Minimizing Harm: A New Crime Policy for Modern America

By Edward L. Rubin | Go to book overview

5
Drug Policy

Drug Enforcement, Violent Crime, and
the Minimization of Harm

JEROME SKOLNICK

Any discussion of crime policy in the United States necessarily confronts the issue of drugs; in fact, drugs are an important subtheme in all the other principal chapters in this volume. But the way that drugs interact with other issues is neither simple nor obvious. In addition, as Edward Rubin observes in the introduction to this volume, public policy recommendations must mediate between the optimal, as discerned by experts in crime policy, and the politically possible, as determined by real-world decisionmakers and, ultimately, the general public. This adds a further complexity, for nowhere is the gap between the two as wide as in the area of drugs. Crime policy analysts generally agree that imprisonment for drug use, or even drug sale, is an ineffective strategy, but the public seems to demand increasingly severe sanctions for these behaviors.

In this chapter, I will begin by identifying the issues that the other chapters in this volume raise about drug policy. I will then consider the different approaches to this subject: that taking drugs is private behavior which cannot be prohibited by the government; that it is undesirable behavior that the government may prohibit, but need not do so; and that it is reprehensible behavior that the government is obligated to prohibit and combat. The United States has obviously adopted the third policy, dramatically, or melodramatically christened the "War on Drugs." In the third section, the problems associated with this policy are considered; these include the difficulties of enforcing the prohibition; the failure to consider the underlying social and economic causes of drug use; and the deleterious effects of this policy on the nation's character. I will then proceed to a con

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Minimizing Harm: A New Crime Policy for Modern America
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Tables and Figures vii
  • Preface and Acknowledgments ix
  • 1 - Introduction: Minimizing Harm as a Solution to the Crime Policy Conundrum 1
  • References 32
  • 2 - Public Attitudes Toward Crime 35
  • References 57
  • References 61
  • Notes 66
  • 3 - Prevention 67
  • References 86
  • References 112
  • 4 - Alternative Sanctions 115
  • References 147
  • References 163
  • Notes 169
  • 5 - Drug Policy 171
  • References 195
  • Notes 207
  • References 208
  • About the Editor and Contributors 209
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