interior, National Parks Service has announced a single grant for the Lower Eastside Tenement Museum.

The Existence of Drug Courts Implicitly Acknowledgement Failed Public Policy: An Example From the “Grants to Expand Substance Abuse Treatment Capacity” Program

Occasionally, an RFP will inadvertently show how one part of the government recognizes and tries to mitigate the unfortunate effects that come from another part of the government.

We—naturally—have an example of this principle in action: readers of last week’s e-mail grant newsletter probably saw “Grants to Expand Substance Abuse Treatment Capacity In Adult, Juvenile, and Family Drug Courts,” which offers funding “to expand and/or enhance substance abuse treatment services in existing adult, juvenile, and family “problem solving” courts which use the treatment drug court model in order to provide alcohol and drug treatment.”

Creating “‘problem solving’ courts” is another way of saying that conventional drug prohibition has failed, and conventional courts are a poor means of dealing with drugs. According to SAMHSA, they don’t solve problems; they are at best neutral, or they actually create problems. If they solved problems, we wouldn’t need new courts to solve problems.

Conventional courts, in other words, exacerbate the negative societal outcomes that drug laws impose or encourage. Right now, we’ve got a self-reinforcing legal system, because becoming involved in that system will ruin your life because the system itself will ruin your life for you.

SAMHSA realizes this to some extent. By funding “Grants to Expand Substance Abuse Treatment Capacity In Adult, Juvenile, and Family Drug Courts,” a combination of SAMHSA staffers and Congress are implicitly admitting that drug prohibition doesn’t work, and the enforcement effort behind prohibition doesn’t work. This is fairly obvious to anyone involved in the system, or anyone who has seen the movie Traffic and read Daniel Okrent’s brilliant book Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition. Or anyone who has read articles like “The global war on drugs has cost billions and taken countless lives — but achieved little. The scant results finally have politicians and experts joining calls for legalization.”

We, as a society, had the good sense to give up on Vietnam and now Afghanistan. Vietnam is now trying to join the global economy. The crazy system built around the “War on Drugs” helps no one except people employed as prison guards* and in other enforcement capacities. The money that we currently direct to prisons and police could be directed to treatment and prevention, while the black-market transactions that currently take place on street corners could take place in Rite-Aids and be taxed.

While I wouldn’t recommend that friends starting snorting coke every weekend, there are plenty of functional alcoholics and addicts out there. Alcoholism or drug abuse aren’t attractive lifestyles to me, but some people live them, and the second- and third-order effects of trying to stop those people are worse than the problems those people might cause by indulging in drugs or booze.

(Another note: there was $2,500,000 for this program in 2010 and almost $13,000,000 available now. This could be an example of random program funding drift, or it could say something about current federal priorities.)


* California’s guards are particularly pernicious, as “Fading are the peacemakers: One of California’s most powerful political forces may have peaked” and “Big Labor’s Lock ‘Em Up Mentality: How otherwise progressive unions stand in the way of a more humane correctional system” demonstrate. These problems are well-known to California policy wonks but too little known among everyone else.

More on Drugs

Drug use, like healthcare and a number of other modern political background noises, offer endless fodder for debate and study, especially when mixed with teenagers. Now the New York Times has an article about teenagers, risky behaviors, and why some programs aimed at teens are likely to fail:

For example, a study by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, found that teenagers were more likely than adults to overestimate risks for every outcome studied, from low-probability events like contracting H.I.V. to higher-probability ones like acquiring more common sexually transmitted diseases or becoming pregnant from a single act of unprotected sex.

“We found that teenagers quite rationally weigh benefits and risks,” Dr. Reyna said in a recent interview. “But when they do that, the equation delivers the message to go ahead and do that, because to the teen the benefits outweigh the risks.”

For example, she said: “The risk of pregnancy from a single act of unprotected sex is quite small, perhaps one chance in 12, and the risk of contracting H.I.V., about one in 500, is very much smaller than that. We’re not thinking logically; they are.”

For that reason, [two professors wrote in an article that] traditional programs […] appeal[ling] to teenagers’ rationality “are inherently flawed, not because teens fail to weigh risks against benefits,” but because “teens tend to weight benefits more heavily than risks when making decisions.”

In light of research like this, programs designed to prevent teens behaving badly are unlikely to be cut or shrunk any time soon because teenage risk-taking is a perennial and perhaps biological imperative. This is great news for nonprofits that seek grants in the apparently endless “War on Drugs” to save teens from themselves.

(Hat tip to Marginal Revolution.)