Our first panel deals directly with the questions of prohibition and
punishment, and treatment and education.
We are fortunate to have as a moderator for the panel Mr. Lowell Bergman, the
series reporter for Frontline's "Drug Wars."
LOWELL BERGMAN: Thank you, Professor Dash, and good morning.
The first panel is going to address, as Professor Dash said, the treatment and
education for punishment and prohibition issue, and before we start, we're
going to show a 5-minute clip from the documentary. One of the discoveries that
we made in reviewing the history of what we commonly call the Drug War ...to
our surprise, we discovered that, almost universally, amongst all the veterans
of the Drug War from the enforcement side, it was the era of Richard Nixon that
was held up as the most effective moment in the last 30 years of drug
enforcement in America, and one of the reasons had to do with Nixon's view of
the world, his practical political perspective.
And so with that, maybe we can see one of the issues that he had to confront,
Vietnam, and the reality that many of our soldiers in Vietnam were using
heroin, were addicted, and it presented him with a major political problem at
the origins of the Drug War.
MR. BERGMAN: We're going to turn, initially, to Eric Sterling and then
go sequentially through the panel.
ERIC STERLING: Thank you very much, Lowell. The history that Frontline
is going to broadcast next week is an extensive, very carefully prepared one.
I think it's important, today, that we do not simply focus on the history of
where we--of the drug problem. We are in a crisis, not of drugs, so much, but
of drug policy. Our policy is a counterproductive and expensive failure. We
must, as a nation, indeed, as a planet, begin to control the problem of drugs
in a profoundly different way. Instead of thinking of victory in a War On
Drugs, we must de--adopt a strategy to manage the drug problem, to manage the
The world's drug users don't accept the laws that attempt to compel them to
abstain. Prohibition didn't work to control alcohol; it's not working to
control drugs. Finding a system to manage the problem is not, as some might
characterize it, surrender. It's simply an intelligent way to stop engaging in
futile and unsuccessful strategies.
The illegal drug business is roughly a $60 billion a year business in the
United States. It has revenues equivalent to those of Texaco or AT&T, you
know, making it about the size of the 10th or 11th largest corporation in the
The U.S. market is a quarter to a half of the global trade. We're talking
about 120--$250 billion a year, annually, an enormous source of criminal funds
that finance crime, corruption and violence.
How were these vast criminal fortunes created? Simply because of our laws.
Our drug policy of prohibition is alchemy. American narcotics policy has
fulfilled the medieval dream of converting base metals into gold, by
transforming poppy gum into heroin worth hundreds or thousands of dollars per
gram. Coca into cocaine, worth 50 or a $100 per gram, at a time when gold is
worth $9 per gram.
What we see, I suggest, of American drug crisis, flows from this strategy.
When it comes to addressing drug issues in Congress, "talking tough" is the
only acceptable dialect, and for a member of Congress, it's more important to
be seen giving money to law enforcement than taking the advice of experienced
law enforcement leaders.
Funding for drug addicts requires a belief that they're members of the
community deserving of our collective help; but that is inconsistent with the
national characterization of them as "druggies," "dopers," immoral scum, the
"vermin" spreading the drug epidemic.
We're going to hear, at noon, today, our Drug Czar, Barry MaCaffey--McCaffrey,
deliver a speech that's titled, "Are Balanced Drug Policies Working?" That
assertion is his stump speech. That's been the centerpiece of his national
White House drug strategy. You can see--you know--there's no bigger claim that
he makes than our drug policy is working.
Well, unfortunately, to make this claim he has to ignore the salient issues.
Is our drug policy saving lives? No. Drug deaths have doub--more than doubled
since 1979. Well, are drugs being kept outta the hands of kids? No. Kids say
heroin and marijuana were easier to get in 1998 than any point in history.
Are we hurting the drug traffickers? No. In 1998, only 81 kingpins are
sentenced out of 20,000 federal cases.
Are we making drugs more expensive? No. Prices have fallen steadily, for 20
Well, are we better protecting addicts in the street? No. Purity of heroin
has gone up 500 percent. Emergency room admissions for drugs have never been
Until we create a new political reality, we remain trapped in Drug War
MR. BERGMAN: Thank you, Eric.
Our next panelist is Howard Safir, until very recently, the police commissioner
of New York.
HOWARD SAFIR: Thank you, Lowell. I think one of the things that I
should begin with is I agree with Jack Lawn's statement at the end of the
documentary, that the drug law enforcement policy of the Federal Government
has, indeed, been a failure, and it's been a failure because there has not been
a commitment on the part of the Federal Government, not only to balance both
treatment and prevention and law enforcement, but who makes the policy for the
Having diplomats in the State Department making law enforcement policy to deal
with host country pro--producing nations has been a total failure. But from my
perspective, especially a perspective, having been police commissioner of the
City of New York for almost five years, is the policy of law enforcement has
not been a failure. It has changed the whole complexion of New York City by
making it the safest large city in America.
And I believe that our drug law enforcement policies in New York have
I have been saying, for the last 20 years, that 80 percent of the crime in
America has a nexus to the drug traffic. About a year and a half ago, the
National Institute of Justice came out with a study, and guess what? they said
about 80 percent of the crime in America has a nexus to the drug traffic. I
wish they would have given me the money they spent on that study for my
But--so when the Giuliani administration came to New York City, we recognized
that the way to reduce crime in New York City, because our responsibility is
not to talk about prevention and treatment--our responsibility is to prevent
victimization of people in New York City by criminals, and a way to deal with
that was to in--mount the largest anti-narcotic law enforcement effort in New
And I have often said, that from a state and local perspective, and as police
commissioner of New York, I did not really care if I drove the drug traffickers
to New Jersey, or to Westchester, or to Long Island, as long as I drove them
out of New York City and protected the people of New York City.
Now I know DARE has been a controversial program but it happens to be one that
I believe in, and one that I believe, as we develop and expand its curriculum,
is going to be a very effective program. But, at the same time, we made it
very clear that we weren't going to take a zero tolerance towards drug abuse in
New York. We were going to take a zero immunity approach towards drug abuse in
New York, which basically meant, if somebody was violating the law, we were
going to deal with it, and we were going to give the community back to the good
Because the truth is, when you look at the numbers of people who use drugs in
this country, the numbers are relatively small in comparison to the
So the vast majority of the neighborhoods that are victims of drug crime are
made up of good, hardworking citizens, which is why we introduced our model
block program where we took back the worst blocks in the city, block by block,
building by building, apartment by apartment, and then gave them back to the
citizens, and then did one thing that law enforcement has not done in this
country. We did what I call community stabilization.
We brought in all of the other agencies in the city--social services,
sanitation, parks, welfare, and buildings, and we gave not only the block back
to the citizens but we gave them a reason to have a stake in their community,
and what we found is the drug traffickers didn't come back and the drug addicts
didn't come back.
So, in summary, I think prevention and treatment is a very important factor,
but when you're a local law enforcement official, your responsibility is to
support drug courts, support prevention, support treatment, but, most
importantly, to make sure that the citizens that you were sworn to protect are
safe from drug crime.
MR. BERGMAN: Thank you, Howard.
Dr. Robert Newman is with us this morning, and he is one of the leading experts
in the United States on addiction treatment programs.
DR. ROBERT NEWMAN: Thank you very much. I think anybody who came here
today, worried that there would not be sufficient disagreement to make this an
interesting discussion, I imagine you're feeling a whole lot more comfortable
Let me just make my own position, summarize my own position, right up-front.
First, with regard to treatment, I am a very, very fervent advocate of
treatment, treatment for drug addiction clearly does work, and I think
treatment absolutely has to be available, promptly, to every single person who
wants it and needs it, and, tragically, we are very, very far from that
seemingly self-evident goal.
With regard to our drug policies, I am very strongly against them, and
basically for many of the reasons that Eric Sterling, Eric Sterling has already
described. I think that they're just an abject failure, for a whole variety of
Certainly, the expense, which is estimated to be $40 billion, to keep
incarcerated the largest proportion of our population, of any country, anywhere
in the world. We have some 2 million people who are currently in jail. Some
500,000 of them are in there on relatively minor drug offenses.
Now, being against the current policy and being for treatment does not
necessarily mean that I am for the drug court system, or other alternatives to
locking people up in jail by sentencing them to treatment, and, in fact, I am
not for that. And for a whole host of reasons.
First of all, sentencing people to treatment is not an alternative to our
current policies. To the contrary. It depends upon continuing our current
policy. You gotta arrest the people, gotta have the laws to arrest them in
order to sentence them to treatment.
You have to have the prison cells there in order to threaten, threaten people
to go to prison--to go to treatment and stay there.
I think there is an illusion, and I think it is an illusion that, in fact, the
drug courts, and treatment alternatives to prison, can somehow salvage our
clearly bankrupt approach to locking people up. But it can't, and the numbers
speak for themselves.
We've got a 100,000 misdemeanor drug offenses in New York State, and the total
capacity of drug treatment in New York State, certainly, the residential
treatment facilities, which are the prime--the, the favorite of drug judges,
have about one thousand available places--one thousand available places,
100,000 misdemeanor drug arrests.
But beyond that, the premises of the drug treatment diversion, drug treatment
court system, I think is totally irrational.
First of all, what defines who has this disease or condition that needs
treatment? It's not determined on the basis of clinical observation; it's based
on criminal determination. Why do thousands of people in New York allegedly
have the need for treatment but our presidential candidates, who acknowledge,
our strongly imply that they did basically what a lotta these people in New
York are doing, and throughout the country--why did they not need treatment?
And the answer is very simple.
Not that they had a different problem or a different condition. Some people
are caught; some people are not caught. That is not the basis for sentencing
people to prison. Judges, prosecutors, police are not trained, are not
equipped to decide who needs treatment. Clinicians who receive these people
from the courts, they're also put, I think, in an absolutely impossible
position because their responsibility is not to the clients, not to the
patients. It's to the prosecutor, or to the judge.
In sum, I think what the American public should demand is that treatment that
we know is effective should be made available to every single person who wants
it and needs it. And from the police and from the prosecutors, and from the
judges, I think we have a right to expect them to do what they are uniquely
qualified to do, and that is to identify laws that simply don't make sense,
that don't serve any purpose whatsoever, and to propose alternatives to those
Criminal justice system people know what's wrong, they know what doesn't work,
they know it's prohibitively expensive, and they should make that clear to the
American public, and they should come up with alternatives.
MR. BERGMAN: Thank you. Our last speaker on the panel, but by far, not
least, is Robert Stutman, for many years, a Drug Enforcement agent, the head of
the DEA office in New York.
ROBERT STUTMAN: Now what's interesting is there are very many different
points of view on this issue amongst this group of people who put in, probably
hundreds of years, collectively, and were willing to talk about it and discuss
it, and argue it in a, in a intellectual way.
One of the things that bothers me is when you look at the Federal Government,
and, certainly, the present political campaign, where is the discussion on this
extremely important issue?
I will tell you the last discussion I heard. It was a very salient discussion
amongst the President and senior advisors on how do we handle the drug issue in
the United States, and the arguments that Eric presented, and Howard presented,
et cetera, it went on for about 15 minutes, made sense, and it was salient.
Unfortunately, it was President Josiah Bartlett [ph] on the "West Wing." That
was the last salient discussion I've heard on this issue, and that part bothers
I take a piece from what all of these gentlemen here said today. I guess I'm
the centrist on the panel. Is our present policy at the federal level working?
Absolutely not. I think we have to look at how--what we do with law
I think part of our problem is we devote so much money and so much effort to an
unwinnable objective, which is seizing the product of drugs.
I sat in, maybe 25 years ago, on a DEA intelligence discussion, in which it was
finally realized that the average cartel, meaning starting in Medellin or Cali,
all the way to the street traffic, can afford to lose 90 percent of its product
and still be profitable.
Now the analogy is in business. GM produces 900,000 Chevrolets a year--excuse
me--a million Chevrolets a year, doesn't sell 900,000, and still becomes--and
still is profitable. It is mindboggling, and yet we still devote so much of our
law enforcement budget to the theory of seizing drugs.
One picture that I will never forget, on the front page of USA Today, about
three years ago, one of their aerial shots, showed a picture of about 500 state
Pen--Pennsylvania State troopers amassed in a, a drive-in theater with their
cars, and the headline underneath was "Pennsylvania State Police Await To
Execute The Largest Drug Raid In The History of Pennsylvania." That was the
caption under the photo.
Where were they raiding? They were raiding the Pennsylvania mandatory prison,
the mandatory penitentiary in Pennsylvania. The, the most--the heavy ,
locked-up place in Pennsylvania. Hello.
If I can't keep dope outta that pen--outta that penitentiary, how the hell are,
are a string of men and women around the country gonna keep drugs from coming
So what, first thing I think we have to do is look at how we spend our dollars
on law enforcement. I think we have to seriously add to the treatment
availability and to the prevention availability.
I refuse however, to go as far as my good friends Eric and Bob Newman go, which
is say make it legal. I think that is taking an imperfect system and making it
far worse than it would be today, for two simple reasons.
I have never heard an anti-prohibitionist who will argue that if we legalized,
decriminalized all drugs, that we would end up with less users.
We will end up with more users. Now, my friend Bill Buckley says, yeah, but in
the short run--and he defines "short run" as ten years. I would argue that's a
10 year experiment we can't deal with.
We will end up with more users, and, actually, I would agree with my good
friend, Eric Sterling, that we should give any drug who any person--any--to any
person who wants it, if he could convince me of one thing. That drug addicts
only affect themselves. His theory works great, if the drug addict just
affects themselves, because then you can look at all the constitutional
freedoms that we should be able to do with our own bodies, et cetera, et
The problem is that's hogwash. The problem is the drug user or the alcoholic
affects a whole host of people around them. I would ask every person in this
audience who has a family member, or who knows someone well who is an
alcoholic, and ask yourself does that person just affect themselves? Of course
not. They drive families apart, they cause fights, they cause spouse abuse, et
cetera, and I would argue, strongly, that although what we are doing today
doesn't work, and we have to fix it, and we have to make it far better, the
world that Eric Sterling presents would be far worse than even the world we
MR. BERGMAN: Thank you, Bob. Eric, how do you answer Howard Safir's
assertion that local law enforcement, wh--centered on arresting people on the
street, has not only done something to the crime rate, but, also, it leads to
drug use, generally at least available to the pa--drug use and availability in
MR. STERLING: The situation in New York is, I think, a very specialized
one. You find many other cities where they have not had the same policies,
where the crime rates have gone down.
The drug use rates in New York, I'm not sure that they're particularly broken
out, to know exactly how drug use in New York City differs from upstate or from
New Jersey or from Connecticut. I'm not aware that there are those kinds of
surveys. Former Commissioner Safir may know that that's the case, but what I
think is important is that local law enforcement strategies should not be--I
mean, when he says the most important thing is to make the public safe from
drug crime, in that I have no disagreement. I would suggest, if you said I
wanna make New York City safe for alcohol-related crime, you might have even a
bigger kind of issue.
The--there's no question that law enforcement has an important role to play. I
don't think that's what we're arguing about. I think I'm trying to bring
forward the, the bigger question of what is our national strategy and our
national objective going to be?
MR. SAFIR: Well, first, we have done something about alcohol crime. In
fact, we've reduced the number of DWI deaths in New York by introducing a very
liberal policy of seizing vehicles of people who are arrested for drunk
driving, and we've not ignored that.
But the truth is, 80 percent of the crime is not caused by alcohol-related
crime. It's caused by drugs. And when you say other cities have had reductions
in crime, there's no other city in America that has had the reduction in crime
that New York City has had, and that's a result of our anti-drug policies.
And, again, my responsibility is to the people of New York, and the difference
is we had 2254 homicides in New York City in 1990, we had 676 homicides last
year, and I believe that that reduction is as a result of dealing with drug
traffickers, and, you know, talking about treatment, the problem with tr--with
Dr. Newman's statement is the fact that, one, as he wells knows, there are
many, many people who use drugs, who don't want treatment, and one of the
reasons that we have drug courts is because the people who don't want treatment
are the very people who are out there committing those crimes.
DR. NEWMAN: Well, first of all, I--certainly there, there are drug users
who don't want treatment, but there are tens of thousands in New York City
alone, who, clearly, I'm convinced, would have treatment, and would seek
treatment, if it were available. But--
MR. SAFIR: But not in-residence treatment, because New York City itself
has in-residence beds begging.
DR. NEWMAN: Well, they don't have that many begging. They have about a
thousand begging in New York State--
MR. SAFIR: Well, if there's such a problem, why--
DR. NEWMAN: --for a 100,000 drug misdemeanors.
MR. SAFIR: Well, if there--if we have a thousand in-residence begs--beds
begging, and there is such a phenomenal problem, why aren't they lined up at
the door, breaking it down to get into those thousand beds? The reason is that
most drug abusers don't want in-residence treatment. They want to be able to
say that they're in some treatment program, and they go to the treatment
program and then they go get their additional illegal drugs.
DR. NEWMAN: --I, I--I have a problem with crediting the drug law
enforcement in New York City with the undeniable improvement in quality of life
in the city. That is saying that if, after it rains, you see frogs on the
ground, it does not mean that it rained frogs. I can't credit a program that
deals with drug abuse with any kind of positive results, when, last year, we
continued to arrest in New York State, and, largely, in New York City, 150,000
people for drugs, when drugs have never been more plentiful, have never been
more readily available in New York City. Never at a higher purity. Never at a
MR. SAFIR: Well, it's not irrational to me when you go to the
neighborhoods of Harlem and Bushwick, and you go to neighborhoods li--in--like
Jamaica, and you talk to the residents, and you say, "What's the difference
today in your life compared to what it was six or seven years ago?" and they
say the difference is is the drug traffickers are gone, we can walk our
streets, our children are safe, we now own our neighborhoods again.
DR. NEWMAN: Mr. Safir, da--it seems to me that kind of ducks the issue
that Bob makes. Neighborhoods say we're safer, but we still fi--and you say
they're revolving back into the community, the offenders, but the
offenders--the community doesn't see them, but your police are still able to
arrest 100,000. It may be that you have, in effect, regulated the--where drugs
are used, and how they're being sold.
Instead of being on the street corner, on the playground, or at the school, now
they're inside the bodega, now they're, they're somewhere else, and that's a
form of regulation that has made those communities safer, by your police
MR. STUTMAN: Could I just jump in for one second. I, I guess this is one
area that I disagree, head on, with Dr. Newman. I absolutely believe that one
of the areas that law can work, that law enforcement can work, is forcing
into--people into treatment.
Most alcoholics do not walk into treatment and say, "God told me I've hit the
bottom of the barrel." They are forced into treatment because a spouse forces
'em, because a kid forces 'em, because criminal justice, DUI, forces 'em, et
cetera, and I think that's an appropriate use for law enforcement.
The problem is as the Frontline piece pointed out, of all the people in
jail--and Howard's probably right--it's somewhere between 60 and 80 percent
have a drug, an underlying drug problem. Only 10 percent of those people have
drug treatment availability.
That's the kind of nonuse of funds that I think is crazy. The most expensive
part of drug treatment is the residency; but, hell, they're already in
MR. BERGMAN: Dr. Newman, is it true that, that people have to be
clinically, have to be forced into treatment?
DR. NEWMAN: I, I think experience shows that that's absolutely not the
case. Certainly, when it comes to heroin addiction, very, very few judges
methadone with being a reasonable type of treatment to which to sentence
inmates, and yet there are close to 40,000 people in New York City who are
receiving methadone treatment. Nobody--no criminal justice system forced them
What happens is the person who--whom treatment has failed--that person gets
sent off to jail. That's irrational. It's completely irrational. It's like
telling some--I, I mean youse--you're in treatment because you gotta problem,
and then when you evidence the symptoms that define that problem, maybe after
one try, maybe after three tries, the system says, "Oh, Jesus, you know, you
got a drug problem, and you continue to have a drug problem, we're gonna send
you to jail." Doesn't make any sense to me.
MR. BERGMAN: So, Howard, have you just created a revolving door of drug
addicts who you lock up, and then they get released because you can't keep them
in jail, and then they come back on the street and you keep arresting the same
people, over and over again?
MR. SAFIR: We very often arrest the same people, but at the same time,
you know, the fact is the drug traffic is a business and it's an economic
business. We all understand that people are in the drug traffic--the people
who sell drugs are in the drug traffic to make money, and the way that you deal
with a business is you make the business environment so inhospitable, that the
drug traffic is gonna go somewhere else. And that's what we've done in New
Okay. So from a local perspective, we're not making a revolving door. We're
sending the major drug traffickers other places. We're--we've, we've created a
policy of displacement but it's a policy of displacement that works for New
York City, and if the entire country did it, it would work for the whole
MR. BERGMAN: Okay. Now we have to bring this panel discussion to an
end for a minute and get some questions from the audience. Okay.
BARBARA GERLACK: I would like to know the opinion of the different
panelists on the wisdom and effectiveness of the recent congressional decision
to send $1.3 billion of aid to Colombia.
Will it work to reduce cultivation and availability of drugs in the United
States, and is this the best use of our funds, or would it be better to use
those funds for domestic prevention and treatment?
MR. STUTMAN: My quick summary is a definition of insanity is doing the
same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. I guess that
sums it up. I think we, we've sin--we've been there, we've tried it. Do I
think we abandon Colombia and Peru, Bolivia? Of course not. We go after
traffickers, we push them, and I--and extradition, et cetera, but we take a
good piece of that $1.3 billion and spend it on the treatment that Bob Newman
talks about, spend it on going after traffickers as opposed to trying to close
our borders, which, frankly, is just an unattainable objective.
DR. NEWMAN: I agree with the definition of insanity but I think this
particular, this particular form of insanity has a very, very evil--evil
additional component, because this repeated effort is giving $1.3 billion to
allow and to facilitate Colombians killing each other.
So this is not just a mistake, this is a mistake that we know is going to lead
to large numbers of people killing one another for absolutely no benefit to
them or to us.
MR. SAFIR: I agree that it is a form of insanity, because of the fact
that, one, there is no comprehensive drug strategy for the Federal Government,
in my opinion. You'll hear from General McCaffrey at lunchtime, but General
McCaffrey cannot tell the head of DEA, the head of the FBI, or anybody else in
the Federal Government what to do.
Pouring this money into Colombia, where I've worked in Colombia, I have dealt
with Colombian officials, and although there are many, many committed, good
Colombian officials, you have to change culture, system, in Colombia, and you
have to change who runs drug law enforcement in this country, before we're
gonna be effective.
So I agree--we should take a lotta that money and put it in treatment and
MR.STERLING: It's not insanity because you don't understand what it is.
You're taking at face value the idea that this is an anti-drug program. It's
not an anti-drug program. Drugs are the pretext. This is a national security
boondoggle. This is about selling helicopters. It's, it's--it's an aid to the
When President Clinton goes down to Colombia to meet Pa--Pastrana, he brings
American business leaders along on the airplane to talk about business
opportunities. This is about stabilizing Colombia. This is about economics.
It's about oil companies. It's about economic exploration and development.
So drugs are the pretext. It's not insanity. It's fraud.
MR. NEWMAN: I, I rarely do this, but I wanna change my view. It's not
insanity. I fully agree. I don't change my original view that it is downright
evil. But you're right. It's perfectly logical; it's not crazy at all.
MR. SAFIR: Well, here, here's where I do, here's where I do agree with
Eric, because I remember sitting in rooms at the State Department, where drug
law enforcement decisions were made on whether or not it was gonna impact on
the importation of flowers from Colombia.
MR.STUTMAN: This is such an important question. We--I hope everybody
here realizes that drugs, and kids dying, and the drug problem in this country
is incredibly important until it runs afoul of the State Department.
MR. SAFIR: Absolutely.
MR. STUTMAN: And anybody who doubts that, remember, please, what
happened to a DEA agent named "Kiki" Camarena, when the State Department told
DEA to do nothing about this agent who was kidnapped and tortured and killed,
and they told us don't, don't get--don't upset the apple cart.
MR. BERGMAN: Pauline Cleveland
PAULINE CLEVELAND: I wanted to ask Commissioner Safir, in particular,
about the policy of marijuana arrests in New York City which have risen from--I
think there were about 700 under Mayor Dinkins. Last year--there were well over
30,000 last year, about 10 percent of arrests in New York City were for
marijuana. Folks were rounded up in vans. They spend maybe 48 hours being
processed and are released.
The question is what impact has this policy had on lowering crime rates in New
York City? Is there any evidence--
MR. SAFIR: Yes.
MS. CLEVELAND: --that that rounding up pot smokers, en masse, has
contributed to the decrease in crime?
MR. SAFIR: Yes, because when you look, when you look at who your--we
arrest, it is rare that we arrest someone who is smoking marijuana, who doesn't
have other crimes on their rap sheet--burglary, robbery, assault--and what we
have found, in doing our analysis, and this is very simplistic, but it works in
reducing crime, and reducing victims--is the 48 hours that those individuals
are in jail, cumulatively, reduces the number of people who are robbed,
assaulted, burglarized, and does in fact reduce crime.
MR. SAFIR: And under Mayor Dinkins, the policy was very clear. New York
City police officers were supposed to be blue flowerpots. They were supposed
to stand on corners and watch things happen. They were prohibited from
arresting people for any drug crime, or most vice crimes, and we changed
MR. BERGMAN: Dr. Newman?
DR. NEWMAN: I think in a, in a city and a nation where, to our shame,
one out of every four African Americans has some kind of criminal justice
system issue hanging over them in the past, or in the present, and you arrest
people for marijuana use and they are largely African Americans, it's not going
to be very surprising that a very substantial portion of them are gonna have a
past criminal record. I mean, that's a function of whom we're arresting and
how our laws play out in our communities.
MR. BERGMAN: Eric?
MR. STERLING: I want to just question the assertion that the
commissioner makes, that this is what has led to the reduction of crime. At
the COMSTAT conference which the New York police department runs for law
enforcement executives from around the world, they talk about the importance of
arresting fare-beaters on the subway, the importance of arresting kid who are
bicycling on the sidewalk, the importance of arresting people drinking beer out
of open containers on, in public areas.
They point to all of these areas as quality-of-life offenses, that drive down
crime, and I just think that the assertion, today, well, it's marijuana arrests
that are responsible for this is--
MR. SAFIR: No, it's one of the--I'm not saying it's only marijuana.
We're certainly reducing--arresting people who jump over subway turnstiles
helps reduce crime, and, you know, in 1993, 214,000 people a month jumped over
turnstiles in New York City. It was like an Olympic sport, okay, and
nobody--and nobody arrested them. Okay.
Now, 14,000 people a month jump over New York City turnstiles and crime is down
60 percent in the New York City subway system. And--
MR. STERLING: Geez, I feel better already. I can't wait to get back
MR. SAFIR: Well, good. And, and many of those people who are arrested,
jumping over turnstiles, have drug records.
MR. BERGMAN: Mark Eddy
MARK EDDY: I'm not so sure the alcoholism analogy works. Alcohol is
not a--alcohol addiction is not a crime in our country but drug addiction is.
Wouldn't a more rational drug control policy, arrest users for actual criminal
activity, not for mere possession. Why not arrest drug users for criminal
activity other than mere possession, the same way we deal with alcohol crime,
and the treatment issue--alcoholics are not forced into treatment for mere
possession of alcohol, the way drug users are.
MR.STUTMAN: I guess I refuse to hold up as a model of virtue, and
something we should emulate, the alcohol policy of the United States. I think
that is fool's folly. We have 15 million, roughly, alcoholics in the United
States. We have maybe 100,000 who die from alcohol effects every year. We have
child beating. We have spousal abuse.
We have far more problems from alcohol and drugs and I guess I will argue with
you, sir, that that is a--that is a, a system that we should emulate. I think
it's a system we should say has not worked, and then try to fix what, what else
drug warriors ·
$400bn business ·
MR. BERGMAN: I'm being instructed to try to bring this to a close, and,
and it seems to me this is an appropriate moment because what I--what I've
heard here, this morning, is that we have followed a policy, most recently
represented by the success in New York City of, of sweeping the streets,
basically, and increasing the quality of life, but that's given us a hangover,
which is a large prison population, and implications that there's more involved
here, more inequality.
npr reports ·
teacher's guide ·
tapes & transcripts ·
pbs online ·
web site copyright 1995-2014
WGBH educational foundation.