Monthly Archive: June 2021

Enabling Fatal Drug Overdoses in San Francisco

For the past few years there have been virtually no legal consequences for selling or using drugs in San Francisco.   To address the thousands of addicts living and dying on the streets, city leaders have funded programs which visit the places where addicts congregate and hand out Narcan, a fentanyl antidote, and counsel addicts to shoot up with a partner to prevent an overdose.  As reported by Amy Graff of SF Gate, fatal drug overdoses in San Francisco increased by 70% from 2018 to 2019, and by over 50% in 2020. Over the first quarter of 2021 fatal overdoses have increased by 39% as the city heads for another record-breaking year .  Most of these deaths were caused by fentanyl, a synthetic opioid pouring across American’s southern border and is sold on the streets in every part of the country.

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Drugs, Arrest, Incarceration, Responsibility and the Resurrection of a Life

This country has been having a seemingly endless debate about drugs.  Although there are gradations in between, there seem to be two mostly opposing camps, to wit, those who would treat drugs as a law enforcement problem, and those who would treat them as a public health problem.

I spent four years as Counselor to the head of the Drug Enforcement Administration.  Drugs are both a law enforcement and a public health problem, and we aren’t going to solve it either by dismissing law enforcement as mere latter day Puritanism, nor by dismissing the opportunity for treatment as mere mush-minded coddling.  But what’s getting overlooked is that no part of the system can be the foundation for a solution.  The foundation for overcoming drugs, as with so much else, is the individual’s understanding that he is responsible for his life and behavior, and his determination to own that responsibility every minute of every day.  This post is about the story of one young lady, Ginny Burton, who resurrected her life with the indispensable help of law enforcement, incarceration, and coming to terms with her failings  —  and then, wonderfully, her potential.

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The Stench Gets Some Air Freshener

Yesterday, I wrote that the stench of politics had taken hold at the Justice Department when, at the last minute, it decided to deep-six a brief supporting the sound analysis of the Eleventh Circuit in a crack cocaine sentencing case and argue instead that the overall “intent” of two leniency-oriented statutes, the Fair Sentencing Act and the First Step Act, should displace their plain text.  A unanimous SCOTUS made short work of DOJ’s lame appeal to duck the words Congress chose in favor of a more Oprah Winfrey-like approach.  The only conceivable reason for the Department’s unprincipled, embarrassing and (fortunately) futile action was politics  —   specifically, that pro-drug and pro-criminal elements in the President’s political base simply wanted what they wanted.  That DOJ at its highest levels would so easily be chased away from a sober approach to its legal obligations is alarming.

I’m happy to report that, today, we saw a different face.

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The Stench of Politics at DOJ

Remember all the stuff we were hearing during the Presidential campaign about how we needed to make a change in order to get politics out of the Justice Department?  It was all a joke  —  on us.  Ed Whelan has the story today of what would surely be a scandal if Bill Barr tried it, and is a scandal today, squarely on the plate of Merrick Garland  —  a man I’m sure knows better.

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Supreme Court Decides Two Change-in-Law Questions

The Supreme Court decided two cases today dealing with how to address existing cases when the law changes. Greer v. United States, No. 19-8709, addresses the situation where the defense lawyer does not object at trial, because the law seems settled at the time, but the Supreme Court later decides to the contrary. Terry v. United States, No. 20-5904, addresses which inmates convicted prior to the First Step Act can get their sentences for crack cocaine offenses reduced. Continue reading . . .

Should Cities Use Mounted Police?

The police have long since become the favorite punching bag of BLM, Antifa and, of course, liberal mayors and “progressive” DA’s.  The complaint is that cops are “overmilitarized,” insufficiently accountable, and too ready to use force, among other things.  I have not yet heard specifically an attack on the idea of mounted police, but you don’t have to be a genius to know it’s coming:  The use of horseback policing is too intimidating and too likely to panic the ubiquitous “mostly peaceful” protester.

On the other hand, a sufficiently amiable stallion might be able to get this dour opinion turned around.

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Crime and Violence Surge in Baltimore: Business Owners Have Had Enough

Many of the cities that have progressive District Attorneys are experiencing high spikes in crimes and criminal behavior  encouraged by policy changes that have reduced the consequences for crimes. The Baltimore Sun has this story on the response of many business owners to the lack of action being taken by city officials to address unacceptable levels of crime. “More than 30 business and restaurant owners in Fells Point are threatening to withhold taxes if city leaders do not address crime, trash and other issues they say are plaguing the waterfront neighborhood.” These issues include drug sales out in the open areas of the city and public drinking. The business owners have stated in a letter to the city that there needs to be more regulation and consequences for the crimes being committed. 

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Fractured Supreme Court Cripples Armed Career Criminal Act

The U.S. Supreme Court today issued a fractured decision that will severely limit the provision of the Armed Career Criminal Act that allowed the federal government to put away habitual felons who commit three violent felonies.

Definitions of crimes generally require both a bad act and a bad state of mind. For many violent crimes in many states, the bad state of mind may be either intentional or reckless. In deciding whether a prior conviction is for a violent crime, the Supreme Court looks only at the definition, not the actual facts of the crime.

Under today’s decision in Borden v. United States, No. 19-5410, violent crimes that could possibly be committed recklessly will no longer be considered “violent” for ACCA purposes no matter how clearly intentional the crime was in the actual case.

There is no majority opinion providing a coherent rationale for this appalling result. Continue reading . . .

“Building Trust” in the Police through Non-Enforcement Is Also Baloney

In my last entry, I noted that the routine, caustic phrase pasted on the United States by “criminal justice reformers”  —  “incarceration nation”  —  is hogwash.  Ninety-nine and a-half percent of the population is not incarcerated, and the fraction of one percent who are generally did quite a bit to earn it.

I now want to address another whooper told by the reformers:  That the police can “build trust” in the community by taking a more relaxed attitude toward crime, and generally by “de-escalating” enforcement.  This argument is all the rage in faculty lounges in Palo Alto, New Haven, Cambridge, etc.  But, as the Baltimore Sun tells us, it’s anything but the rage with the actual communities that have been the unwilling experimental rats of dumbed-down policing.

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