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A Comment On the FBI Crime Report

By Claude Tower, Prisoner of War in America

The 1997 FBI Crime Report is in the public press and, expectedly, is another salvo in the barrage on our liberties.

The report is peppered with admissions that the drug war (which has gone on how long and at what cost?) has had a result of nil. "Illicit drug use by Americans of all ages remained fairly steady" and "A police department can target drug dealers or users" and arrest any amount it wants to" are typical excerpts. The FBI concludes that "this social ill shows no sign of abating."

The report catalogues the increase of drug arrests, up 35% between 1990 and 1995, and now at 1.5 million per annum and climbing. "The total impact of drug abuse on society is immeasurable," the document intones. One can easily doubt, though, that the drugs themselves are pitching one and a half million lives a year into the toilet. Intuition would suggest thousands, maybe tens of thousands, but nowhere near millions. "The cost to law enforcement alone is astronomical," the FBI statisticians conclude. Especially for having no net effect, we could say.

Can we have some sane discussion about what all this is really dealing with? Drug use, without the element of addiction, is mere hedonism, indistinguishable from social drinking. Our brutal and collectivist zero-tolerance demagogues have decreed that all use is abuse and tried to erase the difference between enjoyment and addiction

Drug abuse, or addiction, is a disease, comparable to alcoholism-a mental, physical and spiritual disorder which will not respond to any amount of punishment. In spite of the futility of retribution, addiction is not an insoluble problem. Millions of people are enjoying successful recoveries For example, among the ten percent of drinkers who at some point lose control there is a large, growing and influential recovery community. There are varying percentages of the users of other drugs who become problematical, but the conclusion remains: legal sanction of the chemically dependent is cruel and ineffective. Yet the FBI report blithely assumes it is the only "remedy," and implies that we only need more of it. The gaps in the wisdom of our culture are wide.

These hair shirt punishment freaks like Newt Gingrich and Orin Hatch have the public in such a state of fear that they forfeit their tolerance for an imagined protection from dope fiend crazies. The result has been the onset of totalitarianism. Of course we inmates know dictatorship already. Imprisonment is the absolute violation of the self by institutionalized coercion. The reasons for this use of force do not rely on any transcendental truth as far as we are concerned, but on naked compulsion claiming to be its own justification.

So we now have what amounts to a religious war over psychoactive substances. Both sides fervently advance their version of revealed truth. The other side is not only mistaken, but evil. The stakes are immense and increasing for everyone involved. My boss at work here in prison was exultant when the 1995 crime bill passed Congress. "Yessss!" he screamed, "I'm in a growth industry!"

Well. Whatever the impact of drug abuse, we should remember that 95% of it in the United States is alcohol abuse. So when we have eliminated every shred of every illegal substance-an absurd proposition given that every penitentiary is full of them-we will then have eliminated 5% of the problem. In fact, if there were no illicit substances there would be increased alcohol consumption and the situation would change very little. And whatever "astronomical" cost to law enforcement (fact: about $16 billion per year), the cost to the 1.5 million citizens who fall into the drug punishment system annually is many times as much. The "solution" has become a bigger problem than the problem ever was.

Now comes the Clinton Administration with a $178 million anti-drug campaign led by the reincarnated William Bennett, meant to silence Gingrich (probably not possible), and to frighten our citizens away from becoming intoxicated (about as likely).

Of course dealing with real problems, such as the estimated $100 billion annual Medicare and Medicaid fraud perpetrated by "health providers," isn't as sexy or easy and doesn't get the electoral hand that bashing the stigmatized and disabled with FBI reports does. Our morally feeble politicians will never provide a society worthy of humanity till we demand it in undeniable numbers. The situation has to change, and it starts here and now.

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