- Federal judges
- Prison guards
- Conservative think tanks
- Free market economists (R.I.P. Milton Friedman)
It seems like there's a national conversation occurring on the subject, but under the radar - despite, not because of the country's leadership.
In a post-election wrap up, the Drug Policy Alliance's Bill Piper noted that Republicans are some of the "strongest champions" in state legislatures supporting drug law reform, although the opposite is true in Congress. That's been true in Texas, where the GOP Chairman of the House Corrections Committee Jerry Madden wrote last year:
Instead of sending non-violent people to prison, Texas could closely monitor them and provide job training, effective drug and alcohol rehabilitation and mental health treatment using other community resources — a hand up, not a hand out. That way, Texas could concentrate its criminal justice spending on the more dangerous people.Governor Perry vetoed the bill he was writing about, but said he supported the concept, and his Department of Criminal Justice has been implementing some of the ideas anyway, as they can. Madden and Senate Criminal Justice Chairman John Whitmire plan to bring it back up next spring, and with a few key changes he identified in his veto message, most folks expect the Governor to support it. In 2003 Gov. Perry signed legislation to require judges to sentence low-level drug offenders to probation and treatment instead of incarceration on the first offense.
Ironically, given these dynamics, I think Texas could be a leader in the nation's move away from draconian drug laws, despite its "tuff" persona. That's in part because we've incarcerated more of our citizens than other states and nations, so the problems that come with overincarceration affect us more seriously.
It's too early to tell, and perhaps it's wishful thinking, but I see in the statements linked above and other developments the outlines of a potential consensus on these hot button subjects, one that wouldn't have been politically possible 5-10 years ago. Even if there's not complete agreement on what to do instead, very few people, it seems, think our current approach to the "drug war" is working.
What do you think, am I pissing in the wind or do these disparate threads really constitute a trend? And if so, can it happen in Texas?