Violent crimes is down, but what about other kinds?
Over 125 years ago, in a death penalty case called In re Medley, 134 U.S. 160, 170-71 (1890), the United States Supreme Court wrote that solitary confinement was a “further terror and peculiar mark of infamy.” The Court described it further as an “additional punishment of the most important and painful character.”
Alluding to this ancient recognition of solitary confinement’s mind-destroying, soul-sapping, and otherwise dehumanizing effects – a view shared today by every reputable mental health professional, scientist, and reasonable, justice-loving person – Justice Kennedy wrote (in his 2015 concurrence in Davis v. Ayala, 135 S. Ct. 2187, 2209-10): “The human toll wrought by extended terms of isolation long has been understood, and questioned, by writers and commentators.” Kennedy’s opinion highlights the unsurprising conclusion that, “research still confirms what this Court suggested over a century ago: Years on end of near total isolation exact a terrible price.”
The massive enforcement of laws criminalizing personal drug use and possession in the United States causes devastating harm, Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said in a joint report released today. Enforcement ruins individual and family lives, discriminates against people of color, and undermines public health. The federal and state governments should decriminalize the personal use and possession of illicit drugs.
The 196-page report, “Every 25 Seconds: The Human Toll of Criminalizing Drug Use in the United States,” finds that enforcement of drug possession laws causes extensive and unjustifiable harm to individuals and communities across the country. The long-term consequences can separate families; exclude people from job opportunities, welfare assistance, public housing, and voting; and expose them to discrimination and stigma for a lifetime. While more people are arrested for simple drug possession in the US than for any other crime, mainstream discussions of criminal justice reform rarely question whether drug use should be criminalized at all.
In November 2016, voters in at least nine states will decide whether to legalize marijuana for medical or recreational use, according to a running tally by The Cannabist, a project of The Denver Post. Recreational use of the drug is already permitted in a handful of states, and can be prescribed by doctors in over half, though it remains banned under federal law.
Reports on the issue suggest voters are concerned: does marijuana use affect crime rates? A growing body of research addresses the question, tackling arguments used often by opponents and advocates of marijuana liberalization.
What causes societal change? Crime. From acts of civil disobedience to organized criminal endeavors; it’s somebody willing to stand up and claim a dormant or unasserted right that forces government’s to change. Contrary to the founding documents of this country, rights are not “self-evident”. If they were, “we the people” would have meant more than “we the people who are white” when the words were first penned. Rights are claimed, asserted, and sometimes taken by force.
The “law and order” crowd is squirming at the concept. Luckily, the members of that crowd are typically ardent defenders of the Second Amendment. That right wasn’t always there. Reaching back through history, tyrants of all sorts disarmed their populations. That right was claimed through the blood of criminals. Of course, today we call them “patriots” but that was a different year. They were criminals and traitors, nothing more. They only became heroes once they succeeded in claiming their rights.
Studies have long shown that a child’s environment influences—for better or worse—his or her opportunities for success later in life. Children from high-poverty areas generally fare worse across a wide range of measures, from income to health to psychological well-being. Policymakers, meanwhile, grapple with how to craft programs to level the playing field for low-income children and reduce problems such as teen violence and school dropout rates.