Thursday, January 18, 2007

News of the Day, Thursday, January 18, 2007

This Harvard School of Public Health study finds that cigarette makers have raised nicotine levels in their drug delivery systems about 11% from 1997 to 2005, thereby hooking more users and making it harder to quit at a time when the medical and social costs to those users and the rest of us are more and more documented. Look, I know I get annoying on this, but if we caught “bad” drug guys doing this, wouldn’t there be outrage? These things harm more people and have more secondary harm than any other drug out there and yet the makers can deliberately increase their addictive capacity and not a word from the “War on (Some) Drugs” people. Is there any better evidence on how irrational and hypocritical our drug policy is? Is there any wonder why people have such a hard time finding a crim just system built around it so illegitimate? If tobacco execs don’t belong in prison, who does? . . . Meanwhile, NH is seriously considering marijuana sales. Of course, there's opposition. Here's the most pronounced: Simon Brown, head of the attorney general's criminal justice bureau, said the police have their hands full regulating tobacco and alcohol. Like those two drugs, marijuana can also be harmful, he said. He cited federal studies that show the drug can impair a user's concentration and coordination, which are vital to driving, he said. Studies also connected marijuana use with violent acts, he said. Uh, I'm sorry. That's the best you can do? 3 drugs are equal, 2 are legal so let's spend all these resources on the one that's not? The drug can make you lose coordination and concentration, you mean, like cell phones? Marijuana and violent acts? Are you kidding me? What have you been smoking, Mr. Brown? Look, marijuana's not a good thing, but neither are soft drinks, and it has secondary effects that we need to regulate as well. But this article is a nice start on what some more enlightened jurisdictions may be able to do to start us thinking harder about the pros and cons rather than just knee-jerk like we have forever. You know me, the glass is always half full. . . . A study in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine argues that, "[w]hen it comes to curbing bullying at school, school-based programs that seek to alter the school's entire culture and involve individuals, peer groups, classroom teachers, social workers, and administrators work best, especially at the junior and high school level ." 7 of 10 "whole school" programs had positive impact whereas only 4 in 10 of the curriculum-based ones did. Given the ties between early anti-social behavior and later criminality, this study has ties to our corrections sentencing and is a nice example of work that gives policymakers the kind of info they need to make intelligent decisions. If that's what they want to do. . . . A couple of stories on states considering more prison space. FL heard from an advocate for new and different efforts on reentry and ND is trying to decide between a new facility or just an add-on. The more you dig into these issues, the more angles you see. If only we could see the way out. . . . A really good one of those articles demonstrating that some victims' families want mercy for the offender, even when the offender really may not seem to deserve it after the offense, either. I'm not sure I agree with the victim's family here, but I'm always amazed at the resources and commitment to religious principle that they can bring to bear on such fundamental questions. . . . Finally, a word about the Man Who Would Be President but Can't Because of That Old Constitution. This article shows that Governor Schwarzenegger has figured out that CA is one of the major nations in the world and he can leave his mark not just on our country but on the planet by adopting proactive approaches to some of the really intractable issues of the day, like health care and global warming. And, of course, corrections sentencing policy. His quotes indicate that, unless he was script-reading, he thoroughly "gets" the problem that our politics and limits as communities and people poses for our ability to act. Still not convinced he can swing the sword to cut the Gordian Knot I've described out there, but, between him and court action, they've at least picked it up. That's more hope than I was giving them a few months back. Who knows? He IS the Terminator.

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