Friday, May 29, 2009

Billie Holiday, David Simon and the War on Drugs

I am reading Billie Holiday's 1956 engaging autobiography Lady Sings the Blues (ghostwritten by William Dufty), and found a passage on the failed war on drugs that sounds like it was written in opposition to the failed war on drugs of the Reagan years, or indeed today. She says:
People on drugs are sick people. So now we end up with the government chasing sick people like they were criminals, telling doctors they can't help them, prosecuting them because they had some stuff without paying the tax, and sending them to jail.

Imagine if the government chased sick people with diabetes, put a tax on insulin and drove it into the black market, told doctors they couldn't treat them, and then caught them, prosecuted them for not paying their taxes, and then sent them to jail. If we did that, everyone would know we were crazy. Yet we do practically the same thing every day in the week to sick people hooked on drugs. The jails are full and the problem is getting worse every day.
And here's David Simon, creator of The Wire, speaking on the subject on Bill Moyers Journal:
I would decriminalize drugs in a heartbeat. I would put all the interdiction money, all the incarceration money, all the enforcement money, all of the pretrial, all the prep, all of that cash, I would hurl it, as fast as I could, into drug treatment and job training and jobs programs. I would rather turn these neighborhoods inward with jobs programs. Even if it was the equivalent of the urban CCC, if it was New Deal-type logic, it would be doing less damage than creating a war syndrome, where we're basically treating our underclass. The drug war's war on the underclass now. That's all it is. It has no other meaning.