The real problem with the drug war

By Angelou del Angel | Published Wednesday, November 14, 2012

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In response to “America’s Costliest War” and “Drugs are Bad, but the War Is Worse” (Messenger, Nov. 10, 2012): A tip of the hat to Rusty White for speaking out about the drug war. And of course, great articles. You nailed it down on all points save one: the private prison system.

Think of contractors like Wackenhut and CCD, folks that have even set up shop here in Bridgeport. Turning the penal system over to the private sector created these businesses with a financial interest in keeping growing numbers of Americans behind bars. The higher the prison population, the more their business grows.

Naturally, then, these companies’ best investment isn’t in more bars and more guards. It’s in getting more people into the penal system! They accomplish this through lobbying for harsher sentencing and a continuation of the failed drug war.

For government officials involved, these severe sentences are also good politics. Supporting them makes officials look tough on crime, while also getting them campaign funds through penal company lobbyists. It’s a situation with no downside for lobbyists, private prison companies and politicians, but with enormous social and budgetary setbacks for the nation as a whole.

I can get behind many libertarian arguments, but the penal system is a prime example of one government function that should NEVER be privatized. In fact, it’s probably costing us more this way, once things like CEO salaries and stockholder dividends are taken into account.

Hence, things aren’t going to change until we as citizens see through to what’s really going on at every level of government. Ask an elected official if they support harsher sentencing for nonviolent offenders. If they say yes, then we know where they stand, and what industry’s pocket they might be in.

This is where we, as citizens and voters, need to wake up, see through the crap and be heard. Make it bad politics to press for harsher sentencing, especially on nonviolent crime, and vote against any expansion of the private penal system. By voting officials out of office who would continue this failed approach, at every level of government, we’ll finally turn this situation around.

When that trend happens, we can look at regulation, taxation and treating the drug problem as what it really is: a public health problem, not a criminal justice problem. And who knows? Depending on how much money this problem eats up, it could really help balance government budgets to boot. Finally then, our good officers could get back to dealing with real criminals.

Angelou del Angel

EDITOR’S NOTE: Thanks for the letter. Rusty White actually had plenty to say about the private prison system and its role in the drug war. We just ran out of space.

11 Responses to “The real problem with the drug war”

  1. I can buy in to some of these thoughts, as long as it doesn’t head towards officials turning their heads away from crime. Underage drinking, smoking pot, all of that is against the law. If you break the law, you should be punished. If you don’t agree with the law, start a movement to abolish. Until that time, follow the law. And when the majority speaks through the voting booth, honor that decision. Whether you agree with them or not, follow them until they are changed. Changing the policing end isn’t the answer.

  2. Craig,

    Absolutely not. Theft is theft, and violence is still violence, regardless of the motivation. The idea is to start treating, say, potheads, like we do alcoholics.

    Lots of folks can drink responsibly, some can’t. Even still some folks can unwind on the weekend and smoke pot responsibly, some can’t. Different drugs affect people in different ways, and the real consequence for drug abuse should be on the hands of employers…anyone that can’t function at work loses their job, as it should be. Then the abuser should go seek help for the problem.

    If a habit drives one to steal or commit violence, only THEN does it become a criminal issue.

  3. Rusty White says:


    In a perfect world we wouldn’t want our young to try any thing that might harm them, but in this real world I vote that when they do it doesn’t kill them! Nor give them a life time criminal record as well. When it comes to adults hold people accountable for their actions that harm others, not as it is today! Which is hold all people in the same light as the worst abusers guided by years of propaganda, manipulation, self serving beliefs and agendas.

    You say change the laws, Washington and Colorado did exactly that do you support the peoples votes in these states? Until we find the right path the citizens and tax payers should not be forced to silently support this known failure called the war on drugs, should they?

    Thanks for voicing your opinion, only through open and honest discussions will we find the right path!

  4. Rusty White says:


    Thank you, sadly you are correct our prisons and jails have been manipulated in to “people ranching” facilities for profit! At the tax payers expense as well as the lives and futures of our people young and old! Times are changing, sadly those already been forced and fed to this system will never get back what they have lost. But if we do not take a stand those coming behind us do not have a prayer!

    When our policies leave only the dark side to feed their families, what would you do? Having lost everything simply for making choices others have been “conditioned and manipulated” to believe are all the same and all wrong. While having no victims or violence in your “supposed crime”, one has little other real options, do they? We must hold people accountable for their actions that harm others, if everybody minded their own dam* business as well as they try and force their beliefs on all other, we would all be better off, would we not!

    Bottom line is it is not working, and has not worked for over 40+ years! No matter how well meaning or self justified by a minority the facts and realities tell the truth, do they not!

    Thank you for standing up!

  5. Rusty, spoken like a well versed “High Times” reader……

    Thank you for enforcing my belief that potheads lose brain cells rapidly.

  6. Robert Cox says:

    Astute observation, Bart!

  7. Way to elevate the discourse, Bart.

  8. Rusty White says:


    Sorry but I don’t read “High Times” nor do I smoke pot either? When you can grow up and have a real and meaningful discussion come on back.

  9. Rusty White says:


    Sadly all I can say is typical, but there again I understand when people like you and Bart can not defend your postions with facts, reality and common sense unwarranted slander and attack is all you have.

  10. Judith Stutt says:

    Sadly we can change the law, but until people become responsible and produce responsible young adults it does not matter if you smoke, drink or none of the above, if you are not taught how to be resposible. Values about the best way to live is taught by the parents in most all species. Many of the people you see in trouble today are lacking in proper instruction from the home. Ricky Stutt Former High School Teacher.

  11. Rusty White says:


    Well said, but sadly due to this failure called the war on drugs do you have any idea of how many “single parent” houses holds it has created? Or the burden placed on these families, simple for making choices others have been “conditioned and manipulated” in to believing are all wrong and all just as bad as the few ignorant ones!

    We must get back to holding people accountble for their “actions” that harm others, not as it is today which it holding all as guilty as the truely ignorant minority! Prisons and jails are for those that have “victims and violence” in their crimes ( well it used to be) “”NOT”” for those that make choices others have been conditioned and manipulated in to believing are all bad!!!


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