Send a Tweet
Most Popular Choices
Share on Facebook 35 Share on Twitter 2 Printer Friendly Page More Sharing
OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 5/22/17

While "Doing Time Like a Spy," I Saw the Real War on Drugs

By       (Page 1 of 1 pages)   4 comments
Message John Kiriakou
Become a Fan
  (41 fans)

A shameless plug: My book, "Doing Time Like a Spy: How the CIA Taught Me to Survive and Thrive in Prison," was published this week. I've been excited about this book because it has what I consider to be some funny stories about cynically manipulating some of the bums and monsters I encountered while I was incarcerated for blowing the whistle on the CIA's torture programs. The book has done well so far and is going into a second printing already, but not for the reasons I thought.

(Image by John Kiriakou)   Details   DMCA

Besides the stories that I was so proud of, the book is actually a serious political-science-type look at the justice system, the federal prisons, mandatory minimum sentencing, and the problems with a system that is inherently racist and xenophobic and that treats mental illness as a disciplinary problem.

The United States has roughly five percent of the world's population and 25 percent of the world's prison population. That means that about 0.9 percent of all Americans are in prison. Doesn't sound like a lot, right? Well, it's more, per capita, than Russia, China, and even Iran. And to put a finer point on things, one out of every four African-American men is either in prison, in jail, on probation, or on parole. That is utterly unacceptable in a civilized society.

Much of this is the result of mandatory minimum sentencing, an ignominious byproduct of the so-called "war on drugs." If one judge gives somebody six months in prison and another judge gives somebody else ten years for committing the same crime, there's no "justice." The problem is that the mandatory minimum became something closer to the ten years than to the six months. The prisons filled, families and communities were devastated, and companies that were part of the "prison-industrial complex" enriched themselves.

At the very end of the Obama administration, Attorneys General Eric Holder and Loretta Lynch circulated a memo among US attorneys authorizing them to withhold charging suspects with multiple counts, called charge-stacking, for the same crime and urging Congress to act to do away with many mandatory minimums for drug crimes. This was a policy change, not a legal one, as there was no accompanying Congressional action, and President Donald Trump's attorney general, Jeff Sessions, last week changed the policy, calling for all US attorneys to re-impose charge stacking, ordering US attorneys to charge suspects with the most severe crimes possible, and to urge Congress to pass even tougher mandatory minimums. So much for "prosecutorial discretion." Now prosecutors won't have any discretion at all. Expect federal prisons to burst at the seams.

The deeper issue here is that mandatory minimums just simply don't work. We know this as a fact from psychologists, criminologists, prosecutors, and judges. It does absolutely nothing to reduce recidivism, it wrecks families, it causes lasting harm in poor communities, and it costs the taxpayers a fortune.

I tend to sound like a broken record when I say that Americans must demand of their elected officials that they move beyond mandatory minimums, reform the criminal justice system, and, for that matter, legalize marijuana at the federal level. None of that is going to happen with Trump in the White House, Sessions at Justice, and Republicans in control of both houses of Congress.

But maybe Trump's current political problems will bottle up his agenda in Congress. That may be our only hope until the 2018 elections. Perhaps then some sanity will return to Washington, even if it's just in the House of Representatives.

Well Said 1   Funny 1   Supported 1  
Rate It | View Ratings

John Kiriakou 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

John Kiriakou spent 14 years at the CIA and two years in a federal prison for blowing the whistle on the agency's use of torture. He served on John Kerry's Senate Foreign Relations Committee for two years as senior investigator into the Middle (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.
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)

Forcing the Innocent to Plead Guilty, an American Disgrace

Brennan and Clapper Should Not Escape Prosecution

An Incompetent FBI Dropped the Ball on Syed Farook

If Hillary Clinton Gets a Pass on Espionage From President Obama, So Should Whistleblowers

Time for Trump To Do the Right Thing on Immigration

The US Postal Service Is Spying On Us

To View Comments or Join the Conversation:

Tell A Friend