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War on logic


Kurt Hochenauer August 3rd, 2011

June marked the 40th anniversary of the so-called war on drugs, but there wasn’t much celebrating.

All rational people should agree that the war on drugs declared by former President Richard Nixon 40 years ago has been an epic failure that needlessly has filled our prisons with nonviolent inmates and cost taxpayers enormously.

The numbers are staggering: Media reports show the United States spent $15.5 billion in 2010 on drug control efforts. More than $23 billion in federal and state money has been spent so far this year, according to DrugSense. Over the years, according to one report, the U.S. has spent at least $121 billion to arrest 37 million nonviolent people on drug charges. Meanwhile, illegal drugs remain readily available and people continue to use.

The war on drugs is not working, and this country needs a seismic shift in how it manages its drug control efforts and how it treats nonviolent drug offenders. Legalization and decriminalization of drugs is one answer; community sentencing, not prison time, for nonviolent offenders is another.

Nothing better illustrates how the current “drug-control” system is broken, unjust and plain ludicrous than the case of Patricia Spottedcrow, a mother who received a 12-year overall prison sentence in a case in which the main charge was the selling of approximately $30 worth of marijuana in 2010 to an undercover informant. It was a first offense, and Spottedcrow, 25, entered a guilty plea. The late Kingfisher County District Judge Susie Pritchett gave her an unbelievably harsh sentence.

Spottedcrow is currently serving her sentence at the Eddie Warrior Correction Center in Taft. Her mother, Dee Starr, who was also convicted in the case but received probation, is taking care of Spottedcrow’s four children.

How can it be in the state’s interest to risk harming four innocent children for such a minor crime?

Jerri Stephens, who operates the FREE Spottedcrow Facebook page, has been in contact with Spottedcrow and her mother. Stephens said Spottedcrow’s judge “tore a perfectly happy family apart.” She said Spottedcrow’s children have suffered emotionally.

“The babies don’t understand why their mother is gone,” Stephens wrote. “They cry for her every night, going to a picture that is hanging from the wall crying out ‘momma, momma,’ running to the door where Patricia once slept to only find a empty room without their mother.”

There have been financial burdens as well. Raising four children is expen sive.

Spottedcrow’s phone cards are not cheap, but it’s vital that she keep in touch with her children, Stephens said.

A group in California recently donated $300 in clothes and Stephens’ mother helped fund a recent trip the children took to visit Spottedcrow. Stephens said people from as far away as California, Canada and Ireland are following the case, which has “gone viral.” But Spottedcrow, according to Stephens, remains unsure about what her future holds.

“Patricia is so scared her babies won’t remember who she is having to serve a 12-year sentence over something that should have been taken care of in a different view and that isn’t placing the working mother into the prison system,” Stephens wrote.

The war on drugs marches on.

Hochenauer is an English professor at the University of Central Oklahoma and the author of the Okie Funk blog.

 
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08.03.2011 at 12:04 Reply

I'd have to agree with the idea that there has been a lot of wasted money on the drug war.  However, when talking about the drug war we aren't specifically referencing marijuana.  And thus, had Spottedcrow been busted selling something much more henious like Meth, Crack, Heroine, or Cocaine, I'd say the sentence was just.  But 12 years for Marijuana!  That's way over the top.  

Does anyone even know how to do math anymore?  While I'm not certain what the annual costs of housing an inmate are, I would assume that the tax payer cost for 12 years in prision will be between $300,000 and $500,000!  That's unacceptable.  If a person is caught with miniscule amounts of a natural but still controlled sustance (like marijuana), what's the point in wasting this kind of resources on them?  It's as though the concept of going after the big fish never occurred to anyone in the justice system.

Something I doubt anyone actually considers is the colateral damage of this war.  While this article covers the domestic colateral damage, what about the murders being committed in Mexico as a result of this "war."  I'm sure a large number of people here in Oklahoma could care less about the well being of Mexicans, but that's hardly a Christian sentiment.  If we lifted the restrictions on the use  of Marijuana just think of the lives that could be saved both here and in Mexico.  Not to mention the tax savings from not locking up Marijuana users, and the revenue generated from taxing dispensories.  There more positives to lifting bans on Marijuana than negatives.  However, the caveat would be restrictions on the substance equal to that of alcohol.

 

08.08.2011 at 03:29 Reply

let's stop spending money on the war on drugs. focus on violent and property crimes solve some missing persons cases, murders; track down rapists, pedophiles, etc.

 

08.09.2011 at 03:04 Reply

I understand the arguement that this is a war that is difficult to get under control let alone win, but it is a war that needs to be fought. My dad has been a patrol officer for over 15 years including 5 years as a narcotics officer. I can tell you that I am suprised that Spottedcrow even got time. 

What I don't understand is, how is it the judges fault that these kids don't have a mother. 

'Spottedcrow’s judge “tore a perfectly happy family apart.” She said Spottedcrow’s children have suffered emotionally.'

If you want to lay blame, lay it squarely on the shoulders of those who are really at fault. This woman chose to sell a illegal drug (whether you agree or disagree it is still illegal) and got caught. And if anyone needs to make the kids understand why their mom is not around, it is their mom. She needs to explain it when they are old enough to understand. Then maybe her kids will see that there are consequences for your actions. Is twelve years excessive, maybe, but the fact is she broke the law. $30 or $300 is irrelevant, it is illegal either way. 

You could argue the same for a simple traffic ticket. I was only going 5 mph over the limit. Guess what, 1 mile or 20 miles over, it doesn't matter. It is over the LIMIT period. 

Don't choose to disobey the laws and then cry foul at the legal system when you lose. Our courts are not perfect, but they are all we have. 

Break the law, do the time.

 

08.09.2011 at 03:28

You don't get 12 years for going 20 miles over the limit.  Heck, you wouldn't get 12 years for going 50 miles over the limit.  The punishment doesn't fit the crime, there are rapists and murderers who would be out before Spottedcrow, on what planet is that OK?  That's a retorical question.  

You're right, a law is a law, but 12 friggin years?  Sounds like the judge was having a bad day and took it out on the first guilty person they saw that day.  We can't afford to piss away tax payer dollars on something so petty.  The state government might not be as insolvent as the federal government, but that's no excuse to try and make it so.

 

 
 
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