Friday, March 23, 2007

For Your Weekend Reading Pleasure

  • I'd do the happy dance, except this really just reminds me how silly we're being. A report in the British med journal The Lancet surveys doctors and law enforcement types, comes up with a ranking of substances to abuse, both groups' lists come out looking the same, and the result is a very good indicator of the dangerousness of the drugs we fear. Odd, though. The lists aren't the same as what's illegal and legal. Heroin and coke topped the dangerousness scale, then barbiturates and street methadone. What was fifth? ALCOHOL. Tobacco came in 9th and marijuana, you say?? 11th. Just above Ecstasy. Here's what the study's main author says (and yes, his name is Nutt): "The current drug system is ill thought-out and arbitrary," said Nutt, referring to the United Kingdom's practice of assigning drugs to three distinct divisions, ostensibly based on the drugs' potential for harm. "The exclusion of alcohol and tobacco from the Misuse of Drugs Act is, from a scientific perspective, arbitrary," write Nutt and his colleagues in The Lancet. Then he added: "The current system is not fit for purpose. Let's treat people as adults. We should have a much more considered debate how we deal with dangerous drugs." And here are his colleagues: "The rankings also suggest the need for better regulation of the more harmful drugs that are currently legal, i.e. tobacco and alcohol," wrote Wayne Hall, of the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia, in an accompanying Lancet commentary. Hall was not involved with Nutt's paper. While experts agreed that criminalizing alcohol and tobacco would be challenging, they said that governments should review the penalties imposed for drug abuse and try to make them more reflective of the actual risks and damages involved. And here's what the British authorities said: "We have no intention of reviewing the drug classification system.” AKA, "don't bother us with fact. We know what we believe." And you really think there's any hope for making our drug policy enlightened, consistent, and legitimate here???
  • A very nicely done welcome to a new blog he's put on his site over at Sex Crime Defender by Stephen Smith. A model for all of us, in a number of ways.
  • Couple of things to pursue over at Think Outside the Cage (actually, more than a couple but we're only doing two here right now). One, evidence that meth use is down and heroin use never took off in Denver, and two, a very depressing and cautionary note on how the mental problems of returning Iraq War vets will likely multiply what we would have normally had, with the obvious consequences for our new mental hospitals, also known as prisons and jails.
  • And finally, two seemingly unrelated blog posts that actually point to the same thing. When people fail, the key to whether they give up and turn in other (often unfortunate) directions depends on whether they see that failure as the result of their own lack of ability or simply the need to try harder. This post at The Situationist lays out the empirical evidence (see also this post at Mind Hacks), this post at blackprof shows what the social outcomes are when we ignore the barriers we construct to young peoples’ potentials. Both show that the work of corrections sentencing needs to focus on more than how we punish.

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