Defending the virtues of liberty, free markets, and civilization... plus some commentary on the passing scene.

Freedom's Fidelity

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Hidden Costs of Criminalizing Drugs

I posited yesterday that because we lock up so many non-violent criminals for drug related crimes we necessarily parole some violent criminals to make room. It's a hidden cost of the drug war and unfortunately, right on cue, comes this from the north 'burbs:

Released from prison in October after serving about 4 years for a 2000 attack, Hanson, was charged Monday night with attempted murder and aggravated sexual assault after he allegedly attacked the 18-year-old woman earlier in the day.

"The question we're asking ourselves is: Why was this person back in the community?" [Attorney General] Madigan said. "We're trying to find out why and get to the bottom of it. We want to see if there's a problem in the system. Is there something we need to fix?"

Given his criminal history, including three previous sexual attacks on women, Hanson should have remained behind bars, Waller said.

"He clearly was identified as a risk," Waller said, noting that Hanson was 17 when he was convicted of sexual assault the first time, resulting in a 12-year prison term.

Hanson is 29 now, if he had actually served his initial sentence at least two less women would have been assaulted. But of course he was paroled, convicted again, and paroled again. Good thing they identified him as a risk.
He initially was paroled in December 2003 on the 2000 conviction, but was arrested and placed back in prison last August when he failed to report to his parole officer, officials said.

Each of the attacks, including Monday's, which took place about 12:30 p.m. near Casey Road and U.S. Highway 45, occurred near bike paths in the Libertyville area, investigators said.

....The victim in Monday's attack played dead after Hanson raped her, slashed her neck three times with a knife and dragged her into bushes, authorities said.

Hanson appeared stunned when investigators told him the woman had identified him in a photo lineup at Condell Medical Center in Libertyville, where she was treated for the knife wounds, authorities said.

"He firmly believed she was dead," Lake County Sheriff's Deputy Chief Scott Robin said. "After he was informed the victim picked him out of the lineup, he gave us a full statement as to the details of what happened."

They swear they are going to put him away for life this time. Stories like this come out almost weekly at the national level and, at least anecdotally, it seems it is always sex offenders that get paroled - and they are practically 100% repeat offenders. Why do we let them out and keep non-violent drug abusers in? Wouldn't our justice system be doing better if more money and resources were directed at keeping predators such as this behind bars? We can either build more courthouses, police stations, and prisons - which would require even more tax revenue and spending, or we can use the current resources more effectively. Decriminalizing drugs, even to a limited extent, would actually go a long way towards achieving both. But (non-prescription) drugs are so demonized by so many, we can't even have the discussion. How much money has been dumped down the black hole that is the war on drugs over the last 20 years, and more importantly what has it changed?


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