Incarceration, Asset Forfeiture, Arrests, Informants, Police Raids, Search and Seizure

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Lunatic Easily Convinces Police He's a Federal Drug Agent

What happens when a crazy person tells local police he's a federal agent and offers to help them fight drugs?

Busts began. Houses were ransacked. People, in handcuffs on their front lawns, named names. To some, like Mayor Otis Schulte, who considers the county around Gerald, population 1,171, “a meth capital of the United States,” the drug scourge seemed to be fading at last.

Those whose homes were searched, though, grumbled about a peculiar change in what they understood, from television mainly, to be the law.

They said the agent, a man some had come to know as “Sergeant Bill,” boasted that he did not need search warrants to enter their homes because he worked for the federal government.

Sergeant Bill, it turned out, was no federal agent, but Bill A. Jakob, an unemployed former trucking company owner, a former security guard, a former wedding-performing minister, a former small-town cop from 23 miles down the road. [New York Times]

The whole thing provides yet another exhibit in the colossal incompetence that has become so routine and predictable in the war on drugs. If some nutjob showed up at the fire department with a badge and an axe, they'd tell him to hit the road. They wouldn't follow him in and out of burning buildings.

It is precisely because of the massive multi-tiered drug war bureaucracy that his psychotic scheme seemed somehow plausible to everyone. Drug enforcement is the one occupation so lacking in accountability, so consumed by macho tough-guy posturing, that some maniac can just walk through the door and fit right in. It's a match made in hell.

And it wasn't even the cops who figured out he was an imposter. It was a reporter, months into this mindboggling hoax. Even when he recklessly and routinely violated suspects' constitutional rights, the police who followed him around never thought anything of it. That's how easy it is. His flagrantly illegal and incompetent behavior actually made them think he was real.

That this even happened is a potent testament to the fact that drug enforcement in America is thoroughly rotten and diseased to its core. If you see vultures circling around something, you know it is not healthy.

No Charges Filed Against Man Who Mistook A Cop For a Burglar and Shot Him

Anyone who has followed the Cory Maye and Ryan Frederick cases knows how hard it is to convince police and prosecutors that you thought you were being burglarized when you fired on police who charged into your home unexpectedly.

This bizarre story from Alabama puts a new twist on that tragically familiar narrative:

An off-duty Huntsville police officer was shot in the shoulder early Saturday when a friend mistook him for a burglar.

Police Chief Henry Reyes said Tony McElyea, a Strategic Counterdrug Team agent, decided to surprise a good friend and former police academy cadet at his home in the 1300 block of Virginia Boulevard.

McElyea, his girlfriend, and the friend's wife snuck into the home at about 2:30 a.m.

McElyea walked down the hallway and started shouting "Wake up, wake up," at his friend, Reyes said.

The friend, who Reyes said didn't immediately recognize McElyea, grabbed a .38-caliber revolver and shot him.

"It's just one of those things where he got startled and reacted," Reyes said. "It's unfortunate that it happened, but it's fortunate that it's not any worse."

The incident has been ruled an accident, and no charges will be filed against the shooter, whose name was not immediately released. [Huntsville Times]

So apparently, when you take the botched drug raid out of the equation, suddenly it makes perfect sense that someone would use force to defend their home when intruders come bursting in. Of course, in this case there was no warrant and no vague criminal activity for which the homeowner could be accused of attempting to evade capture. So maybe it's a little unfair to compare this to the Maye and Frederick cases.

Still, it's just impossible to ignore the fact that Cory Maye and Ryan Frederick are no more guilty than this man, who wasn't even charged. They made the same fundamental error he made: thinking that their lives were in danger and using force against the intruder. It shouldn’t matter whether or not police had a warrant. The bottom line is that if police behave like burglars, they might be mistaken for burglars. Citizens who make that mistake are not guilty of murdering a cop. They are victims of bad policing brought on by a bad drug policy.

Europe: Hashish Growers Fight Police in "Greece's Colombia"

Three Greek police officers taking part in a raid on a hashish plantation were ambushed and shot by suspected growers armed with AK-47s Sunday night, leaving one officer in critical condition with a head wound. The attack took place in the village of Malades on the Greek island of Crete, about nine miles from Heraklion, the island's largest city.
Port of Heraklion, Crete
Sunday's shooting is the second serious attack by hash growers against police on the island in seven months. Last November, three police officers were shot and wounded when their convoy was headed to the village of Zoniana, just west of Heraklion. The Greek government responded with a massive police sweep and house-to-house searches. Police arrested 16 people in connection with the ambush and a series of bank robberies, but recovered few of the heavy weapons believed to have been used in that assault.

Crete has a longstanding tradition of gun-ownership, and weapons remain readily available despite police efforts to crack down. Marijuana growing is rife in remote mountain villages on the island. Marijuana growers and dealers routinely take pot-shots at police helicopters or vehicles patrolling their area, prompting the Greek media to refer to the region as a "Greek Colombia" and a "state within a state," according to Agence France-Presse. Local officials in Crete are often accused of protecting growers and traffickers, the agency noted.

As was the case after the Zoniana ambush, Greek police responded this week with another manhunt. Greek Police head Vassilis Tsiatouras ordered a contingent of police from Athens to the scene, including Greek SWAT teams, members of the criminology service, officers of the police drugs squad, and members of the homicide force. In all likelihood, their search will reach the same inconclusive results as before.

Help Needed: Drug War Chronicle Seeking Cases of Informant Abuse

Many of our readers know about the tragic case of Rachel Hoffman, a 23-year-old in Tallahassee, Florida, who was killed by drug dealers after police coerced her into acting as an informant without having access to an attorney. Drug War Chronicle is currently looking for cases, reported or unreported, in which police appear to have committed misconduct or made serious misjudgments in their treatment of informants.

If you can help us find such cases, please email David Borden at [email protected]. We will keep your name and personal information confidential unless you tell us otherwise. If you are uncomfortable sending this information by email, feel free to contact us by phone instead; our office number is (202) 293-8340, and you can speak or leave a message with David Borden or David Guard. Thank you in advance for your help.

Further information on the informant issue, including the Rachel Hoffman case, can be found in our category archive here.

The Sentencing Project Responds to Inaccurate Column by George Will

In a recent syndicated column ("More Prisons, Less Crime), commentator George Will argues that the world record incarceration rate in the United States has produced safer streets and has been beneficial in particular to African Americans, who are disproportionately victims of crime. Will's selective use of data and limited vision provide an inaccurate portrayal of current criminal justice policy and its effects.

In a briefing paper, The Sentencing Project refutes Will's argument on prison racial disparities, federal crack cocaine sentencing and the impact of incarceration on crime.

Do Prisons Equal Less Crime? provides an assessment of some of the key arguments raised in the Will column. We hope you find this analysis useful in your work.

-The Sentencing Project

George Will's Weak Defense of Our Embarrassing Incarceration Rates

If you take George Will's word for it, you might come away thinking we're 2 million more prisoners away from ending crime in America once and for all. His Sunday Washington Post column, More Prisoners, Less Crime, begins by attacking liberals for not loving incarceration enough, proceeds to deny racial disparities in our criminal justice system, and closes by suggesting that prisons might be better for society than universities. Needless to say, it was linked approvingly by the White House drug czar, John Walters.

Will would have us believe that all progress towards reducing crime rates is the exclusive result of increased incarceration, ignoring all other factors, and even mocking "liberals" who focus on addressing "flawed social conditions." Amazingly, Will manages to reach his singular conclusion without even telling us how far crime rates have actually dropped. It's a glaring and convenient omission, since any criticism of his shallow and needlessly partisan analysis is difficult without knowing what numbers he's looking at. For example, since the incarceration boom began in the 1970's, the biggest drop in crime rates occurred during the mid-90's, a period of increased economic opportunity, which took place under a democratic administration.

In his book "The Great American Crime Decline," crime expert Franklin Zimring, PhD notes:

Since a huge increase in incarceration was the major policy change in
American criminal justice in the last three decades of the twentieth
century, one would expect many observers to give this boom in
imprisonment the lion's share of the credit for declining crime in the
United States. One problem with such an assumption is that massive
doses of increased incarceration had been administered throughout the
1970s and 1980s with no consistent and visible impact on crime.

The Vera Institute reports that only 25% of the crime drop of the mid-90's was attributable to incarceration. Moreover, since the prison population grew by a staggering 638% between 1970 and 2005, any benefits actually derived through incarceration are achieved at a massive cost, both fiscally and in terms of huge numbers of individual people whose imprisonment didn’t actually reduce crime. I mean, crime didn't drop 638%, obviously.

The idea of using incarceration to incapacitate the most serious offenders is ancient and perfectly logical in and of itself. A small minority of offenders commit a large percentage of crimes, thus if we can remove the worst recidivists from society, we'll achieve substantial gains in crime control. The problem is that each successive year of heavy incarceration will impact fewer of these serious offenders, precisely because so many of them are already behind bars. These diminishing returns ensure that lock 'em up policies will become progressively less effective over time, thus incapacitation could not achieve a sustained or proportionate crime reduction even if it were the sole factor, which it is not.

Finally, much of this has limited, if any, applicability to the illicit drug market, which has thoroughly withstood the incarceration boom. Drug sales, unlike rapes and murders, never decrease when the people responsible are removed. Thus, the Drug Czar's enthusiasm for Will's conclusions may have more to do with his appreciation for any spirited defense of the prison population than an actual belief that we've made progress towards reducing the drug trade specifically. Disruptions in the drug market actually increase violence, as we're seeing in Mexico, therefore any sustained reductions in violent crime we've achieved through incarceration could be expanded dramatically by ending the drug war and regulating illicit drug sales. There is absolutely no public safety interest in incapacitating non-violent drug offenders, who will only be replaced, while the State continues to foot the bill for their imprisonment.

Fortunately, for anyone frustrated by the mindlessness of those who still defend our embarrassingly massive prison population, understand this: we literally cannot afford to keep doing this. Not because it has ravished urban communities, and thoroughly corrupted the administration of justice in America, nor because it has fostered the growth of a paramilitary police state that routinely steamrolls the due process of our laws. And not even because the people themselves have grown suspicious of our towering prison industrial complex and the tiresome rhetoric employed by its champions. We cannot afford to keep doing this because we just don’t have enough money to indefinitely continue supporting these horrible things.

Eventually, even our most vengeful and ferocious legislators and bureaucrats will have to make better decisions about who to put in our prisons. And when that day arrives, decades of so-called "tough-on-crime" talk will immediately be brushed to the fringes where it has belonged for generations.

Update: Unsurprisingly, Pete Guither is all over this at DrugWarRant.

Law Enforcement: SWAT Run Amok

Two recent incidents involving SWAT teams are adding fuel to the fire in the emerging controversy over the routine use of such paramilitarized police units to prosecute the drug war. In Chicago, the Chicago Police Department has been hit with a $10 million lawsuit over a September raid on a social club. Meanwhile, in Florida, the Pembroke Pines Police Department Special Response Team, a SWAT-style unit, shot and killed a 46-year-old homeowner in a dawn raid June 13 that netted a whopping three-quarters of an ounce of marijuana.
SWAT team, Pasadena, Texas
(There is even more trouble on the SWAT front. Read blogger Scott Morgan's post about the murder prosecution of raid victim Derrick Foster and the killing of raid victim Gonzalo Guizan, here. is committed to ending these abuses. Sign our online petition here.)

In the Chicago raid, raw video of which is available here (part one) and here (part two), Chicago SWAT team officers dressed as if heading for combat in Baghdad hit the La Familia Motorcycle Club as it was being used for a birthday party. Officers exploded stun grenades, pointed assault weapons at people cowering in hallways, and, according to the attorney who filed the lawsuit, did so without producing a search warrant.

Attorney George Becker said police also stole $1,500 from amusement machines and $1,000 from a safe they broke open during the raid. Becker also said five women at the club were strip-searched by female officers in front of male officers and club patrons. Becker said those parts of the raid were not recorded because officers pointed surveillance cameras at the ceiling.

"It looked to me like the Chicago Police Department is engaging in military-type activity," said Becker after showing the raid video.

But police are unrepentant. "We believe the officers acted within department guidelines in executing the legal search warrant," Police Department spokeswoman Monique Bond said.

Although police said an informant had told them a shipment of drugs was destined for the building, they seized only a small quantity of drugs and one hand-gun. Two arrests were made -- one on a bond forfeiture warrant and one for reckless conduct.

Police in Pembroke Pines, Florida, are also unrepentant about their SWAT raid that left Victor Hodgkiss dead. Police have released few details about what exactly went down during the dawn raid, except to say they he was shot and killed after confronting them as they entered his home on a no-knock drug search warrant. The raid netted one arrest -- of the girlfriend of Hodgkiss's son, who was charged with possession of less than 20 grams of marijuana.

"We use SRT for all narcotics warrants," Pembroke Pines Deputy Police Chief David Golt told Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel columnist Mike Mayo, who wrote a scathing column denouncing the reflexive resort to SWAT-style tactics. "You never know what you're going to encounter."

As Mayo noted in his column: "In this case, a 46-year-old man with a concealed weapons permit and no record of violent crime encountered his demise in his home of 14 years."

Police did not say whether Hodgkiss was armed when he was shot, but they did say they recovered a weapon from the home.

The Hodgkiss killing bears eerie similarities with another Florida SWAT killing, the 2005 shooting death of Philip Diotaiuto, a 23-year-old bartender shot 10 times by officers after he grabbed a gun as they burst into his home in a dawn raid that netted little over an ounce of marijuana. No charges were ever filed against those officers, but a civil suit filed by Diotaiuto's family is pending.

In both cases, police were aware their target had a weapons permit and used that to justify their resort to SWAT team tactics. In both cases, people ended up being killed over trivial amounts of marijuana.

SWAT team policing excesses are nothing new, but seem to be on the upswing as the units, originally designed for hostage and other dangerous situations, are increasingly used routinely for drug search warrants and other law enforcement purposes. The Cato Institute's Radley Balko has compiled the primary source book for SWAT killings and other abuses, 2006's Overkill: The Rise of Paramilitary Police Raids in America.

Help Needed: Drug War Chronicle Seeking Cases of Informant Abuse

Many of our readers know about the tragic case of Rachel Hoffman, a 23-year-old in Tallahassee, Florida, who was killed by drug dealers after police coerced her into acting as an informant without having access to an attorney. Drug War Chronicle is currently looking for cases, reported or unreported, in which police appear to have committed misconduct or made serious misjudgments in their treatment of informants.

If you can help us find such cases, please email David Borden at [email protected]. We will keep your name and personal information confidential unless you tell us otherwise. If you are uncomfortable sending this information by email, feel free to contact us by phone instead; our office number is (202) 293-8340, and you can speak or leave a message with David Borden or David Guard. Thank you in advance for your help.

Further information on the informant issue, including the Rachel Hoffman case, can be found in our category archive here.

Feature: US Drug Policies Flawed and Failed, Experts Tell Congressional Committee

The US Congress Joint Economic Committee yesterday held a historic hearing on the economic costs of US drug policy. The hearing, titled Illegal Drugs: Economic Impact, Societal Costs, Policy Responses, was called at the request of Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA), who in his opening remarks described the all-too-familiar failure of US drug policy to accomplish the goals it has set for itself. It was the second hearing related to incarceration that Webb has convened under the auspices of this committee.
Jim Webb at 2007 incarceration hearing (photo from
"Our insatiable demand for drugs" drives the drug trade, Webb pointed out. "We're spending enormous amounts of money to interdict drug shipments, but supplies remain consistent. Some 86% of high schoolers report easy access to marijuana. Cocaine prices have fallen by about 80% since the 1980s," the freshman senator continued. "Efforts to curb illegal drug use have relied heavily on enforcement. The number of people in custody on drug charges has increased 13-fold in the past 25 years, yet the flow of drugs remains undiminished. Drug convictions and collateral punishments are devastating our minority communities," Webb said.

"Our current policy mix is not working the way we want it to," Webb declared. "The ease with which drugs can be obtained, the price, the number of people using drugs, the violence on the border all show that. We need to rethink our responses to the health effects, the economic impacts, the effect on crime. We need to rethink our approach to the supply and demand of drugs."

Such sentiments coming from a sitting senator in the US in 2008 are bold if not remarkable, and it's not the first time that Webb has uttered such words:

In March of last year, he told George Stephanopoulos on the ABC News program This Week: "One of the issues which never comes up in campaigns but it's an issue that's tearing this country apart is this whole notion of our criminal justice system, how many people are in our criminal justice system more -- I think we have two million people incarcerated in this country right now and that's an issue that's going to take two or three years to try to get to the bottom of and that's where I want to put my energy."

In his recently-released book, A Time to Fight, Webb wrote: "The time has come to stop locking up people for mere possession and use of marijuana," "It makes far more sense to take the money that would be saved by such a policy and use it for enforcement of gang-related activities" and "Either we are home to the most evil population on earth, or we are locking up a lot of people who really don't need to be in jail, for actions that other countries seem to handle in more constructive ways."

Still, drug reformers may be impatient with the level of rethinking presented at the hearing. While witnesses including University of Maryland criminologist Peter Reuter, author of "Drug War Heresies," and John Walsh, director of the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) offered strong and familiar critiques of various aspects of US drug policy, neither of the words "prohibition" or "legalization" were ever uttered, nor were the words "tax and regulate," and radical alternatives to current policy were barely touched upon. Instead, the emphasis seemed to be on adjusting the "mix" of spending on law enforcement versus treatment and prevention.

The other two witnesses at the hearing, Kings County (Brooklyn), New York, Assistant District Attorney Anne Swern and community coordinator Norma Fernandes of the same office, were there to talk up the success of drug court-style programs in their community.

[The written testimony of all four witnesses is available at the hearing web site linked above.]

"US drug policy is comprehensive, but unbalanced," said Reuter. "As much as 75% of spending goes to enforcement, mainly to lock up low-level drug dealers. Treatment is not very available. The US has a larger drug problem than other Western countries, and the policy measures to confront it have met with little success," he told the committee.

Reuter said there were some indications policymakers and the electorate are tiring of the drug war approach, citing California's treatment-not-jail Proposition 36, but there was little indication Congress was interested in serious analysis of programs and policies.

"Congress has been content to accept rhetoric instead of research," Reuter said, citing its lack of reaction to the Office of National Drug Control Policy's refusal to release a now three-year-old report on drug use levels during the Bush administration. "It's hardly a secret that ONDCP has failed to publish that report, but Congress has not bothered to do anything," he complained. "We need more emphasis on the analytic base for policy."

But even with the paltry evidence available to work with, Reuter was able to summarize a bottom line: "The US imprisons too many people and provides too little treatment," he said. "We need more than marginal changes."

"US drug policies have been in place for some time without much change except for intensification," said WOLA's Walsh, noting that coca production levels are as high as they were 20 years ago. "Since 1981, we have spent about $800 billion on drug control, and $600 billion of that on supply reduction. We need a stiff dose of historical reality as we contemplate what to do now," he told the committee.

With the basic policies in place for so long, some conclusions can now be drawn, Walsh said. "First, the balloon effect is real and fully relevant today. We've seen it time and time again, not just with crops, but also with drug smuggling routes. If we want to talk about actually reducing illicit crops and we know eradication only leads to renewed planting, we need to be looking for alternatives," he said.

"Second, there is continuing strong availability of illicit drugs and a long-term trend toward falling prices," Walsh said, strongly suggesting that interdiction was a failed policy. "The perennial goal is to drive up prices, but prices have fallen sharply. There is evidence of disruptions in the US cocaine market last year, but whether that endures is an open question and quite doubtful given the historical record," he said.

"Third, finding drugs coming across the border is like finding a needle in a haystack, or more like finding lots of needles in lots of different moving haystacks," he said. "Our legal commerce with Mexico is so huge that to think we can seal the borders is delusional."

With respect to the anti-drug assistance package for Mexico currently being debated in Congress, Walsh had a warning: "Even with US assistance, any reduction in the flow of drugs from Mexico is unlikely." Instead, Walsh said, lawmakers should adjust their supply-control objectives and expectations to bring them in line with that reality.

Changes in drug producing countries will require sustained efforts to increase alternative livelihoods. That in turn will require patience and a turn away from "the quick fix mentality that hasn't fixed anything," Walsh said.

"We can't expect sudden improvements; there is no silver bullet," Walsh concluded. "We need to switch to harm reduction approaches and recognize drugs and drug use as perennial problems that can't be eliminated, but can be managed better. We need to minimize not only the harms associated with drug use, but also those related to policies meant to control drugs."

"It is important to be able to discuss the realities of the situation, it's not always a comfortable thing to talk about," Webb said after the oral testimony. "This is very much a demand problem. I've been skeptical bout drug eradication programs; they just don't work when you're supplying such an enormous thirst on this end. We have to find ways to address demand other than locking up more people. We have created an incredible underground economic apparatus and we have to think hard about how to address it."

"The way in which we focused attention on the supply side has been very much mistaken," agreed Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-NY), who along with Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA) and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) were the only other solons attending the hearing. "All this focus on supply hasn't really done anything of any value. The real issue is demand, and prevention and dealing with people getting out of prison is the way to deal with this."

Reuter suggested part of the solution was in increase in what he called "coerced abstinence," or forced drug treatment. Citing the work of UCLA drug policy researcher Mark Kleiman, Reuter said that regimes of frequent testing with modest sanctions imposed immediately and with certainty can result "in a real decline in drug taking and criminal activity."

That got a nod of agreement from prosecutor Swern. "How long you stay in treatment is the best predictor of staying out of trouble or off drugs," she said. Swern is running a program with deferring sentencing, with some flexibility she said. "The beauty of our program is it allows us to give people many chances. If they fail in treatment and want to try again, we do that," she said.

As the hearing drew to an end, Webb had one last question: "Justice Department statistics show that of all drug arrests in 2005, 42.6% were for marijuana offenses. What about the energy expended arresting people for marijuana?" he asked, implicitly begging for someone to respond, "It's a waste of resources."

But no one connected directly with the floating softball. "The vast majority of those arrests are for simple possession," said Reuter. "In Maryland, essentially no one is sentenced to jail for marijuana possession, although about a third spend time in jail pre-trial. It's not as bad as it looks," he said sanguinely.

"There's violence around marijuana trafficking in Brooklyn," responded prosecutor Swern.

WOLA's Walsh came closest to a strong answer. "Your question goes to setting priorities," he said. "We need to discriminate among types of illicit drugs. Which do the most harm and deserve the most emphasis? Also, given the sheer number of marijuana users, what kind of dent can you make even with many more arrests?"

And so ended the first joint congressional hearing to challenge the dogmas of the drug war. For reformers that attended, there were generally thumbs up for Webb and the committee, mixed with a bit of disappointment that the hearings only went so far.

"It was extraordinary," said Sanho Tree, director of the Drug Policy Project at the DC-based Institute for Policy Studies. "They didn't cover some of the things I hoped they would, but I have to give them props for addressing the issue at all."

"Webb was looking for someone to say what he wanted to say with the marijuana question, that perhaps we should deemphasize law enforcement on that," said Doug McVay, policy analyst at Common Sense for Drug Policy, who also attended the hearing. "I don't think our witnesses quite caught what he was aiming for, an answer that arresting all those people for marijuana takes away resources that could be used to fight real crime."

Sen. Webb came in for special praise from Tree. "Perhaps because he's a possible vice presidential candidate, he had to tone things down a bit, but he is clearly not afraid to talk about over-incarceration, and using the Joint Economic Committee instead of Judiciary or Foreign Affairs is a brilliant use of that committee, because this is, after all, a policy with enormous economic consequences," Tree said. "Webb is clearly motivated by doing something about the high levels of incarceration. He held a hearing on it last year, and got the obvious answer that much of it is related to drug policy. Having heard that kind of answer, most politicians would walk away fast, but not Webb, so I have to give him credit."

Reversing the drug war juggernaut will not be easy. The Congressional Joint Economic Committee hearing Thursday was perhaps a small step toward that end, but it is a step in the right direction.

Drug Cops Shouldn’t be Paid With Confiscated Drug Money, But They Are

A disturbing report from NPR illustrates that many police departments have become dependent on confiscated drug proceeds in order to fund their anti-drug operations:

Every year, about $12 billion in drug profits returns to Mexico from the world's largest narcotics market — the United States. As a tactic in the war on drugs, law enforcement pursues that drug money and is then allowed to keep a portion as an incentive to fight crime.

Federal and state rules governing asset forfeiture explicitly discourage law enforcement agencies from supplementing their budgets with seized drug money or allowing the prospect of those funds to influence law enforcement decisions.

There is a law enforcement culture — particularly in the South — in which police agencies have grown, in the words of one state senator from South Texas, "addicted to drug money."

Just pause for a second and think about the implications of a drug war that funds itself with dirty money. It is just laughable to think that such conditions could exist without inviting routine corruption, from our disgraceful forfeiture laws to the habitual thefts and misconduct that occur with such frequency that we're able to publish a weekly column dedicated to them.

It is truly symbolic of the drug war's inherent hopelessness that illicit drug proceeds are needed in order to subsidize narcotics operations. If we ever actually succeeded at shrinking the drug market, we'd be defunding law-enforcement! Progress is rather obviously impossible under such circumstances.

Drug enforcement is a job like any other, and police have mouths to feed, bills to pay, maybe a little alimony here or there. So they take their paycheck and sign out; I don’t blame anyone for that in and of itself. But consider that law-enforcement operations artificially inflate the value of drugs, only to then hunt down those same proceeds, collect, and redistribute them within the police department. Morally, is that any better than the dealer who pushes dope to put food on the table?

Really, a structure such as this is not designed to achieve forward momentum towards reducing drug abuse. It's the law-enforcement equivalent of subsistence farming and it ought to warrant income substitution programs not unlike those we push on the peasants of Colombia and Afghanistan. All of this lends substantial credence to the popular conception that "the drug war was meant to be waged, not won."

Each day that the drug war rages on, its finely tuned mechanisms become more effective at sustaining itself and less effective at addressing the issues of drug abuse and public safety that supposedly justify these policies in the first place.

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