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All the so-called “wars” on ideas like, The War on Poverty (LBJ), Drugs (Reagan), Terrorism (Bush 43), etc. are ridiculous. They never have an end, continually expand the government’s scope and power, while at the same time they reduce the liberties of U.S. citizens, and never actually solve the problem they were created to solve. In reality, they make them worse. Don’t think so? Go to a border or an airport. If you are too young to remember the U.S. as she was before September 11th, 2001, the historic point where we chose to embrace fear over courage, I’m sorry. I really am sorry. That you have not known a world without permanent military intervention, weaponized politics, and a militarized domestic police force is truly, truly sad. Let’s take a look at the The War on Drugs and its effect on our society.
I believe the The War on Drugs has been one of the worst polices in the history of the United States. Domestic drug laws create the climate for black markets and crime. Drug users are obviously not deterred by criminalization, else there would be no arrests, or at least very few. I don’t have to tell you, this is not the case. The War on Drugs has filled our prisons with people who were originally non-violent criminals. But after serving lengthy prison sentences, they emerge from that caged-climate less human, with a network of prison relationships, and a place on the employment blacklist as felons. Now, with their new morally wounded consciences, received from the sexual and physical violence inherent in U.S. prisons, compounded significantly by reduced employment opportunities leading to poverty and disenfranchisement, they are far more likely to become life-long violent criminals. I don’t throw the word “disenfranchisement” around lightly. There are thousands, possibly millions, who are forever closed off from gainful employment other than self-employment, due to youthful mistakes. The truth is, self-employment is more than most sober, well-connected people are capable of sustaining. Many of these people never committed another crime. Yes, many states have written laws that allow non-violent felonies to be removed, that is, if you can afford it. After paying thousands at the time of trial in court costs and lawyer fees, and then serving a prison sentence, the now productive law abiding citizen is told anew they must pay more in court costs and lawyer fees just to file a piece of paper. For a person closed off from employment these financial hurdles remain insurmountable in most cases. One should look no further than the permanent felonization of people, men especially, to explain why millions of men are not in the work force, and why male labor participation rates are near great depression lows.
We should ask ourselves, if we are Christians anyway, “why God did not institute prisons in Old Testament Law?” All crimes, not punishable by death (Murder and forms of Sexual Assault aside), were dealt with through fines and personal restitution. Could God himself not be showing us that there are better ways to structure your society and deal with non-violent crime? Are our modern “Three Strikes You’re Out” laws and heavy handed prison sentences that feed the coffers of private prisons better than the biblical ideal? I don’t think so. And no Christian, especially an evangelical one, who claims to believe in the inerrancy and THE SUFFICIENCY of Scripture, should think so either.
With the amount of money being spent on enforcement agencies and prison complexes, we could engage in free or low cost voluntary rehabilitation, a much more humane and culture building activity. This is also a space that Christianity can inhabit, and do what it was meant to do, what the state cannot do, which is transform human lives. I know this will not be a popular opinion among “law and order” conservatives, but I think we can all admit that what we are doing ain’t working. More people have died via The War on Drugs than have died from the drugs themselves. That especially applies to marijuana which has never in the history of the world produced an overdose, and is currently proving medically useful. Yet, the opioid crisis that has enveloped the nation is largely built upon legally prescribed drugs, not black market substances. Proving beyond all doubt that the FDA and Congress cannot protect us from drug use no matter how much power we give to them, or how many drug laws they make.