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One Percent
of American adults is now behind bars. The connection between the higher and higher incarceration rate and the lower and lower crime rate remains hotly disputed. Still, the incarceration rate is a remarkable and disturbing figure. (Hat tip: Kieran Healy)
Qwerty:
Putting criminals in prison lowers the crime rate? What a shock!
2.28.2008 2:47pm
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):
Anyone care to take bets as to how long before this thread becomes high jacked into a discussion about the WOSD?
2.28.2008 2:58pm
Anonymouseducator (mail) (www):
Is that really a hijack?
2.28.2008 3:13pm
ramster (mail):
Thorley: That's like asking how log it takes before a thread on a Palestinian state gets hijacked into a discussion about Israel. The answer is not very long seeing as how they're somewhat connected issues.
2.28.2008 3:18pm
Mike& (mail):
Putting criminals in prison lowers the crime rate?

It's a bit more complicated than that.

Issue is whether we are putting people into prison for too many things.

If it were made illegal to wear a red t-shirt, and then we put into prison everyone who wore a red t-shirt, we could say, that the "crime rate" went down.

But would that really be a meaningful statistic? Would we care that the crime rate went down?

If 1% of the society were made up of murderers, rapists, and pedophiles, no one would say: "Man, it's a shame so many people are in prison."

But that's not the case. There are a lot of people in prison (who are getting raped, by the way) who didn't do anything resembling murder, rape, or even robbery.
2.28.2008 3:24pm
Nathan_M (mail):
If putting criminals in prison lowers the crime rate by very much the United States must have an amazing high level of inherent criminality.

In 2006 the American imprisonment rate was 730% of the average of the other OECD countries (738 per 100,000 for the US version an average of 117), and 320% of the rate of the next highest OECD country (Poland, at 228).

Despite the enormous difference in incarceration rates, the US is middle of the pack in terms of crime rates in the OECD. A 2000 study found 7 OECD countries with a lower crime rate than the US (as measured by the percentage of the population victimized by any crime in the previous year). And the murder rate in the US, of course, is off the charts compared to other OECD countries.

There are obviously many other important differences between these countries, and so a lack of correlation doesn't prove mass incarceration doesn't reduce crime rates, but it casts some doubts on the obviousness of the point.
2.28.2008 3:27pm
steven lubet (mail):
World Organization for Scuba Diving?
2.28.2008 3:41pm
Temp Guest (mail):
Comparing time series on crime rates for the period 1960 -present for the US provides some useful insight. The US essentially disinvested in corrections capacity from about the early 1960s until sometime in the late 1970s/early 1980s. Crime began increasing dramatically in the US in the late 1960s. Public concern about this increase led to a great increase in correctional capacity. Shortly after correctional capacity began increasing crime rates began falling. Criminologists (right and left) build careers arguing whether this shows causality. Currently most would agree that the US is over-utilizing prison capacity to punish crimes involving the cultivation, manufacture, distribution, sale, and use of drugs. Stating anyhthing beyond this is a good way to start fights in faculty lounges.

Cross-national comparisons are not very useful in evaluating US imprisonment rates, as patterns of crime are very different in the US than in other countries as are clearance and ajudication rates. For one instance, the US has a much higher rate of severe crimes against person (homicide, rape, armed robbery) than any other developed country (although I think Scotland may be overtaking us in homicide)
2.28.2008 3:45pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Most of the criminals took up criminal behavior after deciding the risk was worth it. Crimes of impulse excepted, of course.
So, even if you think one or another activity--selling pot, for example--ought to be legal, the fact is the guy who went into the biz had a choice. In fact, by the time he got finally busted, he'd have been excruciatingly conscious of The Law and how to dodge.
So, even if they ought not be "criminals", they did decide to take the chance.
Their choice to start now instead of waiting until the stuff was legal.
Reading various blogs which look at the UK, one reason the crime rate is where it is--as in not higher--is that the citizenry is getting tired of calling the cops for nothing.
Interesting case: Cops told a guy they couldn't help him get his stolen property back. So he advertised for it. They arrested him for receiving--or attempting to--stolen property.
Who'd bother calling the cops?
Thus, lower reporting than would otherwise be justified.
2.28.2008 3:46pm
CEB:

Putting criminals in prison lowers the crime rate? What a shock!

Even assuming that's true, it doesn't follow that it's a good thing. An unjust punishment is an unjust punishment. The ends do not justify the means. I'm surprised that a libertarian blog..., as the joke goes. (is that still a joke?)
2.28.2008 3:46pm
Hoosier:
What percentage of Americans *should* be in jail? What's the ideal percentage?
2.28.2008 4:07pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
I have always been surprised by people who think that an imprisonment rate of 1:100 is high.

Since I know lots of people that I know or have pretty good reason to suspect are committing prison offenses who are outside.
2.28.2008 4:09pm
Nathan_M (mail):

Cross-national comparisons are not very useful in evaluating US imprisonment rates, as patterns of crime are very different in the US than in other countries as are clearance and ajudication rates. For one instance, the US has a much higher rate of severe crimes against person (homicide, rape, armed robbery) than any other developed country.

The US has high rates of crime for anything involving guns, like murder and possible armed robbery (although I haven't looked at those numbers). I don't think it's particularly unusual for rape, though.

According to the 2002 International Crime Victims Surveys, 1.5% of Americans were a victim of a sexual crime. The OECD average was 2.1%. The US is also below average for assaults and robberies (although the source I looked at doesn't distinguish between armed robberies and non-armed robberies).
2.28.2008 4:13pm
Kelvin McCabe:
Well my local jurisdiction is outta the norm because of its size - but the incarceration rates in the county jail are roughly 110,000 individuals are housed there per yr. There is high turnover - but give or take, there are 10,000 people there every single month.

Most studies do not count people serving county time -they only select people serving a prison sentence.

Nor do they include people on parole, probation, half-way houses, and everything in between. Technically, these people are not incarcerated, but since they forfeit almost all of their rights and are constantly being monitored and drug tested and whatever - i would count them as well.

Putting all these people into one category, I think the 1% goes up significantly. The linked article mentions all the people in county jail, but doesn't say clearly (unless i missed it) whether these people make up the 1% figure.

And yes, a very large portion of all this is drug war related. You cannot honestly talk about prison population rates and not recognize this.

Why are people surprised that the prison population rate goes up every yr while the number of crimes go down? Could it be a combination of a) mandatory minimum drug laws b) enhanced sentencing for repeat offenders (and by this I mean a guy who gets caught with a few grams of crack the first time and gets 2 yrs probation, the second time 1-3 yrs in the bighouse, the third time 5 yrs, etc... 3) three strikes laws 4) let's get tough on crime politicians who get elected every yr since 1972 or so and who keep adding to the problems of 1-3 above??

Ya - that would explain it for me.

What I like about the numbers: it says 1 out of every 100 american adults is behind bars. But the number for hispanic adults is 1 outta 35 and for african american adults - 1 outta 15.

Throw in a few felony disenfranchisement statues and I think we have a kinder and gentler version of Jim Crow. For poor people. Only this time everybody loses their rights as the drug war and the strenous efforts of the federal/state judiciary and sup ct to uphold almost every constitutionally odious practice the drug war entails hurts us all.

I got news for the drug warriors: THE DRUGS WON! Can we go back to having a constitutional republic now?
2.28.2008 4:20pm
Duffy Pratt (mail):
The main thing lowering the crime rate is the aging of the population. Violent criminals tend to be young men. The crime rate for people over 40, even ex-cons, tends to be very, very low. But we are still warehousing alot of those people, many of them for non-violent drug offenses, and at enormous cost.
2.28.2008 4:30pm
Redlands (mail):
Here in CA there is immense pressure not to send people to prison. To earn a state prison commitment you really gotta work at it, hard, either by cultivating a lush criminal history or hitting one out of the park in your first at bar.
2.28.2008 4:37pm
Just Dropping By (mail):
World Organization for Scuba Diving?

War on Some Drugs.
2.28.2008 4:39pm
John Shade:
"One Percent of American adults is now behind bars." It is? Really?
2.28.2008 4:46pm
Randy R. (mail):
I seen arguments that the elimination of lead based paint in the 70s has led to a lower crime rate. Apparentlky, there IS a direct correlation. And in countries that banned lead paint after we did, experienced the same reduction in crime rate as well.

Not sure if I'm convinced, but it nonetheless an interesting hyposthesis.
2.28.2008 4:48pm
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):
I have always been surprised by people who think that an imprisonment rate of 1:100 is high.

Since I know lots of people that I know or have pretty good reason to suspect are committing prison offenses who are outside.


Agreed, I just started Season 4 of “Oz” last night and there’s a great line from one of the inmates, Tobias Beecher, who used to be a lawyer before being incarcerated for vehicular homicide:

You hate the law? Well, I love it. I love the law, even if it didn't turn out in my favor. You know why I love the laws we have in this state? Because it keeps people like Schillinger*, Adebisi and Hernandez away from my kids.


The point is that even if I disagree with some of the criminal laws we have on the books, the people who broke them knew what they were doing and should have known the consequences. Even though I might think the WOSD is counter-productive like Prohibition was, if the crack dealer who might technically qualify as a “nonviolent drug offender” was going to try to sell to my kid or some other minor, I say let him rot in prison.

* Which turned out not to be true.
2.28.2008 4:48pm
ejo:
was it richard pryor who said "thank god for penitentiaries"? hypothetically, we have too many people in prison for some people, ignoring the fact that no one can pinpoint the optimal number. back in the real world, prisons are full of really bad actors, not just one joint weed smokers. if it were overpopulated by the dope smokers, they probably wouldn't be the miserable and dangerous places they are.
2.28.2008 5:00pm
Philistine (mail):

if the crack dealer who might technically qualify as a “nonviolent drug offender” was going to try to sell to my kid or some other minor, I say let him rot in prison.



And if the crack dealer managed to make that sale to your child--would you also say "let my child rot in prison"?
2.28.2008 5:01pm
Clark (mail) (www):
During the 1980s, I arrested more than 2500 heroin and cocaine addicts who committed the balance of property crimes in LA city. Most addicts commit five or more property crimes and burglaries each day. I enjoyed a 100 percent filing and conviction rate for §11550(a)H&S which, at the time, required a minimum 90-day sentence (since upped to 180 days). Based upon the cost and frequency of their crime, replacement, investigative, and related costs, I estimate that my efforts alone saved LA taxpayers nearly $300 million in preventable crime from 1985-1989.

Since 1989, the courts began dumping §11550 cases using various pretexts and have turned what were three-page reports into twenty pages of redundancy. To reduce burglary statistics, the LAPD now reports many burglaries by incorporating thefts into "trespass investigations." And because theft, trespass, and §11550 are considered "non-violent crimes," only a handful of LA's most captivating burglars see prison.

Because of these factors, I doubt that LA's crime-weary residents report more than twenty percent of all thefts and burglaries they suffer, while the chief and mayor congratulate themselves for reducing crime statistics so significantly. The measure of a city does not come with how few criminals we incarcerate, but by how safe our community really is.

Based upon my years with the LAPD, I suspect that our city and state incarceration rates would DROP significantly over the next decade IF we resumed the arrest, conviction, and incarceration of these serial criminals who number approximately 50,000 in LA alone. Like three-strikes, addicts who endured 180 days for addiction would re-think their lifestyle when they get out. JQ Wilson's "Broken Windows" corroborates this as well.

Finally, NO - legalizing drugs wouldn't work either. Unemployable heroin, amphetamine, and cocaine addicts would still commit property crimes to pay for their legal drug use.
2.28.2008 5:08pm
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):
was it richard pryor who said "thank god for penitentiaries"? hypothetically, we have too many people in prison for some people, ignoring the fact that no one can pinpoint the optimal number. back in the real world, prisons are full of really bad actors, not just one joint weed smokers. if it were overpopulated by the dope smokers, they probably wouldn't be the miserable and dangerous places they are.


Agreed, whenever I hear someone claim that our prisons are filled with “nonviolent drug offenders” (read: someone who was only convicted of a “nonviolent” drug offense), I’m reminded that while Al Capone ordered the deaths of dozens of people, they ultimately only nailed him for income tax evasion. And even though I favor the repeal of the Sixteenth Amendment and think the income tax ought to be abolished, I don’t consider it at all an “unjust punishment” for Capone to have gone to prison for income tax evasion.
2.28.2008 5:12pm
gattsuru (mail) (www):
the US has a much higher rate of severe crimes against person (homicide, rape, armed robbery) than any other developed country (although I think Scotland may be overtaking us in homicide)


Er... that's an unusual definition of developed country. Mexico isn't great, but it's still not exactly retarded.
2.28.2008 5:19pm
ejo:
Clark makes a good point. drug dealers don't operate on credit and drug addicts usually have trouble finding jobs that tolerate their being absent for days while on binges. where does everyone think the money to buy drugs comes from? while arguably "non-violent", I don't appreciate the property crime of a crackhead smashing my car window or attempting to burglarize my home (how many of these non-violent offenses go violent when someone has the poor manners not to want to contribute to the habit of the addict?) while I can only speak to Illinois, you have to work to get sent to prison for drugs, be it based on weight, your criminal history, or dealing. most of the first time one bag cases either get thrown out at preliminary hearing or sent to drug school.
2.28.2008 5:27pm
ejo:
I would add that I would be happy if we had more "non-violent" offenders out of prison, as long as there is some guarantee that they go to your State and don't stay in mine.
2.28.2008 5:35pm
hattio1:
Clark,
You don't say what a section 1150(a)H&S is. Is that a property crime, being an addict? What?

As to your notion that legalizing drugs wouldn't work because these people are unemployable and would still need money to get drugs, you are missing two things. First, a lot of these people DO work, just intermittently. Secondly though, the drugs would drop in price drastically. How many times do folks commit major property crimes for cigarettes? It happens, but extremely rarely, and usually when the person is drunk. Why do you think cocaine, heroine etc would be different?
2.28.2008 5:37pm
Adam J:
ejo- "I don't appreciate the property crime of a crackhead smashing my car window or attempting to burglarize my home"

You are of course aware that drug crimes aren't particularly well tailored (actually aren't tailored at all) to prevent these actions, whereas, conveniently enough, vandalism and burglary are crimes that are quite well tailored to prevent these actions. Perhaps if cops were less focused on drug busts they would be able to devote more time to stopping car windows from being smashed and burglaries from occuring, and you would have less to worry about.
2.28.2008 5:38pm
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):
Secondly though, the drugs would drop in price drastically. How many times do folks commit major property crimes for cigarettes? It happens, but extremely rarely, and usually when the person is drunk. Why do you think cocaine, heroine etc would be different?


What was the price of alcohol during Prohibition compared to after Prohibition?
2.28.2008 5:39pm
Happylee (mail):
Depends what you are trying to achieve. If you want to protect citizens from real crimes (i.e., ones involving loss of life, liberty or property, NOT cheap, high-quality drugs or girls of easy virtue), criminals must be locked up for a long time because every single day they are incarcerated is one more day citizens are exactly that much safer. Sadly, most of the criminals will turn out to be minorities, but I'm not going get pilloried on that one, and so let's assume that's not true.

And the prison camps should be self-financing because it is a crime to steal money from citizens (aka "taxation") to finance air-conditioned quarters and three meals for criminals. Each prison would be a Nike factory and farm. (This, btw, would do more to rehabilitate crooks than all the social workers and counselors in the world times ten.)

If your goal is to spread fear and to centralize power, criminalize everything you can, whether it be short term loans to losers, gambling on ponies, enjoying recreational drugs, enjoying recreational sex with girls of easy virtue, going 20 MPH over a ridiculously low speed limit, having two beers with dinner, etc.

So, what goal have our fine leaders elected to pursue. Ahem.
2.28.2008 5:42pm
Cornellian (mail):
I seem to recall reading that some incredibly high percentage of the prison population, like 40%, consisted of people convicted of drug possession. No violence, no trafficking, just having drugs, and for most of them, the drug was marijuana.

I agreed with the recently departed Bill Buckley - the War on Drugs has done far more damage to far more people than the drugs themselves could ever have done.
2.28.2008 5:57pm
ejo:
I think you are absolutely wrong on that, unless, in your experience, addicts buy drugs with cash picked from money trees. sticking to the real world theme, we know that's not true. find an area with high rates of drug crime and you're going to find an area with high rates of all sorts of other crime (property, assault, you name it). to try to argue otherwise verges on silly. again, however, if you don't mind it in your neighborhood, more power to you. even good liberal Democrats in Chicago, however, don't like it when the junkies and the hookers have the temerity to ply their trades in the more upscale neighborhoods.
2.28.2008 5:57pm
Wugong:
Of course the even bigger problem is that many people come out of prison worse than they went in. The whole notion of rehabilitation has been thrown out. And let's not forget that for many people, prison means being repeatedly raped, forced to join violent gangs, etc. How many of you who are so happy that drug users are behind bars would be willing to have your 17 year old son anal raped for a couple of years for getting caught with a joint at a party in the wrong state?
2.28.2008 6:31pm
Cornellian (mail):
I think you are absolutely wrong on that, unless, in your experience, addicts buy drugs with cash picked from money trees.

Not everyone who smokes pot is an addict. Lots of such people hold ordinary jobs and can easily afford it. They have no need or desire to resort to crime to raise the money.
2.28.2008 6:43pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):
As Professor Volokh has pointed out in another posting, the high rate of incarceration also reflects the movement of mentally ill persons in the prisons in the 1990s. Total incarceration rate (prisons + mental hospitals) correlation with murder rate is statistically significant at the national level from 1928-2000, and at the state level for most states.

No surprise; our society made a conscious decision to close most of the mental hospitals in the 1960s and 1970s, for a variety of reasons (of which cost was actually pretty minor). Contrary to conventional wisdom, psychotics on average are actually more violent than non-psychotics. There's a reason that we are now used to crazy people going on murderous rampages--where this was actually quite shocking because of its rarity when I was growing up.
2.28.2008 6:50pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

I seem to recall reading that some incredibly high percentage of the prison population, like 40%, consisted of people convicted of drug possession. No violence, no trafficking, just having drugs, and for most of them, the drug was marijuana.
I remember seeing this claim made about federal prisoners for all victimless crimes. State prisons have a lot of people in them for drug offenses, but not as many, and usually not for simple possession. Federal and state prisons have very different populations.
2.28.2008 6:52pm
swg:
The NYTimes article has inconsistent grammar, someone should tell the author. It starts out: "more than one in 100 American adults IS behind bars", or "One in 36 Hispanic adults IS behind bars"; and then later it says "only one in 355 white women between the ages of 35 and 39 ARE behind bars but that one in 100 black women ARE." I personally don't think it matters which they use, but they might want to be consistent.
2.28.2008 7:01pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

Not everyone who smokes pot is an addict. Lots of such people hold ordinary jobs and can easily afford it. They have no need or desire to resort to crime to raise the money.
However, marijuana usage is correlated with a 40% increase in later psychosis, a position consistent with other studies showing a correlation with the right time-arrow direction. The Lancet actually reversed its editorial position about marijuana not being harmful. Since psychosis increases the risk of violence....
2.28.2008 7:03pm
Hoosier:
Cornellian, Clayton--Moderate my ignorance somewaht, please: Are there many people in prison in the US for marijuana use/possession? Selling or smuggling large amounts, I assume, can get you sent up the river. And possession of cocaine, as well as sale. But will using pot get you hard time? (I mean, just curious here. No real, y'know . . . 'personal investment' in the answer.)
2.28.2008 7:41pm
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):
I seem to recall reading that some incredibly high percentage of the prison population, like 40%, consisted of people convicted of drug possession. No violence, no trafficking, just having drugs, and for most of them, the drug was marijuana.


I remember seeing this claim made about federal prisoners for all victimless crimes. State prisons have a lot of people in them for drug offenses, but not as many, and usually not for simple possession. Federal and state prisons have very different populations.


About 5 percent of drug offenders in federal prison and 27% of drug offenders in State prisons are incarcerated for simple possession. How many of those were originally charged with a more serious offense but plead down to simple possession, it doesn’t say.
2.28.2008 7:48pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

Are there many people in prison in the US for marijuana use/possession?
I doubt it. Many years ago that marijuana possession was a felony in a lot of states. There was some guy in Texas in the 1970s who ended up getting a life sentence for possession of a couple of joints because this was his third felony.

I remember when simple possession of small quantities was made an infraction in California--for a few weeks, everywhere I went, people were openly smoking pot. (I hate the smell of pot.) My daughter tells me that when she and her friends were 13, they would walk down the street, smoking joints, and the police would just wave.

I know that marijuana possession is still unlawful in Idaho. But if anyone is going to prison for possession, it's almost certainly because of possession for sale.
2.28.2008 7:50pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

About 5 percent of drug offenders in federal prison and 27% of drug offenders in State prisons are incarcerated for simple possession. How many of those were originally charged with a more serious offense but plead down to simple possession, it doesn’t say.
I almost misread this. What percentage of prison inmates in each system are drug offenders? These are percentages of drug offenders--not of total inmates.
2.28.2008 7:52pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

Of course the even bigger problem is that many people come out of prison worse than they went in. The whole notion of rehabilitation has been thrown out.
Perhaps because rehabilitation wasn't found to work?

Sad to say, many of the problems that get people sent to prison reflect pretty serious problems that may not be very easy to fix. I've read that the vast majority of female prison inmates were sexually abused as children. Is anyone surprised? Does anyone have much hope that people who have been severely psychologically damaged are going to be repaired?

I fear that the best we can do with violent criminals is to lock them up so that they aren't a danger to the rest of us--and put our energy into trying to prevent any more damaged children. This doesn't mean that violent criminals need to be unnecessarily mistreated or brutalized--but it also doesn't mean that we need to let them out because we feel sorry for them, either.
2.28.2008 7:57pm
BitOfReason:

An unjust punishment is an unjust punishment. The ends do not justify the means. I'm surprised that a libertarian blog..., as the joke goes. (is that still a joke?)

While "The ends do not justify the means" is a catchy phrase, it certainly doesn't reflect most people's actual morals. Honestly, if a group has one innocent and 99 murderers who are indistinguishable, is incarcerating them all not justified by the many additional lives that would be saved? Does "beyond a reasonable doubt" cast too wide a net for convicting those who take another's life?
2.28.2008 8:00pm
Cornellian (mail):
Moderate my ignorance somewaht, please: Are there many people in prison in the US for marijuana use/possession?

Actually that reminds me to wonder whatever happened to Raich.
2.28.2008 8:01pm
Judicious Overlord (mail):
Prison is a University of Crime. Cliched, but true.
2.28.2008 8:43pm
Ricardo (mail):
When you consider the fact that most prisoners are men, the ratio that is most meaningful is that 1 in 54 men over the age of 18 are in prison or jail.

As to why this might be the case, it is interesting that high incarceration rates are pervasive throughout all 50 states of the U.S., although they are especially high in the deep south.

If you look at incarceration divided by total population (not ideal, of course, but still a useful indicator), the state with the lowest incarceration rate is Maine at 273 per 100,000 residents. This is still higher than every major Western European country and a good number of middle-income central and Eastern European countries as well. It is in the same neighborhood as the Baltic states and lower than Ukraine, Georgia, Belarus and Russia.
2.28.2008 8:44pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

If you look at incarceration divided by total population (not ideal, of course, but still a useful indicator), the state with the lowest incarceration rate is Maine at 273 per 100,000 residents. This is still higher than every major Western European country and a good number of middle-income central and Eastern European countries as well. It is in the same neighborhood as the Baltic states and lower than Ukraine, Georgia, Belarus and Russia.
A fair number of people from the Scottish border counties were given the choice of immigration or the noose--and when some of them were given that choice again in Ulster, they came to America. A doubly distilled collection of troublemakers. Britain, until the Revolution, exported large numbers of criminals to America, especially those who were given the death sentence, and then the relatively merciful alternative of transportation. Similarly Africans were enslaved for a lot of reasons: losing side in wars; as surety for debt; sometimes as punishment for crimes.

There is clear evidence that some categories of mental illness have genetic components, such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. I do not find it implausible that high rates of criminal behavior are at least in part related to genetic difficulties. Perhaps what we are seeing the result of Europe having exported many of its criminals for centuries.
2.28.2008 9:51pm
Wugong:
Perhaps what we are seeing the result of Europe having exported many of its criminals for centuries.

What are the crime rates in Australia and Canada like?
2.28.2008 10:00pm
john w. (mail):
I read somewhere once that the strongest lobbying organization in the State of California is (or was?) the Prison Guards Union; and that they lobby intensively for laws with longer prison sentences.

Does anybody know if that's true, or just an urban legend??
2.28.2008 10:11pm
BGates:
The violent crime victimization rate has declined to 0.2% of the population per year. If you assume the penalty for committing a crime should be 5 years in prison, one crime is committed per criminal, and all criminals are convicted, then 1% of the population should be incarcerated for violent crimes alone. Each of those assumptions is wrong, but if anyone has figures on how wrong they are, we should be able to work out how many people should be in prison.

The NYT story danced around the subject of how many white men are incarcerated, but didn't actually say. Does anyone know that figure, and how it relates to incarceration rates in the rest of the OECD?
2.28.2008 10:19pm
Clark (mail) (www):
Health &Safety Code §11550 makes it illegal to be in a public place while under the influence of an illicit narcotic. Since the overwhelming number of crimes are somehow related to drug addiction or abuse, court qualified narcotics experts like myself used a combination of case law, neurochemistry, and the collection of urine and photo evidence to build an indefensible case against someone who happens not to be committing another crime in my presence. Instead of trying to catch criminals while in the act (an extremely difficult and costly thing to do), one has but to hang around neighborhoods or dealers where addicts congregate. It takes only a few moments before behavior provides the probable cause to stop. And once stopped, objective syptoms can be legally observed and acted upon. If driving, many would plea to DUI/drugs to avoid the six month must-do sentence. If and when the LAPD and other agencies decide to prevent crime in a meaningful way, they will remove the obstacles that prevent officers like me from preventing crime.
2.28.2008 10:36pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):


Perhaps what we are seeing the result of Europe having exported many of its criminals for centuries.



What are the crime rates in Australia and Canada like?
Australia used to be intermediate between Britain and the U.S.; ditto for Canada. Of course, Canada wasn't a major recipient of criminals, unlike Australia. Western Australians used to be rather proud of the fact that they weren't a penal colony.

Of some importance also is that neither Australia nor Canada had large numbers of African slaves shipped to them--and the descendants of those slaves are very disproportionately involved in violent crime in the U.S. today. You are going to doubtless get very upset for me pointing this out, but it is just fact. About 11% of the U.S. population is black, and yet typically 45-50% of those charged with murder are black (and overwhelmingly, their victims are also black).
2.28.2008 11:08pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

I read somewhere once that the strongest lobbying organization in the State of California is (or was?) the Prison Guards Union; and that they lobby intensively for laws with longer prison sentences.

Does anybody know if that's true, or just an urban legend??
I know that they have a history of being very important in California statewide politics. This might be self-interest; it might also be that prison guards tend to have a less sympathetic view of murderers, rapists, robbers, and the like because of their work experience. I can't imagine why.
2.28.2008 11:10pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

The NYT story danced around the subject of how many white men are incarcerated, but didn't actually say. Does anyone know that figure, and how it relates to incarceration rates in the rest of the OECD?
A few years back, there was a very big fuss raised by the mainstream media about the fact that 1 out of 4 black men under 30 in the U.S. was in prison, on probation, in jail, or some other form of criminal justice supervision. That was a shocking number--but the same study found that 1 out of 10 white men under 30 were in the same situation. Both are pretty depressing figures--and tell us a lot about how many men under 30 have self-discipline problems.

One additional point: the average age of blacks in America is typically 7-8 years less than the average age of whites. Since peak violent crime age is typically about 18, at any given time, a much larger percentage of black men in the U.S. will be in their peak violent crime years. The racial disparity in the rates of criminal justice supervision for the under 30 set might be largely the result of the larger number of black men who are in the peak violent crime years.
2.28.2008 11:15pm
Clark (mail) (www):
Hattio1 asks: "How many times do folks commit major property crimes for cigarettes? It happens, but extremely rarely, and usually when the person is drunk. Why do you think cocaine, heroin etc would be different?"

Nicotine metabolizes over the course of four to twelve hours and beyond, which is why a nicotine addict can sleep through the night without waking at two and six for a cigarette. They can also function in the workplace while under the influence. Nicotine basically replaces a naturally-produced neurochemical.

Cannabis metabolizes over the course of weeks, which is why THC addicts can abstain for weeks at a time. But heroin and cocaine metabolize over a few very short hours, day and night, without interruption. Heroin and cocaine addicts (not weekend chippers) spend their entire day looking for crime targets, looking for drugs, being high, or suffering from crippling and painful withdrawal symptoms. Meth intoxication lasts much longer, and like heroin and coke, the behavioral effects are far more disruptive than nicotine. Like smokers and alcoholics, addicts use for the rush but, most importantly, to avoid withdrawal. It's more complicated than I have stated, but I suggest you would rather be around a desperate THC or nicotine user than a desperate crack or heroin addict.

There IS a solution, however. I proposed decades ago that addicts should have access to pharmaceutical doses of whatever drug they want, under the direct supervision of medical professionals. Those addicts would be housed on closed military bases, secure and far from mainstream society. Also available would be the best rehabilitation available. Addicts who are recognized by courts would be required to test clean for six uninterrupted months before release from the secure facility. Crack, heroin, and meth addicts would not need to prostitute themselves, steal, or commit other crimes to perpetuate their addiction, nor would they harm themselves beyond the “behavioral toxicity” of the drugs themselves. Heroin addicts don’t rape – and they don’t need to steal when they’re high. They’re actually very mellow people to deal with. And they would be secured from mainstream society, far from vulnerable at-risk kids who they target for Fagan-like relationships.

Rehabilitation, for the most part, is a profitable scam. Unless the addict has “a significant stake in society,” it's unlikely that an AIDS-infected crack addict will care much about the spread of disease, their unborn baby, or cleaning themselves up. Like winos, they pursue happiness by getting high until they die. Nothing else satisfies.

I’m not writing everyone off. This is why they must test clean for six months. They can choose rehab or an uninterrupted supply of pharmaceutical drugs. The initial cost would be huge, but gradually offset by reduced property (and other crimes), a significantly reduced prison population, and the attrition of non-reproductive inmates.

Other components to my plan:

1) Anyone can grow anything for personal use in their home, HOWEVER, any commercial redistribution or any size (sell to a friend) would result in heavy fines, sentences, and asset forfeiture. Because you could “grow our own,” market forces would make interdiction ALMOST unnecessary. After all, why would you buy someone’s stinkweed for $250/ounce when you could legally grow your own personal supply at home for pennies on the dollar?

2) The US should buy direct from international drug producers. So, for example, an Afghan poppy village would sell direct to the US. In exchange, the village would agree to gradually convert a percentage of their fields into other agricultural crops. Over ten or twenty years, the village would convert their fields entirely. This plan would require a diplomatic and economic/commercial coordination between the countries. The plan would eventually cost a fraction of today’s interdiction costs.
2.28.2008 11:19pm
Clark (mail) (www):
Adam J wrote:

“Perhaps if cops were less focused on drug busts they would be able to devote more time to stopping car windows from being smashed and burglaries from occurring, and you would have less to worry about.”

There are far more criminal addicts than drug dealers. If I arrest a burglar, I clear a crime. But if I arrest an addict, I PREVENT hundreds, maybe thousands of crimes and millions of dollars in losses. Finding addicts is much easier than finding burglars. On average, I arrested between four and five addicts a day before the stressed courts and prosecutors blocked our efforts.
2.28.2008 11:30pm
Nathan_M (mail):

The NYT story danced around the subject of how many white men are incarcerated, but didn't actually say. Does anyone know that figure, and how it relates to incarceration rates in the rest of the OECD?

For 2005, the last year I could find the rates for easily, the incarceration rate for black men was 3,145 per 100,000, versus 471 per 100,000 for white men.

I don't have comparable numbers for the rest of the OECD, and obviously a racial breakdown like that wouldn't make sense for most OECD countries. If you just double the incarceration rates in the OECD, and so grossly overstate the figure, the average incarceration rate for men in the OECD would be 234 per 100,000. In addition to being over double the average, the US incarceration rate for white men would still be higher than the rate for all men of any other OECD country.


Perhaps what we are seeing the result of Europe having exported many of its criminals for centuries.

What are the crime rates in Australia and Canada like?

Both Canada and the US (although not Australia) have lower crime rates (as measured by the percent of people victimized in the past year) than the United Kingdom.
2.28.2008 11:45pm
Clark (mail) (www):
Cornellian wrote:

“I seem to recall reading that some incredibly high percentage of the prison population, like 40%, consisted of people convicted of drug possession. No violence, no trafficking, just having drugs, and for most of them, the drug was marijuana.”

Except for major operations, marijuana is mostly ignored by California cops. And there’s often a huge difference between what someone’s convicted of and what kind of drugs they take. More often than not, intoxication is a lesser-included offense, nothing more. The compelling stat is that almost all inmates use, or are addicted to, illicit drugs.
2.28.2008 11:52pm
Clark (mail) (www):
Wugong wrote:

How many of you who are so happy that drug users are behind bars would be willing to have your 17 year old son anal raped for a couple of years for getting caught with a joint at a party in the wrong state?"

Unless you know of one, I can't think of a single state that would place a 17-year-old convicted joint smoker with murderers, rapists, and gang members. In most cases, juvenile offenders are questioned, released, or placed on probation.

HOWEVER, prison systems in Calcutta, San Salvador, Rio, and Nairobi boast lower recidivism rates than anywhere in the US. In my experience, nothing rehabilitates like punishment. And in conservative places like Maricopa County AZ, prisoners aren't coddled and they are unusually safe from assaults.
2.29.2008 12:05am
Nathan_M (mail):
Clark, do you even bother to read what you write, or are you just so eager to put black people in jail you can't be bothered to pretend to make a sincere or coherent argument?

From your first comment:
Based upon my years with the LAPD, I suspect that our city and state incarceration rates would DROP significantly over the next decade IF we resumed the arrest, conviction, and incarceration of these serial criminals who number approximately 50,000 in LA alone. Like three-strikes, addicts who endured 180 days for addiction would re-think their lifestyle when they get out. JQ Wilson's "Broken Windows" corroborates this as well.
2.29.2008 12:15am
Nathan_M (mail):
Oops, I posted that last comment too early. To finish it...

From another comment

Rehabilitation, for the most part, is a profitable scam. Unless the addict has “a significant stake in society,” it's unlikely that an AIDS-infected crack addict will care much about the spread of disease, their unborn baby, or cleaning themselves up. Like winos, they pursue happiness by getting high until they die. Nothing else satisfies.
2.29.2008 12:17am
Clark (mail) (www):
Cornellian wrote:

“Not everyone who smokes pot is an addict. Lots of such people hold ordinary jobs and can easily afford it. They have no need or desire to resort to crime to raise the money.”

Most THC addicts don’t know they’re addicted until they abstain for three or four weeks. The withdrawal is also milder than alcohol, heroin, cocaine, or meth. Although I have no personal addiction experience, the symptoms appear to be similar to nicotine withdrawal, except for nicotine’s faster onset of withdrawal.

With time, addicts can recover from addiction to all drugs except opiates. In that case, the pituitary gland does not restart endorphin production that continuously helps “normal healthy people” deal with stress and pain.

Most heroin junkies shoot until their forties or fifties, when they die or get too old or disabled to commit crimes. Unless rescued, most either reside in shelters or use alcohol to medicate themselves until their liver or renal function fails, or they die from exposure.

The next time you see someone with a "homeless - please help" sign, think twice before giving them cash. If they're homeless and want help they'll be in a shelter. If their begging for cash they want money for drugs or alcohol. If you still feel bad for them, buy them a sandwich - but don't be surprised if they throw it back at you.
2.29.2008 12:20am
DeezRightWingNutz:

How many of you who are so happy that drug users are behind bars would be willing to have your 17 year old son anal raped for a couple of years for getting caught with a joint at a party in the wrong state?


Sorry, this doesn't happen.
2.29.2008 2:47am
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):


Both Canada and the US (although not Australia) have lower crime rates (as measured by the percent of people victimized in the past year) than the United Kingdom.
This, however, is a very recent change. Britain into the 1970s had very, very low violent crime rates. Much of the change has been in the last 30 years. While no one wants to talk about it, the problem is heavily concentrated in black and Muslim populations in Britain. (Not entirely. The white population has apparently gotten a good bit more violent in the last 30 years as well.)
2.29.2008 11:28am
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):
How many of you who are so happy that drug users are behind bars would be willing to have your 17 year old son anal raped for a couple of years for getting caught with a joint at a party in the wrong state?


Sorry, this doesn't happen.


Agreed it's generally the case that it doesn't happen, moreover I’d be willing to bet the majority of those in prison for “simple possession” plead down from a more serious offense or were more intimately involved with drug trafficking (e.g. runners) than just some idiot hophead looking to score some pot.

Something else to keep in mind is that many of us who are sympathetic to relegalization/decriminalization do so with the caveat that it be treated like alcohol and tobacco and can only be legally sold to adults. Much of the illegal drug trade today, including the oft-martyred “nonviolent drug offenders,” is directed towards minors. So many (probably most) of the people in prison now for drug-related offenses probably would still be in prison for selling to minors or other offenses.
2.29.2008 12:31pm
Fub:
Thorley Winston wrote at 2.29.2008 12:31pm:
Something else to keep in mind is that many of us who are sympathetic to relegalization/decriminalization do so with the caveat that it be treated like alcohol and tobacco and can only be legally sold to adults.
At the risk of being accused of arguing "No True Scotsman", I've never heard of even a semi-respectable proponent of drug legalization who didn't specify adults only.

Prohibitionists typically counter that even with adults only permitted, somebody would sell or give drugs to children. Of course, they conveniently forget that's precisely what drug dealers do now under current drug prohibition, and that prohibition provides economic incentive to do so. It's also what alcohol dealers did under alcohol prohibition.

A major difference between a sweeping prohibition legal policy and an adults only policy is that under the latter a sales license can be yanked administratively. So barkeeps and liquor merchants who want to stay in legal business generally try to avoid selling to minors. There is no reason to believe that legal drug merchants would not do the same.
2.29.2008 1:51pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

Something else to keep in mind is that many of us who are sympathetic to relegalization/decriminalization do so with the caveat that it be treated like alcohol and tobacco and can only be legally sold to adults. Much of the illegal drug trade today, including the oft-martyred “nonviolent drug offenders,” is directed towards minors. So many (probably most) of the people in prison now for drug-related offenses probably would still be in prison for selling to minors or other offenses.
One of the reasons that I have become less sympathetic to decriminalization (and I was a strong advocate of that) is that where I lived in Sonoma County, a lot of the use of marijuana by kids was because they were getting it from their parents. One of my daughter's 9th grade classmates was given pot as a reward for good grades. I talked to a drug rehab counselor who was treating 2nd graders with marijuana problems; they had been breaking into Mom's stash. My son tells me that a fair number of kids at his high school in Boise had "joint" agricultural operations in the basement with their parents. Marijuana has become, at least for some upper middle class families, a part of the culture.

I don't have any illusions that laws are going to make much of a difference on this. Publicizing the increasing evidence of marijuana's apparent part in increasing psychoses later in life is more likely to make a difference.
2.29.2008 1:53pm
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):
At the risk of being accused of arguing "No True Scotsman", I've never heard of even a semi-respectable proponent of drug legalization who didn't specify adults only.


I tend to agree that the respectable proponents of drug legalization usually state that it should be for “adults only.” My point was in response to those who go on about the “nonviolent drug offenders” that are supposedly crowding federal and State prisons. Unless someone is going to take the position that it should be legal to sell it to minors (which I think you and are both in agreement isn’t a respectable position), most of those drug offenders would probably still be behind bars. Which is why even though I’m generally sympathetic to the idea of relegalizing drugs for adults, I’m not at all persuaded by arguments that suggest we’d be freeing up significant resources to go after “real criminals.”

A major difference between a sweeping prohibition legal policy and an adults only policy is that under the latter a sales license can be yanked administratively. So barkeeps and liquor merchants who want to stay in legal business generally try to avoid selling to minors. There is no reason to believe that legal drug merchants would not do the same.


Here’s where I think the comparison between the WOSD and Prohibition breaks down a bit and that is that alcohol is different from illegal drugs because generally when Prohibition was in place, there wasn’t a vibrant illegal market targeting children such as there is today in the case of the illegal drugs. Making it legal to sell to adults isn’t going to cause that market to evaporate and unless we are going to make it legal (which I and others would oppose) there is still going to be a WOSD that will have shifted its focus to going exclusively after those selling to minors.
2.29.2008 3:20pm
Hoosier:
>>>One of my daughter's 9th grade classmates was given pot as a reward for good grades.

Wow.

I don't know what my parents would have given me as a reward for getting good grades in high school. (The occasion never arose.) But it would certainly not have been dope.

I hung with the I'm-with-the-band, flannel-shirt-over-black-t-shirt crowd while in HS in the early- to mid-1980s. NOT the "Say no to drugs crowd." We were all kids whose parents were not active in oversight, and who didn't seek to get us involved in other activities.

But not one of us had a parent who would provide us with any illegal substance. Not even beer--wittingly.

Our parents may have been guilty--as the Act of Contrition says--"of what they have failed to do." But we were never activley abetted by adults. And we turned out to be total losers. (Among the eight of "The Guys," we have now collected four degrees. I have three of them.) I can hardly imagine what would have happened if mom and dad were passing out the Black Lebanese.
2.29.2008 3:53pm
keypusher (mail):
So if our prisons are not awash in non-violent drug offenders, and our crime rates are not that high, then why are so many people in prison?
2.29.2008 4:29pm
Kelvin McCabe:
Clark:

You made some good points in your post about stopping property crimes due to drug addiction. Although a wee bit authoritarian in your other posts - i agree with you regarding crime prevention and rehab.

The story about an increased link in psychosis in marijuana smokers is 100% bunk. Varius professionals have debunked it - and it wouldn't be surprising to know they fudged the numbers to make a headline outta nothing. In reality, normal people who dont smoke have like a .001% chance of being schizophrenic. If you smoke pot regularly, you have like a .004% chance. The headline: POT SMOKERS 4x more likely to be psycho. (Note, numbers aren't 100% accurate, im going on memory - but this is the jist of it). Smoking tons of skunk weed or not - your changes of aquiring schizophrenia are still around nil.

And I would take grave exception to your claim about marijuana 'addicts.' 95% or more of marijuana smokers, and there are millions of them, have no adverse consequences from smoking and in fact, often times, the most adverse thing that can happen is that they get caught and arrested with the herb. Thats a fact. The ONDCP and others can claim that marijuana related rehab admissions are up 200% to lure you into thinking its so dangerous - when in reality, almost all of those increased admissions are due directly to court diversion programs to avoid convictions on their permanent records.

Heroine and meth and the rest I dont really have an opinion on. But arresting over 700,000 Americans a yr on pot related charges is a complete and utter waste of money, time and effort. The disinformation propaganda surrounding this issue, like your psychosis story, fuels the prohibitionist fire. Its needs to be put out. Now.

There are plenty of countries that take a much more relaxed approach to drug addiction and have figured out ways to reduce societal costs and property crimes significantly. Not to mention reducing AIDS/Hepatitis cases and what not with needle exchanges, etc...

The sooner we realize that prison and court ordered rehab almost never work to get these hard core addicts clean the better off we all will be.
2.29.2008 5:30pm
Fub:
Thorley Winston wrote at 2.29.2008 3:20pm:
Here’s where I think the comparison between the WOSD and Prohibition breaks down a bit and that is that alcohol is different from illegal drugs because generally when Prohibition was in place, there wasn’t a vibrant illegal market targeting children such as there is today in the case of the illegal drugs. Making it legal to sell to adults isn’t going to cause that market to evaporate and unless we are going to make it legal (which I and others would oppose) there is still going to be a WOSD that will have shifted its focus to going exclusively after those selling to minors.
I think there was a robust market selling to minors during the Volstead years, though perhaps not as "vibrant" in the sense of popularly perceived. But I'll stick to your latter point here.

I think the shifted focus, and presumably resources, of enforcement to "selling to minors" would have several worthwhile effects.

First, it would concentrate resources and focus on what most agree is a primary problem of all drugs, legal or illegal.

Second, it would likely have the support of most anti-prohibitionists, and even of adult users of currently illegal drugs.

Third, that secondary effect of anti-prohibitionist support would increase the effectiveness of enforcement against selling to children.
2.29.2008 5:48pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):


Wow.

I don't know what my parents would have given me as a reward for getting good grades in high school. (The occasion never arose.) But it would certainly not have been dope.

I hung with the I'm-with-the-band, flannel-shirt-over-black-t-shirt crowd while in HS in the early- to mid-1980s. NOT the "Say no to drugs crowd." We were all kids whose parents were not active in oversight, and who didn't seek to get us involved in other activities.

But not one of us had a parent who would provide us with any illegal substance. Not even beer--wittingly.
Beer was commonly provided by parents starting in seventh grade. Not every parent, of course--but enough that there was enormous pressure to be drinking in seventh grade.
2.29.2008 6:37pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

The story about an increased link in psychosis in marijuana smokers is 100% bunk. Varius professionals have debunked it - and it wouldn't be surprising to know they fudged the numbers to make a headline outta nothing. In reality, normal people who dont smoke have like a .001% chance of being schizophrenic. If you smoke pot regularly, you have like a .004% chance. The headline: POT SMOKERS 4x more likely to be psycho.
The percentage of the U.S. population that has schizophrenia is 1.1%. Another 2.6% have bipolar disorder (which in some cases can reach into psychosis). The Lancet reversed a long standing editorial position that marijuana use wasn't a health problem because of the enormous number of studies that had found a 40% increase in psychosis.


(Note, numbers aren't 100% accurate, im going on memory - but this is the jist of it). Smoking tons of skunk weed or not - your changes of aquiring schizophrenia are still around nil.
Does marijuana affect memory, too? :-)

The fact is that the chances of acquiring schizophrenia are frighteningly high--and increasing that risk by 40% seems like a good risk? Do you play Russian Roulette, too?
2.29.2008 6:42pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

So if our prisons are not awash in non-violent drug offenders, and our crime rates are not that high, then why are so many people in prison?
We did have a very high crime rate a few years back--and we locked up a heck of a lot of people, some of them for very long sentences for crimes like murder, rape, and robbery. Does anyone remember Richard Alan Davis? There's a reason that California voters passed Three Strikes. It's because Polly Klaas would still be alive today, if Davis had been given a serious prison sentence for one of his first several violent felonies.
2.29.2008 6:47pm
Spoons (mail):
Clark, I'm glad you're on here posting. I used to be fairly ambivalent about prosecuting people for drugs -- until I became a prosecutor (for the record, my caaseload does not generally include drug cases). Someday I'd love to calculate what percentage of violent crimes and property crimes I see are drug related. I'd guess that the percentage has got to be well North of 80%. You're also correct that lowering the price of drugs wouldn't lead to less crime. Most of the crime isn't because drugs are expensive. Hell, most of the crime isn't even profitable. The stuff just really ruins a lot of people.

I also have to grit my teeth everyone says something like, "I seem to recall reading that some incredibly high percentage of the prison population, like 40%, consisted of people convicted of drug possession. No violence, no trafficking, just having drugs, and for most of them, the drug was marijuana."

As you and others have pointed out, almost no one goes to prison for simple posession of marijuana. I'd be surprised if 1% of prison inmates are there for simple possession of weed. Cocaine or Heroin, yes, but even then, it's usually after a few failed attempts at probation and rehab. And I've never seen a criminal with a string of posession convictions who didn't also have a bunch of violent and property crimes to go along with them.
2.29.2008 7:47pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

Someday I'd love to calculate what percentage of violent crimes and property crimes I see are drug related. I'd guess that the percentage has got to be well North of 80%. You're also correct that lowering the price of drugs wouldn't lead to less crime. Most of the crime isn't because drugs are expensive. Hell, most of the crime isn't even profitable. The stuff just really ruins a lot of people.
Libertarians get really insistent about how drug prohibition creates crime, and they are correct--drug trafficking related crimes. But they ignore the behaviorial crimes associated with intoxication.

Part of the reason that we have fought a continual battle about regulation of intoxicants (at first, alcohol, and other drugs at a later stage) throughout American history is that intoxicants lower inhibitions, and cause people to commit crimes that they otherwise might not. From what I have read, sometimes not even the crimes that you expect, such as murder, rape, and child abuse, but even economic crimes, such as robbery and burglary. Perhaps people who commit these economic crimes get loaded to get enough "Dutch courage"--but I do sometimes wonder if ideas floating around in their back of their brains start to make sense when sufficiently intoxicated.

It is worth remembering that Horace Wells, the dentist who first attempted to demonstrate anesthesia using nitrous oxide at Massachusetts General Hospital (it didn't work) later committed suicide in a New York City jail. Why? He had been arrested for spraying sulfuric acid on some women he had picked out at random--apparently, the result of falling in with some characters while high on chloroform. There is no reason to think Wells would have done something like this, except for the inhibition-reducing effects of an intoxicant.
2.29.2008 9:17pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):
I've mentioned that there is a correlation between marijuana use and later psychoses. As with anything like this, correlation doesn't prove causality. The time direction is correct, but who knows? Maybe people prone to psychosis, before they reach that stage, are attracted to smoking marijuana.

I'm shocked to discover that schizophrenia costs about $8 billion in year in direct disability payments, and about $50 billion a year in health care costs. If that 40% increase in psychosis is right, and there is a causal connection, this would argue that marijuana use, by increasing the fraction of schizophrenics, is costing the society about $23 billion a year. That's a lot of money so that those of you who don't go psychotic can get mellow and start giggling stupidly.
2.29.2008 9:55pm
Fub:
Clayton E. Cramer wrote at 2.29.2008 9:55pm:
I've mentioned that there is a correlation between marijuana use and later psychoses. As with anything like this, correlation doesn't prove causality. The time direction is correct, but who knows? Maybe people prone to psychosis, before they reach that stage, are attracted to smoking marijuana.
According to this article at shizophrenia.com, for which voracity I cannot vouch:
Experts estimate that between 8% and 13% of all schizophrenia cases are linked to marijuna / cannabis use during teen years. It is also notable that alcohol abuse is a stronger predictor of psychotic symptoms than regular cannabis use (by a factor of four).
If this is true, the implications for current alcohol policy are obvious.
3.1.2008 12:21pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

If this is true, the implications for current alcohol policy are obvious.
Oh, very clearly. Alcohol is a major problem in our society. Prohibition didn't work, but there are regulatory measures to discourage consumption. Some states enforce the laws against supplying alcohol to minors with considerable vigor (Idaho among them); others do not. There can certainly be more energy put into getting the population aware of the significant risks involved with the use of intoxicants. But libertarians are generally so intent on repeal of marijuana laws that they don't want to admit that there might be a problem with intoxicants.
3.1.2008 12:43pm
fishbane (mail):
Beer was commonly provided by parents starting in seventh grade. Not every parent, of course--but enough that there was enormous pressure to be drinking in seventh grade.

As someone who spent a year in Germany in my teens, and then came back to the US, it was very striking to me that US teens had a much higher incidence of bingeing on booze, general irresponsibility with intoxicants, and tended to get in trouble (either health-wise or legally) than the kids I knew in Germany, who were mostly introduced to alcohol by their parents in a controlled setting.

I don't have any handy study to pull out, but sane parents introducing their kids to alcohol in a controlled fashion seems intuitively much better than waiting for them to figure it out at a kegger with no supervision.
3.1.2008 6:44pm