Hit & Run

"I'm probably the only district judge with this many tattoos"

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The Houston Chronicle has an interesting profile of Kevin Fine, a criminal defense attorney and self-described former drug addict who was elected this month as a Texas district court judge. From the story:

The devil tattooed on Kevin Fine's upper arm holds a razor blade, a mirror and an eight ball symbolizing cocaine. His forearm sports a tattoo of Jesus holding up a man who has collapsed amid the waves of a massive storm.

[…]

The crumpled man in Jesus' arms is a metaphor for the way he later faced his own skeletons and weathered the problems of addiction, said Fine, a criminal defense lawyer who will take the bench in January.

Fine believes he is qualified to help those who truly want to battle their own demons and says he'll be able to spot the phonies.

As the story notes, Fine will be replacing incumbent Judge Devon Anderson, whose responsibilities currently include volunteering one day per week at Harris County's "drug court," where judges determine whether or not to mandate certain drug offenders into treatment facilities rather than locking them up behind bars. "Fine said he plans to volunteer for the drug court after a year of learning the ropes as a new judge," the Chronicle reports.

This certainly raises some interesting questions: Will having a self-described former addict who is able to spot the "phonies" be good news for Harris County's drug offenders? More importantly, are drug courts that deal out treatment rather than incarceration really mitigating the Drug War's negative impact? It's obviously hard to argue that getting sent to drug treatment is worse than going to jail or prison, but does that mean that this sort of mandatory treatment is something that Drug War opponents should support? Here's what Thomas Szasz had to say on the subject in an interview with Jacob Sullum in February 2000:

Reason: In the area of drug policy, you've criticized the idea of shifting from a criminal justice approach to a "medical" or "public health" model, which you say would only reinforce the therapeutic state. But if a drug offender who might otherwise go to jail can instead undergo "treatment"—which is now the case in Arizona, for example—isn't he better off, even if the treatment is bogus?

Szasz: He may be better off in the sense in which a Jew in 15th-century Spain may have been better off converting to Christianity than being tortured. But I reject the dilemma. One of these so-called treatment options may be less punitive for the subject. But the side effect is that it reinforces the legitimacy of this kind of medical autocracy.

Full Houston Chronicle story on Fine here. reason's interview with Szasz here.

(Chronicle story via How Appealing)