We have got to stop, as a country, using conspiracy laws designed to target organized crime to convict people of drug offenses. It’s not appropriate and as I have said many times, we are throwing away a generation of people because as a society we have not given them the tools to cope with life.
28 people, almost all from Aroostook County, were indicted on drug conspiracy charges about a year and a half ago and this is what has happened;
If you are unfamiliar with how conspiracy charges work, here’s a simple explanation. Let’s say your child is in active addiction, they have no job or way to purchase their drug of choice. They go to a person selling tons of drugs in your neighborhood and agree to purchase 5 grams of say, cocaine. They use 2 of those personally and sell the other 3 to someone. Your child is now part of a conspiracy. Now comes the DEA and indicts everyone involved in the conspiracy. Your child says, well I only bought for my use and sold a little bit. They are guilty of everything everyone involved with the conspiracy has done. Maybe the person they bought from had pounds of cocaine delivered and sold it to 40 people in small amounts to resell. All of those people can now potentially go to jail for ten or more years.
And then this happens. The person who had pounds delivered either through the mail, or by someone driving it to them meets with the DEA. They tell them that if they tell on these 40 people, they won’t be indicted. Hmmmm.. tough decision. This is exactly what has happened to those 28 people from Aroostook County.
There’s a woman in Boston, originally from Aroostook County. She lived somewhere out west for some time and met some people who could acquire lots of methamphetamine. Moving back to Boston, she recruited her nephew and more than 28 people in Aroostook to sell this for her. She reaped the profits, connected with those in the western part of the country, arranged for deliveries to people in Aroostook County, and had them sell her product. All of the recruits were those in active addiction who had no job and couldn’t support that addiction.
Now 28 people have been indicted in the conspiracy, but guess who is not? Not hard to figure out I guess. Here is a person that, had she been indicted, this would have been her third offense. And yet, she has parties at her home, travels to Aroostook to see her family, visits her nephew in jail and enjoys all the freedoms that I do as a law-abiding citizen. Why? She “snitched” on the 28 people involved.
So what have we fixed? Nothing. have the drugs stopped coming to our communities? Nope. Are we no longer seeing arrests for possession and trafficking? Nope. Is the DEA out of jobs? Nope. Everything is even worse. If you’re thinking, “well shouldn’t use drugs.” You are missing the entire point. If you point a finger and judge the person who is arrested, who is homeless, who walks the streets looking lost, you are part of the problem.
The war on drugs is a failure. The total federal war on drugs cost for 2017 was over $28.8 billion and the war on drugs cost for 2018 was over $29.4 billion. From January 1, 2019 through April 1, 2019, nearly $3.8 billion was spent at the federal level, with almost twice that spent at the state level. In total, nearly $10 billion was spent in just the first quarter of 2019.
- Every 25 seconds, someone in America is arrested for drug possession. The number of Americans arrested for possession has tripled since 1980, reaching 1.3 million arrests per year in 2015—six times the number of arrests for drug sales.
- One-fifth of the incarcerated population—or 456,000 individuals—is serving time for a drug charge. Another 1.15 million people are on probation and parole for drug-related offenses.
- Incarcerating people for drug-related offenses has been shown to have little impact on substance misuse rates. Instead, incarceration is linked with increased mortality from overdose. In the first two weeks after their release from prison, individuals are almost 13 times more likely to die than the general population. The leading cause of death among recently released individuals is overdose. During that period, individuals are at a 129 percent greater risk of dying from an overdose than the general public.
- Incarceration has a negligible effect on public safety. Crime rates have trended downward since 1990, and researchers attribute 75 to 100 percent of these reductions to factors other than incarceration.
And yet, we continue to do things and finance all of this only to let the people responsible for it all go and live their lives as if they had nothing to do with it. These numbers mean something to all of us. These costs are in our own backyard.