Vice Squad
Tuesday, December 07, 2004
Drug War Lunacy Declines in New York

New York State is reducing the severity of the punishments it attaches to some drug "crimes" -- better 30 years late than never. It's a start, I suppose, but only a start: "Two longtime goals of drug law reformers — giving near-total sentencing discretion to judges and allowing some offenders to avoid prison entirely in favor of treatment — are not included in the agreement."

The linked article quotes Governor George Pataki: "'Now we put in a new law that will rationalize that sentencing (structure) and make the punishment fit the crime,' he said." But with "victimless" drug crimes, the punishment can never be calibrated to the crime, if there is any appreciable punishment at all, because the proscribed activity itself does not create any non-consensual harm, or even create a significant probability of creating such harm. So adult vices are sometimes punished harshly, and at other times are ignored or legal or even celebrated. The calibration of the punishment is made to swings in the popular mood, not to the harmfulness of the outlawed behavior -- a theme that Vice Squad has sounded before.

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