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Saturday, October 22, 2016

It swallowed people up.

That’s what it really did, if you want to know the truth. It swallowed them up whole, swallowed them up by the millions.

In the process, it hollowed out communities, broke families, stranded hope. Politicians brayed that they were being “tough on crime” — as if anyone is really in favor of crime — as they imposed ever longer and more inflexible sentences for nonviolent drug offenses. But the “War on Drugs” didn’t hurt drugs at all: Usage rose by 2,800 percent — that’s not a typo — in the 40 years after it began in 1971. The “War” also made America the biggest jailer on Earth and drained a trillion dollars — still not a typo — from the Treasury.

Faced with that stunning record of costly failure, a growing coalition of observers has been demanding the obvious remedy. End the War. The Obama administration has been unwilling to go quite that far, but apparently, it is about to do the next best thing: Declare a ceasefire and send the prisoners home.

Attorney General Eric Holder announced last week that the government is embarking upon an aggressive campaign to extend clemency to drug offenders. Those whose crimes were nonviolent, who have no ties to gangs or large drug rings and who have behaved themselves while incarcerated will be invited to apply for executive lenience to cut their sentences short.

Nobody knows yet how many men and women that will be. Easily thousands.

Combined with last year’s announcement that the government would no longer seek harsh mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenders, this may prove the most transformative legacy of Barack Obama’s presidency, excluding the Affordable Care Act. It is a long overdue reform.

But it is not enough.

As journalist Matt Taibbi observes in his new book The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap, Holder’s Justice Department has declined, essentially as a matter of policy, to prosecute the bankers who committed fraud, laundered money for drug cartels and terrorists, stole billions from their own banks, left taxpayers holding the bag, and also — not incidentally — nearly wrecked the U.S. economy. But let some nobody get caught with a joint in his pocket during a stop-and-frisk and the full weight of American justice falls on him like a safe from a 10th-story window.

For instance, a man named Scott Walker is 15 years into a sentence of life without parole on his first felony conviction for selling drugs. Meantime, thug bankers in gangs with names like Lehman Brothers and HSBC commit greater crimes, yet do zero time.

  • disqus_ivSI3ByGmh

    So, people serving idiotically long sentences for simple possession of marijuana should stay in prison, while rich people who cause the death of others should not be incarcerated due to affluenza.

  • Bill Thompson

    The war on drugs and increasing sentencing times are a direct result of the privatization of the prison system. Politician get wheelbarrels of money from lobbyists telling them how they can look tough on crime. Laws are made stricter, sentences become longer and the prison system corporations become richer. All at the expense of the taxpayer. It would be far cheaper to treat low level drug abuses and help them on their way to a productive life as opposed to incarcerated them.
    The next corporate conquest will be schools, privatization of the public school at the taxpayers expense. The churches are behind it 100% as are lobbyists working for the privatization of the school system. Charter schools and vouchered schools cherry pick the best students among us while leaving the disabled and learning disabled behind in the public school system. As has always been the case in parochial education.

    • wjca

      I think you may have cause and effect turned around. The War on Drugs started first. But the masses of people it put in jail for long periods provided the incentive to privatize the prison system which housed them. Simply put, before the War on Drugs, there wasn’t any money in running a prison. Now, there is.

      But chronologically, the War came first.

      • Bill Thompson

        I stand corrected on the timeline issue, the fact remains that the war on drugs has turned into a politicians look tough on crime bonanza. Are prisons are filled with low-level drug abuses costing the American public billions. Billions that go into the pockets of corporations that continue to write stricter and stricter legislation to feed their product which are prisons.
        I also believe the public educational system is the next victim of corporate lobbying.

        • wjca

          On that, I agree with you. The private prison system (and the prison guards unions) are now among the biggest supporters of politicians who keep the system going by adding every bigger penalties for ever smaller offenses.

          The sooner we dump the War on Drugs insanity, the better. For our government, for out government budgets, and for all of us.

  • ps0rjl

    If you’re black and/or poor just spitting on the sidewalk in front of a policeman can get you jailed. But if you are white, rich and/or powerful then stealing millions or even killing someone wont get you a day in jail.

    • Gene Simmon

      First of all you have a simple ‘immature’ comparison. I am sure IF a black person goes to jail for spitting in front of a police officer so would the white guy. AND, you mean to tell me there are no rich and/or powerful black people stealing or even killing. Come on!

  • charles king

    I have been talking about the privatizing of the People’s Assets for fifteen years now. I worked in a segergated school system in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, when I arrived in Philly back in 1953 after getting a Honorable discharge from the U. S. Navy, I stopped off in Philly and they had a good public school system with all prespectives going to school together then came the sixties and the White’s sold their homes to others and moved to the sub-burd,anyway the (2.4bils) that the system had became zero dollars and the People were left with a bunch of Charters schools provided by their State Representives. Privatization of the People’s Assets continue now Where? the KKK wants to join the police force in Pennsylvania, like the Guradian Angles did in New York, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Where? in the hell is our country heading. Please People for your sake start doing some (Critical Thinking) and take back your country before the Capitalistic Pigs, Plutocracts, Do-Nothingiers Representives (Republicans and Democracts, etc). Thank You are the magic words in my book. I Love Ya All. Mr. C. E. KING

  • Allan Richardson

    Privatization means, instead of spending $100 of tax money for public services done by public employees, spending $200 of tax money for a private corporation (which probably pays its EMPLOYEES less and thus often gets poorer results) to provide that same $100 worth of public service, with less accountability for the results. And the extra $100 of tax money, maybe even more (see the previous parenthetical clause for why) is profit for the favored private contracting company.

    The net result: privatized public services cost taxpayers MORE for the same quantity (not necessarily quality) of work for the public. Why would fiscally “conservative” voters vote to allow it? Because fiscal “conservative” is often an excuse to “punish” the hard working rank and file “bureaucrats” for being better off than private sector workers (i.e. for keeping equitable wages and benefits longer than the rest of us were able to do).

  • charleo1

    This is a step in the right direction. Which is what we wind up saying a lot
    it seems lately, about other so called, “reforms.” The jobs bill was a step
    in the right direction. But the economy was so poor, it ultimately left far
    too many unemployed. Healthcare reform was a step in the right direction. But, it still leaves far too many uninsured, in those States that have decided not to expand their Medicaid programs. The Obama Administration’s decision not to deport, at least for the time being, young people, who through no fault of their own, find themselves in violation of the current Immigration Laws, is a step in the right direction. But, it still leaves the futures of these bright promising, young people, in perhaps the only Country they’ve ever known, clouded in uncertainty. A case of half measures yielding mediocre results. An action being at once hopeful, but falling short. Thereby becoming less wrong, but not fully right, and subject to a complete reversal. Commuting the sentences of non-violent drug offenders, is a sign we at last are replacing some of the mindless zealotry with which we have been prosecuting this war. And, replacing it with some measure of common sense. However, it is not enough to simply turn an individual out into society, and expect the effects of a decade or more of incarceration, to just go away. The fact is, we have just as many problems establishing former offenders, and assemulating them back into society. As we do inside the confines of the prison itself. It’s because once our system gets it’s hands on them. It attempts, and too often succeeds, in dragging them back in. Finally, they become institutionalized, unable to function without the predictable, and regimented life of the Convict. To free society on the outside, they are now disposable. And not because they are inherently criminals, or defective as human beings. But because we allowed our system to create who they’ve ultimately, become.

  • bcarreiro

    We should be imposing more longer sentences for violent and obitual offenders. We also should reform sex offender sentences as well, maybe wouidn’t need a registry when we damn well know where they are and where they will stay.There is no rehabilitation for a sex offender!!!

  • Sand_Cat

    So those imprisoned and subjected to other harsh punishments and destruction of their lives to satisfy a bunch of hypocritical paranoids have to have “behaved” to get – not justice, but some poor excuse for it? And who, pray tell, decides if they “behaved”?

  • Douglas Johnson

    Bankers are not appropriate for jail but colored people are? Leonard; I am as white as you aren’t and this philosophy from Holder really repulses me right down to my Mississippi roots. First of all, it is totally unfair. Second of all, the untamed bankers do quantum more harm than a pot or even crack smoker does. Go after the real threat to this country: The Gordon Gekkos and the Jamie Dimons and creative thinkers on Wall Street. As a postscript and afterthought I highly recommend THE DIVIDE. As a second afterthought whoever pardons these nonviolent offenders should restore their civil rights so they can VOTE.

  • Hughes Hunt

    “You cannot un-ring a bell. Once a liar, always a liar. Be very careful of what you wish for. It just might come true.” Voting is better than not because inaction will allow the wrong people to seize control, ruin, and destroy your potentials, goals, aspirations and purpose of living. By your collective action, you can make America a better place to realize your dreams and plans for the future.. Applied knowledge is power only if used wisely for the betterment of America and the world at large. Why be a passenger when you can be a better driver of your life? Why spend your life cheering for others to make millions while you are left behind with nothing but crumbs and leftovers? You are easily distracted, fooled, thus you often end up picking up the pennies even as the dollars fly you by. Take responsibility and seize control of your life by voting only for candidates who care for the best interests of America and Americans. There is a price to pay for living and dying. Nothing is free. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) or O’care or health care reform has been indisputably delayed, filibustered and obstructed for 102 years too long since 1912, when former President Theodore Roosevelt unsuccessfully attempted to introduce national health insurance for the first time in history. ACA or O’care is a trailblazer, a first step toward real health reform. Like Social Security and Medicare, Affordable Care Act or O’care will pave the way for single payer or Medicare- for- all, despite GOP-TP lies and distortions that favor greedy for-profit insurance companies which caused half of the nation’s bankruptcies. Congress should be creating jobs with decent living wages instead of merely subsidies or government assistance. We, the People, should be ” repealing ” the 30 devious Republican governors, death- panels- in- disguise, and GOP-TP now controlling the House of Representatives, disguised as corporations, who clearly have been enacting bills into law systematically to protect corporate welfare, tax breaks, oil and farm subsidies for the top wealthy one percent but totally ignoring the best interests of 99 percent of working families struggling to pay bills. And the only thing to be replaced should be Republican “We- don’t- care- insurance” with Affordable healthcare or O’care for having wasted $60 million taxpayer dollars in their 52 unsuccessful attempts to “repeal without replacement” A.C.A. 52 times. Realized it or not, you have been misled, fooled and become complicit into voting for GOP-TP (Greedy Obstructionist Psychopaths-Tea Potties) who not only have controlled the House of Representatives by their false promises to create JOBS for millions of jobless Americans but also legislated nothing but their self-enrichment to the detriment of 99% of Americans for the past five years. How did you like having been deceived and bombarded with Fox News GOP-TP propaganda 24/7 with no jobs created for way too long? Hold those Congressional Republicans accountable for the JOBS promised. Vote out of office all these lying scumbags, scofflaws and career criminals- overstaying members of Congress. Have a clean sweep of all undesirables on Election Day 2014 and 2016 thereafter. Time to redress these wrongs. Demand JOBS NOW !