Wednesday, October 22, 2014
Brian, a high school student from New York, asked my perspective on the Rockefeller Drug Laws of 1973.
For those who don’t know, the Rockefeller Drug Laws required judges to impose lengthy sentences on offenders who were convicted of non-violent drug crimes. From my recollection, those sentences require a minimum of 15 years in prison and extended to life terms. Those sentences were imposed on consenting adults who engaged in drug transactions. Factors like violence or weapons could aggravate the sentence, but an individual without aggravating factors in the crime could still receive sentences that were excessively long.
The Rockefeller Drug Laws, from my perspective, did not serve the interests of an evolving, enlightened society. Clearly, society has an interest in nurturing productive citizens. Illicit drug use threatens productivity. Yet incarcerating individuals for choices they make to use drugs does not advance society. Statistics show that the more people we incarcerate, and the longer we keep people in prison, the more we perpetuate intergenerational cycles of failure.
Prisons have not proven successful in lowering drug usage. Local and federal governments invest far too much in both human and financial resources to sustain a commitment to mass incarceration. We should reserve the use of our nation’s prison system to confine those who truly threaten others, not to confine consenting adults who engage in socially prohibitive behavior. The resources to confine could be better invested in education programs.
To answer Brian’s question, the Rockefeller Drug Laws of 1973 made a poor use of public resources. They led the movement toward mass incarceration, which perpetuated intergenerational cycles of failure. It is the greatest social injustice of our time.
Days since my release from prison: 436
Miles that I ran today: 0
Miles that I ran so far this week: 24.3
Miles that I’ve run during the month of October: 126.69
Miles that I ran so far in 2014: 1,990.71
Miles that I need to run in order to reach my annual goal of 2,400 miles: 409.29
Miles I’m ahead of schedule to reach my 2,400-mile goal by the end of 2014: 45.99
My weight for today: 168