Monday, February 09, 2009

Byrne grants, the anti-stimulus

I'm disappointed to see that the federal Byrne grant program - which gives block grants to the states to pay for hundreds of regional drug task forces across the country like the one in the infamous Tulia drug stings - made it into the version of the stimulus bill approved by the Senate, though at just one-third the funding level proposed by President Obma. Too bad. Perhaps there's still some remote chance that the program will be eliminated in the conference committee, but I'm not holding my breath.

Perhaps counterintuitively, it's Democrats who insist on propping up this drug war dinosaur, while the GOP has long supported eliminating it as counterproductive pork.

There's nothing stimulating to the economy about the Byrne grant program. It may employ more undercover drug cops, but their job is to disrupt the economy through petty drug arrests, filling up prisons that cost taxpayers instead of bolstering state and local coffers. As I wrote last month, "It really is time for national Democrats in Congress to join Republicans and dump this program, which is a massive driver of racial disparities in state-level incarceration. In some states, 85% of drug arrests are made by Tulia-style drug task forces, predominantly in black communities."

If conference committee members need justification for axing the program, they should watch the documentary film Tulia, Texas, which will air nationwide on PBS tomorrow night, Feb. 10. See Grits' review of the film when it premiered last year at the SXSW film festival, a report from a local, Austin screening, a preview of the film from the Plainview Herald, and a discussion guide for the event (pdf) created by the filmmakers. The show starts at 9 p.m. CST on Austin's KLRU; check local listings.


Anonymous said...

Hundreds who posted views on sex assault trial targeted in Tarrant suit

04:39 PM CST on Saturday, February 7, 2009

FORT WORTH — Hundreds of people who posted their opinions of a sexual assault trial in an online forum are now the targets of a lawsuit.

The authors of those comments on a Web site thought they were anonymous, but this week, a judge ruled their names should be revealed.

Randy Chase said...

I think I found the root of the Democrats renewed support for Byrne Grants.

The 2008 Democratic Party Platform States:

"We must help state, local, and tribal law enforcement work together to combat and prevent drug crime and drug and alcohol abuse, which are a blight on our communities. We will restore funding for the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant Program and expand the use of drug courts and rehabilitation programs for first-time, non-violent drug offenders."

Anonymous said...

I keep expecting some pol to stand up in Congress and loudly announce that since gravity is the cause of so much misery and death in America, that it will be outlawed, too. But, like the DrugWar, which tries to outlaw basic biology, they'll have as much success.

Ever heard of dopamine receptors? Endorphins? Anandamides? All contained in the gray matters of the brain, and the endorphins are intimately linked to the learning process, which is why you feel some satisfaction after learning to do something that was giving you fits, before. And they're inextricably linked to feeling pleasure.

No 'Byrne Grant' will ever change that. No DrugWar will ever stop that. And no pol with three brain cells to soggily mash together should ever try...but there's far too many who only seem to have just two, or maybe one. So we keep getting this nonsense...

One last thing: try to take away the pleasure functions of the brain, as some crazy people want to do with a kind of inoculation for kids to keep them off illicit drugs, and we may produce a generation of true amoral and vicious 'Superpredators', not the fictional DiIulio type. Do we really want to risk that?