December 3, 1994
With the Mid-term election finally over, many voters failed to notice a major figure who was not even on the ballot – Hartford Superior Court Judge Authur Spada.
As a one-man grand juror, his honor had the courage to expose in his 18-month investigation the correlation between welfare dependency, drug addiction and police corruption. Among the outrages Judge Spada observed were: drug dealers earning $800,000 a e year – cash, cops tipping drug dealers on impending raids; cops shaking down low-level dealers and welfare mothers using their checks to support their habits. Judge Spada concluded that the taxpayers are funding the destruction of the lives of those on welfare.
Actually, there is nothing new here. Police corruptions precipitated by denying drugs and alcohol to the populous can be verified by either reading the memoirs of any organized-crime figure or by renting Serpico or Prince of the City from the local video store. Unfortunately, the solutions promoted in the recent advertisements by our politicians –more cops, more prisons, more mandatory sentences, more executions and drug-testing for those on welfare – will not solve the problem.
We need to face reality. Just like Prohibition was an utter disaster in the 1920’s – financing an organized crime network that exists to this day – trying to prevent addicts from feeding their habit has been a total failure. Last year, our government spent $7 billion trying to stop the flow of drugs into the country, interdicting less than 1 percent. If it costs $50 for a kilogram of cocaine in Latin America and $10,000 for a kilo in Hartford, no policy in a country that cherishes individual liberty as we do will stop the flow. It is this high profit margin that fuels our increasingly violent drug trade.
While the mantra, “three strikes and you’re out” was recited ad nauseam during the campaign, most voters are unaware that this law already is on our books and felons are released because of court orders to prevent overcrowding. In fact, prison wardens in Connecticut place extra prisoners on buses during inspections and have them ride around to fool those whose job is to ensure compliance. Connecticut has increased its prison space more than any other state except California only to witness an ever-increasing violent crime rate. Each new cell costs $140,000 and we cannot even afford to staff all of our prisons. The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the Western world with no close second.
Fear of executions will not stop drug dealers. These people are routinely assassinated by their competitors. In fact, it could be argued that the only time drug dealers are safe is when they are in prison. The only way capital punishment will deter drug crimes is if we start executing users, like in China during the 1800’s. No one is seriously entertaining this policy.
Given this state of affairs, it is time we start looking at new avenues to prevent crime and the self-destruction of those on welfare. Drug testing those on welfare may not survive the court challenges and even if it did, it would not solve the problem.
However, where will the addicted find the money to feed their habit? They will have to commit more muggings, carjackings and murders. It’s that simple. Furthermore, the majority of drug users are not on welfare. Police Chief Thomas Sweeny of Bridgeport estimates that two-thirds of the drug trade in east Bridgeport is from the neighboring suburbs. Many of the drive-by shootings that make the six o’clock news are turf wars over who stands on the corner and sells drugs to suburbanites.
This is why our policy-makers must start treating drug addiction as an illness rather than a crime. For the past 20 years, we have dispensed methadone to heroin addicts. This program should be expanded so that we can dispense attenuated forms of other drugs to addicts in treatment centers for those who fail rehabilitation. This program successfully reduced the crime rate in Liverpool, England. Outright legalization would be a disaster because it would result in a large increase in new addicts.
Judge Spada is not alone. Three federal judges now refuse to hear drug cases because of mandatory sentencing laws. Those willing to acknowledge that the war on drugs has been a failure span the political spectrum and include William F. Buckley, Jocelyn elders, Milton Friedman and George Schultz. Now all we need is some politicians with the courage to do what has to be done. Otherwise, Connecticut will remain a state of decaying violent cities surrounded by comfortable suburbs.