Send a Tweet
Most Popular Choices
Share on Facebook 10 Share on Twitter Printer Friendly Page More Sharing
OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 9/7/13

Bad Combination: Abuse of Power over Prisoners and America's Misguided "War on Drugs"

By       (Page 1 of 1 pages)   2 comments
Follow Me on Twitter     Message Andrew Schmookler
Become a Fan
  (31 fans)
My wife April engaged recently in an act of civil disobedience in furtherance of the effort to block the Keystone XL Pipeline, largely out of concern about climate change.

Now April has written a piece ("Imprisonment--More Punishing than You Might Think"), which I commend to your attention, on her experience with the justice system. It is one particular aspect of her experience that I want to say something about here. 

In her piece, April mentions that she and evidently everyone else who gets arrested for anything in Washington, D. C., is required to take a drug test.  Her point is made in the context of the system's apparent inclination to humiliate those over whom it has power: in particular, each person is required to pee into a cup, and to do so in the presence of a guard.

My point is about another dimension of the abuse of power this represents. Why should the simple fact of being caught up in the system strip an American citizen of the protection against "unreasonable search"?  Why should a "crime" that implies nothing whatever about the likelihood of her being involved in the use of illegal drugs --like an act of civil disobedience against a corporation that had produced a fraudulent report for the government, hiding its conflict of interest -- remove the usual requirement that the police authorities must have "probable cause" before the they are entitled to invade an American's right of privacy?

(How widespread in America is this apparent policy of treating any arrest as a license to make that person's body a battleground in our national war against drugs?)

Here's what it looks like to me.  My guess is that two toxic and ugly things have combined here. 

One is our national obsession with the war on drugs, which has been a disaster and which reflects some of the deep follies of our national culture about how to deal with human problems --demonizing rather than understanding things, punishing rather than healing, etc.

The other is a tendency --the description of which is part of the heart of April's piece-- for the criminal justice system to abuse its power. For some people and some organizations, apparently, having people under one's control affords temptations that should be resisted more than they are.

It is important for a society to deal with the problem of crime.  It is no less important that it be dealt with wisely and justly.
Rate It | View Ratings

Andrew Schmookler Social Media Pages: Facebook page url on login Profile not filled in       Twitter page url on login Profile not filled in       Linkedin page url on login Profile not filled in       Instagram page url on login Profile not filled in

Andy Schmookler, an award-winning author, political commentator, radio talk-show host, and teacher, was the Democratic nominee for Congress from Virginia's 6th District. His new book -- written to have an impact on the central political battle of our time -- is (more...)
Go To Commenting
The views expressed herein are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this website or its editors.
Follow Me on Twitter     Writers Guidelines

Contact AuthorContact Author Contact EditorContact Editor Author PageView Authors' Articles
Support OpEdNews

OpEdNews depends upon can't survive without your help.

If you value this article and the work of OpEdNews, please either Donate or Purchase a premium membership.

If you've enjoyed this, sign up for our daily or weekly newsletter to get lots of great progressive content.
Daily Weekly     OpEd News Newsletter
   (Opens new browser window)

Most Popular Articles by this Author:     (View All Most Popular Articles by this Author)

Why Do Conservatives Like Colbert? Article Plus Critique

Mel Gibson's Rant as Profound Clue

To Anti-Obamite Lefties: It Doesn't Matter If You're Right

How Important is the Loss of Friendship?

# 8 Beliefs that Make Liberal America Weak: Barriers to the Source of Moral and Spiritual Passions

Power and Corruption: Just What Is Their Relationship?

To View Comments or Join the Conversation:

Tell A Friend