Kudos to Ms. Toni Preckwinkle for speaking the truth. Earlier editions of this story didn’t mention the subsequent dialing back…
Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle on Tuesday said former President Ronald Reagan deserves “a special place in hell” for his role in the war on drugs, but later regretted what she called her “inflammatory” remark.
The comment from Preckwinkle, known more for a reserved, straight-ahead political style, came at a conference led by former Republican Gov. Jim Edgar, who’s now at the University of Illinois Institute of Government and Public Affairs.
Preckwinkle was defending the recent move by the city of Chicago to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana by allowing police to write tickets, saying out-of-whack drug laws unfairly lead to more minorities behind bars.
Downstate Republican state Rep. Chapin Rose of Mahomet questioned whether such an approach includes drug treatment for those who are ticketed. Preckwinkle said no, arguing that drug treatment should be part of the health care system, not criminal justice. She said Reagan deserves a “special place in hell” for his involvement in “making drug use political.”
(click here to continue reading Preckwinkle regrets saying Reagan deserves ‘special place in hell’ for war on drugs – chicagotribune.com.)
If I ever have a chance to meet Ms. Preckwinkle, I’d like to shake her hand – too many politicians bend their knee to the War on Drugs, despite the facts.
While President Richard Nixon is generally credited with starting the war on drugs, critics contend Reagan ramped up the issue for political purposes during the 1980s.
“Ronald Reagan wasn’t the first or the last, but he was certainly the most prominent at the very beginning,” Preckwinkle told the Tribune in a phone interview.
The resulting policies have had the effect of sending young African Americans and Latinos to jail and prison in disproportionate numbers, she said. They also have driven up government costs and damaged communities, she said.
“Drug policy in this country has been in the wrong direction for 30 years,” she said. “I think that’s something they should acknowledge. If I had it to do over again, I certainly wouldn’t say anything quite so inflammatory. But my position basically remains the same.”
Jeralyn Merritt, of the seminal blog Talk Left, wrote this about Saintly Ron back in 2004:
three of [Reagan’s] less-than-endearing legacies deserve to be highlighted
Mandatory minimum drug sentences in 1986. This was the first time Congress passed mandatory minimum sentences since the Boggs Act in 1951.
Federal sentencing guidelines: Under this new method of sentencing, which went into effect in 1987, prison time is determined mostly by the weight of the drugs involved in the offense. Parole was abolished and prisoners must serve 85 percent of their sentence. Except in rare situations, judges can no longer factor in the character of the defendant, the effect of incarceration on his or her dependents, and in large part, the nature and circumstances of the crime. The only way to receive a more lenient sentence is to act as an informant against others and hope that the prosecutor is willing to deal. The guidelines in effect stripped Article III of their sentencing discretion and turned it over to prosecutors.
The Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988: This law established a federal death penalty for “drug kingpins.” President Reagan called it a new sword and shield in the escalating battle against drugs, and signed the bill in his wife’s honor… Did the law nab Pablo Escobar? No. The law’s first conquest was David Ronald Chandler, known as “Ronnie.” Ronnie grew marijuana in a small town in rural, northeast Alabama. About 300 pounds a year. Ronnie was sentenced to death for supposedly hiring someone to kill his brother-in-law. The witness against him later recanted.
As a result of these flawed drug policies initiated by then President Reagan, (and continued by Bush I, Clinton and Bush II) the number of those imprisoned in America has quadrupled to over 2 million. These are legacies that groups like Families Against Mandatory Minimums are still fighting today. Even George Shultz, Ronald Reagan’s former secretary of state, acknowledged in 2001 that the War on Drugs is a flop.
In Smoke and Mirrors, Dan Baum, a former Wall Street Journal reporter, provides a detailed account of the politics surrounding Reagan’s war on drugs.
Conservative parents’ groups opposed to marijuana had helped to ignite the Reagan Revolution. Marijuana symbolized the weakness and permissiveness of a liberal society; it was held responsible for the slovenly appearance of teenagers and their lack of motivation. Carlton Turner, Reagan’s first drug czar, believed that marijuana use was inextricably linked to “the present young-adult generation’s involvement in anti-military, anti-nuclear power, anti-big business, anti-authority demonstrations.” A public-health approach to drug control was replaced by an emphasis on law enforcement. Drug abuse was no longer considered a form of illness; all drug use was deemed immoral, and punishing drug offenders was thought to be more important than getting them off drugs. The drug war soon became a bipartisan effort, supported by liberals and conservatives alike. Nothing was to be gained politically by defending drug abusers from excessive punishment.
(click here to continue reading Reagan’s Drug War Legacy | Alternet.)