Drug Courts

Former Drug Czar Advisor Says Obama's "Third Way" Drug Policy Involves "Short Stints in Jail"

|

A former senior analyst with the Office of National Drug Control Policy under President Obama says the "third way" drug policy frequently invoked by Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske as an alternative to incarceration often involves "short stints in jail" when users fail to stay abstinent. 

In a letter to U.S. News and World Report, Kevin Sabet, a former senior policy advisor to Kerlikowske and one of the architects of Obama's drug control strategy (now in its third year), writes 

Decades of research have shown that treatment reduces crime and saves money. But newer interventions, like drug courts or interventions that combine positive drug tests with very short sanctions (like 1-3 days in jail) can significantly reduce drug use and help people live a better life. Using the judicial system wisely by enforcing abstinence with short stints in jail is an incentive drug users sometimes need—indeed it has shown to work better than traditional, voluntary treatment alone.

Emphasis mine. This is the first time that a member of Obama's drug team–current or former–has admitted in public that the President's "third way" policy involves incarcerating users who fail drug tests after being "diverted." 

Sabet's letter should have several implications for Obama's new policy. For starters, it should garner some follow-up reporting from mainstream media outlets that ran sucker stories after Kerlikowske spoke at the Center for American Progress in May; and again in June, after Kerlikowske made similar statements at the Betty Ford Center:

Drug czar wants to treat addiction rather than wage 'war'

Drug Czar Kerlikowske Promotes 'Paradigm Shift' on Abuse

Drug czar says addiction is a health problem, not a moral failing

Treat drug abuse as public health issue, US czar says

Drug Czar Wants Renewed Focus On Recovery

Drug policy laws, focus must change, 'czar' insists

Drug Czar: Addicts Should Receive Treatment, Not Just Prosecution 

The Obama administration has scored one drug-war PR victory after another by falsely claiming that it's spending more on treatment and prevention than on enforcement. Thanks to Sabet, we know those treatment dollars are actually paying for "short stints in jail." 

But even that claim needs qualifying. According to a report released last year by the Drug Policy Alliance, if 120,000 people a year enter drug court (which is what the ONDCP claims), only 25,000 will complete the program. The rest are incarcerated. Furthermore, "even if drug courts were dramatically expanded to scale to cover all people arrested for drug possession, between 500,000 and 1 million people would still be ejected from a drug court and sentenced conventionally every year." 

Advertisement

NEXT: Matt Welch on Unthinkable, Predictable Economic Disasters

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. “Thanks to Sabet, we know those treatment dollars are actually paying for “short stints in jail.””

    And it’s an odds-on bet the dope’s better and cheaper in jail than on the street.

  2. help people live a better life

    Indeed, *everyone* should spend 3 days in the slammer occasionally.

    1. I don’t know, jail is a little harsh. I mean you don’t want regular people who just need a little reminder mixing with hardened criminals.

      So they should set up something separate where people can get back on the path. A kind of agrarian breather. You know, open air, old fashioned cabin living, away from technology and the hustle and bustle. A place where the message can get through to them unimpeded. A camp if you will, where people can be educated to what they’re doing wrong.

      1. Would this camp also include classes on how to concentrate better? Like a “concentration camp”?

        1. Big Sis has the details, but she’s not sayin’ anything just yet.

    2. I knew this post would make me want to vomit, but little did I know how badly. I bet my life would be so much better if only I had spent just the right amount of time in jail.

      1. Obama ’12 — All The Wars and Twice The Bullshit Of The Last Guy.

    3. Movie idea: local judges and prosecutors are paid off by county jail systems to have users undergo short rehab/lock-up stints. The drug users are given heavy “rehab” drugs, after which they’re raped by paying customers in an underground sex tourism industry. If the drug users find out and complain, they’re ignored by the populace, who think drugs turn peoples’ brains into fried eggs. Our Hero contracts AIDS, and it’s blamed on sharing needles. The turning point in the movie comes as Our Hero is sitting on a park bench, when a blood donation form flies in his face. He looks at it, reads the “have you been locked up for more than 72 hours”, “have you exchanged money or drugs for sex”, and “have you ever had sex with another man, even once?” questions, and checks all three with blood from a cut on his hand. Then heads roll for the next thirty minutes.

  3. very short sanctions (like 1-3 days in jail) can significantly reduce drug use and help people live a better life

    Welcome to the mind of a progresso-tard. They really do think that without their kind and benevolent “guidance” the sheeple are completely incapable of managing their own lives.

    Drug users must be thrown in jail for a few days “for their own good”. Fatties must be denied sodas larger than 16 oz “for their own good”. Smoking in public must be banned “for their own good”. Etc., etc. And of course it helps that doing all these things make them feel better about themselves. I shudder to think what kind of person actually gets their jollys off from poking their noses into everyone else’s business.

    [Insert C.S. Lewis quote here.]

  4. But newer interventions, like drug courts or interventions that combine positive drug tests with very short sanctions (like 1-3 days in jail) can significantly reduce drug use and help people live a better life. Using the judicial system wisely by enforcing abstinence with short stints in jail is an incentive drug users sometimes need?indeed it has shown to work better than traditional, voluntary treatment alone.

    This is where the alcohol Prohibitionists failed. Rather than simply going after the bootleggers, they should have arrested and incarcerated all of the drinkers too to failure to be sufficiently abstinent.

    I spit on all of these moral busybodies and fart in their general direction.

  5. Over in morning links, LTC John asserted that it would be hard to find people to turn the guns against their fellow citizens.

    The War on (Users of Some) Drugs (Popular w/ Minorities or Foreigners) is a remarkable rebuttal to this Pollyannaish view.

    There is a surfeit of Dunphys in the U.S. who are willing to obey the orders of malignant demagogues like Kevin Sabet to shoot, electrically shock, beat or cage people for political crimes. The jails are bursting with their victims.

    Their conduct in the wake of Katrina in New Orleans, where police officers imported from multiple states swept through neighborhoods attempting to disarm the citizenry without any visible hesitation at their insane (and unlawful) orders, the coverup of the massacre on the Danzinger Bridge perpetrated by the New Orleans police all point to a system full of people that show little compunction about injuring or killing people – so long as the general population doesn’t get too outraged and demand heads.

    Mark my words, you will see drones firing heavy weapons into targets in CONUS in the next 10 years. They’ll start with drug-smugglers and expand from there.

    1. Meh, a couple good spills and BP style extorted ‘environmental re-payments’ and the insurance overhead will drive the price of production right back up.

      Course depending on where you are in the chain, that may or may not help you out personally.

    2. They’ll start with drug-smugglers and expand from there.

      Remember the PATRIOT Act and how it was an unprecedented expansion of government power?

      Turns out it wasn’t.

      All it did was take powers and punishments already used against suspected drug dealers and apply them to suspected terrorists.

      So I believe you are correct. Drones will be first used to kill suspected drug dealers, then suspected terrorists, and before long they’ll be patrolling the skies ready to kill anyone who Top. Men. deem worthy of killing.

      1. All it did was take powers and punishments already used against suspected drug dealers and apply them to suspected terrorists.

        My recollection is that it took the wish list of the WODders and other authoritarians and gave it a glossy “anti-terror” finish to get it through Congress. Of course, those expanded powers can be used for any purpose, and they have been and will be.

        I agree, though, that we’ll be droning people in the southern deserts first.

  6. A former senior analyst with the Office of National Drug Control Policy under President Obama says the “third way” drug policy frequently invoked by Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske as an alternative to incarceration often involves “short stints in jail” when users fail to stay abstinent.

    Let’s say after marijuana is “decriminalized”…

    If Congress can mandate that individuals purchase health insurance, can it also mandate that people who legally consume cannabis go to rehab?

    I’m not saying we shouldn’t still argue for legalization, but Obama’s (and other progressives’) idea of decriminalization probably isn’t what I’m imagining when I talk about decriminalization.

    Obama’s idea of “freedom” and my idea of freedom sure as hell aren’t the same thing…

    I mean, everyone who consumes cannabis must be picked up by the police and forced into rehab–and then tested regularly afterwards? That isn’t what I’m talking about when I talk about decriminalization…

    They’re just talking about using the state, effectively, to punish what would be legal behavior.

    I guess that’s sort of emblematic of the Obama Administration though–Obama doesn’t differentiate between legal and illegal behavior. Legal or illegal doesn’t matter–the government administers it all.

    1. Marijuana decrim – Obama/Roberts style.

      (1) Marijuana possession is no longer a criminal offense.

      (2) However, marijuana is heavily taxed (technically, I think it already is).

      (3) Having marijuana without the appropriate tax stamp is a violation. This includes, of course, having it in your system.

      (4) Once you are in violation, you can either pay the tax, or you can get it waived by going into rehab, which includes a short, educational jail stay.

      The punch line? Assuming marijuana is already taxed, this could all be done without troubling Congress.

      1. Hmmmm. Well, I don’t know about the Federal level, but at the state level:

        http://norml.org/component/zoo…..-penalties

        At the Federal level the income you make from illegal drugs is still taxable, however.

  7. I don’t see what Libertarians are complaining about. Obama is doing what he can to bring liberty to the people.

    Why would you oppose this President when he’s the only one to end the drug war AND bring liberty to health care choices?

    1. Time to play another round of Troll or Sarcasm!

      So… is this a troll or is this sarcasm? Cast your votes now folks.

      1. I vote trollcasm.

        Not to be confused with trollgasms.

      2. Sarcasm — there was a report in one of the mainlining papers yesterday about libertarians being the swing vote this year.

        The possibility of any libertarian voting for Obama this year, well, I don’t want to play No True Scotsskirtwearingladyman, but come one, there are fucking limitations to the meaning of words.

        1. Is there any doubt that the Orange Line Cosmo tarians will vote for Obama?

        2. I’m betting the Reason staff doesn’t repeat the error of the last election.

          No, not the mistake of voting for Obama.

          The mistake of telling us they were going to do so.

          1. I want them to add a follow up question this year, ‘can you justify your decision in a way that does not make you sound like one stupid motherfucker?’

            I want to see them ask Steven Pinker that question. If you forgot what a smug twat he came off sounding like, here is a reminder:

            1. Who are you voting for in November? Barack Obama, because he most exemplifies Reason and Free Minds (sorry, the country is in no mood for Freer Markets). The contrast between his discernment and eclecticism and the Republican ticket’s impulsiveness and idiot populism is vastly more important than any differences in their adherence to libertarian first principles.

            2. Who did you vote for in 2004 and 2000? Gore and Kerry.

            3. Is this the most important election in your lifetime? It may be. From Reagan to Quayle to W to Palin, American politics has been in a tailspin of know-nothingism. The world is too dangerous to entrust its most powerful nation to a lying ignoramus and the irresponsible man who picked her.

            4. What will you miss about the Bush administration? Nothing.

            5. Leaving George W. Bush out of consideration, what former U.S. president would you most like to have waterboarded? I’m opposed to waterboarding, but I’d give a few lashes with a wet noodle to Jimmy Carter for offering a moralistic polemic on the Middle East rather than clever diplomacy, and to George H.W. Bush for inaugurating the modern era of mendacious campaigning.

            1. sorry, the country is in no mood for Freer Markets

              That is the same thing as saying the country is in no mood for increases in prosperity and the standard of living. Yes, socialist, that is exactly what that means.

              It also suggests that the problem of ’08 was something else other than a highly manipulated credit market done in by regulators for the purpose of a flawed public policy. That something else being the mythic unbridled free markets. Until that myth is buried, and the policy is corrected, we are going to keep spinning our wheels in a ditch full of shit.

    2. “when he’s the only one to end the drug war”

      Except he hasn’t, and he won’t. Ever.

      “AND bring liberty to health care choices?”

      Like forcing us to buy health insurance?

  8. traditional, voluntary treatment

    oxymoronlicious.

  9. tell you what – when society effectively polices drunk drivers whose behavior often kills people, unlike anyone using weed, I’ll start taking these pronouncements more seriously.

  10. very short sanctions (like 1-3 days in jail) can significantly reduce drug use and help people live a better life

    If 1-3 days in jail can help people live better lives, why bother with tying it to drug use or anything else? Just put people in jail.

    1. The genius of the progressive plan is that by turning the country into a giant prison you don’t have to put anyone into jail.

  11. There is one thing Mr. Obama has been consistent about throughout his career: his ability to use rhetoric and propaganda, political or otherwise, to great effect.

    One thing is for certain, he is a consummate politician. That explains why, despite his pitiful and shameful shortcomings, people continue peddling his rhetoric?including people in the Drug Reform Movement.

    I have been tweeting about Obama’s dishonesty, cynicism and cowardice for quite a while. These are some of them:

    ?To call Obama’s support for #WarOnDrugs hypocritical is a gross understatement. It’s dishonest, cynical cowardly!
    ?Where would Obama, Cameron many supporters of Prohibition be today had they been caught when they were using drugs?
    ?Had Obama been convicted, forget being elected president, he would not even have been able to find a decent job.
    ?Obama is best proof that when it comes to foreign policy it does not matter who is elected president of the US!
    ?#Drones, #DueProcessDenial, #MilitaryCommissions, #WarOnDrugs 2 mention a few: Obama’s made a travesty of democratic values
    ?#WarOnDrugs, #Drones, #IndefiniteDetentions, #DueProcessDenial: Obama has become the laughing stock of any truly democratic person.
    ?What cruel a joke 2 award Obama the Nobel Prize. He should apologise return it right now, interests included.
    ?I believe the Nobel Committee do have enough evidence to sue Obama for bringing Nobel Peace Prize into disrepute!

    Gart Valenc
    Twitter: @gartvalenc

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.