Minimizing Harm: A New Crime Policy for Modern America

By Edward L. Rubin | Go to book overview

whether this would occur, but the prospect does make legalization a risky proposal.

Yet the central insight of the European harm reduction movement is that it is quite feasible to implement harm reduction within a legal prohibition regime. This is illustrated quite clearly in the way national drug strategies are formed and implemented in Great Britain, The Netherlands, and Switzerland (the countries that pioneered harm reduction), and in Canada, Australia, and Germany (three countries that have recently begun adopting harm reduction approaches) (Reuter and MacCoun 1995; MacCoun, Model, et al. 1995). Each of these nations prohibits drugs like heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamines. Each nation is quite aggressive in policing and prosecuting drug traffickers and interdicting drug shipments. But during the past decade, each of these countries has increasingly emphasized a public health orientation toward drug problems, including drug prevention, drug treatment (frequently as an alternative to criminal sanctions), and interventions like needle exchange to reduce the harmfulness of addictive drug use. Harm reduction has not been a panacea; these nations still have serious drug problems, though no greater than those in the United States. But they have been able to significantly reduce many of the social costs associated with drug use.

These nations have discovered that reducing total drug-related harm requires an integrated package of use reduction and harm reduction interventions. Adopting harm reduction measures has not required them to curtail their use-reduction efforts. Unfortunately, the American drug policy debate has sadly become polarized around a false dichotomy. We act as if anyone who doesn't enthusiastically support an ever-increasing escalation of criminal sanctions against drug users must favor brand-name cocaine in the neighborhood supermarket. The tragedy is that this bifurcation has blinded us to the many opportunities to reduce some of the terrible costs that drug abuse (and sometimes, drug policies) causes to families and neighborhoods. Professor Skolnick's chapter is a refreshing call for a reasoned consideration of the wide array of options in the middle of the policy continuum.


Notes
1
To give another example, a Central Asian police chief, in a town (Osh) noted for drug trafficking, told Michael Specter that he hand picked twenty good, honest men. But since they earn $45 per month and have families, "You can figure out the rest."
2
This, of course, occurred when Prohibition ended. Conversely, prohibition of alcohol or cigarettes would likely lead to an enormous black market in those products, with the same socially deleterious features as the current drug market ( Hess 1995).

-207-

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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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