Recommended reading


1. DPA Report: “It’s Time for the US to Decriminalize Drug Use and Possession”


The Drug Policy Alliance analyzes the war on drugs and its shortcomings, then offers a roadmap for transitioning to a more compassionate & effective drug policy.

From the report’s executive summary:

By any measure and every metric, the U.S. war on drugs – a constellation of laws and policies that seeks to prevent and control the use and sale of drugs primarily through punishment and coercion – has been a colossal failure with tragic results.

Indeed, federal and state policies that are designed to be “tough” on people who use and sell drugs have helped over-fill our jails and prisons, permanently branded millions of people as “criminals”, and exacerbated drug-related death, disease and suffering – all while failing at their stated goal of reducing problematic drug use.

Read the full report here.


2. Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs


In Chasing the Scream, Johann Hari chronicles the history of the war on drugs and the harms it’s causing today.

From its description on Goodreads:

It is now one hundred years since drugs were first banned in the United States. On the eve of this centenary, journalist Johann Hari set off on an epic three-year, thirty-thousand-mile journey into the war on drugs. What he found is that more and more people all over the world have begun to recognize three startling truths: Drugs are not what we think they are. Addiction is not what we think it is. And the drug war has very different motives to the ones we have seen on our TV screens for so long.

Chasing the Scream lays bare what we really have been chasing in our century of drug war – in our hunger for drugs, and in our attempt to destroy them.

This book will challenge and change how you think about one of the most controversial – and consequential – questions of our time.

Chasing the Scream can be purchased on Amazon.


3. Open Philanthropy Project Report: “The Impacts of Incarceration on Crime”

The crux of the matter is that tougher sentences hardly deter crime... “tough-on-crime” initiatives can reduce crime in the short run but cause offsetting harm in the long run.
— David Roodman of the Open Philanthropy Project

David Roodman of the Open Philanthropy Project took a deep dive into the dynamics of incarceration & crime: do harsher penalties reduce crime, or not?

In the headline post of the report, Reasonable Doubt: A New Look at Whether Prison Growth Cuts Crime, Roodman summarizes his conclusion:

I estimate, that at typical policy margins in the United States today, decarceration has zero net impact on crime outside of prison. That estimate is uncertain, but at least as much evidence suggests that decarceration reduces crime as increases it. 

The crux of the matter is that tougher sentences hardly deter crime, and that while imprisoning people temporarily stops them from committing crime outside prison walls, it also tends to increase their criminality after release.

As a result, “tough-on-crime” initiatives can reduce crime in the short run but cause offsetting harm in the long run.

There’s no evidence that drug possession arrests are helping solve our country’s problems with drug abuse & crime. In the long run, sending more people to prison increases the overall crime rate.

Read the full report here.