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Ron Paul warns Canada’s conservatives that the U.S. war on drugs failed

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Ron Paul warns Canada’s conservatives that the U.S. war on drugs failed

OTTAWA — Canada’s conservative movement was warned Friday that America’s war on drugs — now being emulated by the Harper government with tough mandatory jail terms — has been an expensive disaster that has stripped millions of people of their civil liberties.

The message came from Ron Paul, a former U.S. congressman and failed contender for the Republic presidential nomination last year. Paul delivered the opening address to hundreds of conservatives gathered at an annual conference sponsored by the Manning Centre for Building Democracy.

A well known libertarian who is considered the godfather of the Tea Party, Paul spoke about the many dangers that citizens face when governments intrude into either the economy or their personal lives.

“If you believe in liberty, you will protect economic liberty and personal liberty. They are all one and the same.”

Paul said citizen freedom should extend to “personal behavior” and “lifestyle”.

“If we have legalization of religious freedom, some people have this religion or that religion, and some people have no religion. Most people will accept that as rather tolerant.”

“But when it comes to lifestyle in the last 30 to 40 years, we have spent about five to six trillion dollars enforcing laws which I think make no sense whatsoever, (and) has caused our prisons to have more prisoners than China.”

Paul blasted the “irrationality of the drug laws that tell people what they can put in their mouths and what they can put in their bodies.” “I think the drug war needs (to be) repealed,” he said to cheers and applause from many people in the conference centre, a short walk from Parliament Hill.

Many of the people attending the conference are fervent supporters of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government.

Topics on the conference agenda include the oil patch and environmental protection, privatization of some health care, foreign policy and aboriginal affairs. Among the ministers appearing at the conference are Jason Kenney (immigration), Maxime Bernier (small business and tourism) and Tony Clement (treasury board).

Since first being elected in 2006, the Conservative government has espoused a strong law-and-order agenda which it says is needed to keep criminals off the streets. Critics say it is merely a political tactic to attract votes and some of the measures are an overreach.

But the government, with the majority it won in 2011, has pressed ahead. Last fall, the government’s new drug laws came into force.

The measures, part of the Safe Streets and Communities Act, provides mandatory six-month jail term for growing as few as six marijuana plants. In his speech, Paul did not make direct reference to that law, but he stressed that the Americans’ experience has been awful.

He said that as a father and a medical physician, he recognizes that drugs are very dangerous.

“But if you compare the so-called illegal drugs to prescription drugs, a lot more people die from the prescription drug abuse.”

Paul said there is far too much regulation.

“The government is so much involved. No, you can’t smoke a marijuana cigarette but we’re going to fill you up with psychotropic drugs. There has to be a better answer. There has to be more common sense.”

Later, speaking to reporters, Paul declined to speak specifically about Canada, but he then explained why he and others have opposed mandatory sentences in the U.S.

“We have wanted it to have more prerogatives from the judges. Because sometimes these mandatory sentences, in the states at least, have put people in prison for life.”

In his speech, Paul told conservatives that citizens must put a stop to government policies such as this and he said he would do away with things such as the central bank and other economic programs that skew the economy.

“Once the government gets in the business of producing economic equality or making you morally a better person, you have sacrificed the principle of liberty,” said Paul.

“And you have given the government too much power. Inevitably, throughout all history, governments when they get that power, they always expand that power until there is the next revolution.”

Paul stressed he does not espouse violence, but instead wants people, particularly young people, to use the power of ideas to achieve change.

Former Reform party leader Preston Manning, president of the centre that held the conference, said people with “different views” were invited to speak to engage a good discussion.

“Conservatives are not afraid of self-examination,” said Manning.

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Drug war is dumb. But politicians who say the drug war is dumb without having a successful sytem in mind to fix it are just being politicians. It's super annoying when people bring up how Portugal made things legal and had success with it, when they DIDN'T actually make it legal, and there's still fines and penalties attached to it.. and the huge thing of.. well.. PORTUGAL NOT BEING THE SAME AS THE STATES OR CANADA.

People in the States and even here have a particularly strange moral compass and sense of entitlement. It honestly makes me cringe the thought of it being easier for some of the stupid younger people here to get access to drugs that in all likelihood would make them even more stupid.

I would do something crazy. Like, decriminalize it, but require a license to be able to hold or use the drugs. Make people go through a class or course somewhere that educated them on the dangers of drugs, and tell them about support for any addictions, and to discuss and hammer it in about the laws and fines that will still apply before they're even allowed to touch it. But this doesn't take away from the fact that even if the government makes it available and a choice, you'd get shady ass people trying to sell it for cheaper to still try and make money off of it. There would be so many things and such an effort to try and make it a viable thing. The culture over here is very much one of indulgence. People talk about it like it's so simple, but it's not. Politicians do the same thing.

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You had to be living on Saturn for the last 20 years to not know this.

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The sad thing is, this should be common sense.

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Like Lockout Casualty said above, he's probably the only genuine politician out in America. He's a a little too out of touch for me with his economic policies but he's pretty much got it down with his stance on social policies.

Too bad he's not in congress anymore. Hopefully his son can follow-up, but he hasn't looked as good recently...

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If Paul ever decided to put together a serious run for the White House he'd have support from me. As long as the pachyderms and the jackasses remain in control...this fruitless 'war' will continue. The war on drugs has failed almost as brilliantly as the 'war on terror'...someone needs to tell the cons that 'terror' is a tactic, and 'terrorists' is not an ethnic group. thanks. Terror is not a Middle Eastern country full of brown people that they can bomb the frack out of. Drug war has failed as I have said many times because they've focused attentions on the wrong drugs. They arrest responsible pot smokers while completely ignoring the methamphetamine and crack problem...then you've got kids as young as 15 getting prescriptions for insane pharm drugs like hydrocodone and adderall and ritalin and paxil from these clueless quacks...selling them to kids their same age and younger in school, and the government really has no one but themselves to blame for the stranglehold the pharmaceutical companies have them in. Another fine example of attention to detail here in 'Murica.

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someone needs to tell the cons that 'terror' is a tactic, and 'terrorists' is not an ethnic group.

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This not the first warning from Texas about not going down the incarcerate everyone connected to drugs strategy.

The CBC had an excellent piece in 2011 about how Texas completely changed its approach - oddly enough towards the traditional Canadian approach that is now being abandoned by the the CPC.

Conservatives in the United States' toughest crime-fighting jurisdiction — Texas — say the Harper government's crime strategy won't work.

"You will spend billions and billions and billions on locking people up," says Judge John Creuzot of the Dallas County Court. "And there will come a point in time where the public says, 'Enough!' And you'll wind up letting them out."

Adds Representative Jerry Madden, a conservative Republican who heads the Texas House Committee on Corrections, "It's a very expensive thing to build new prisons and, if you build 'em, I guarantee you they will come. They'll be filled, OK? Because people will send them there.

"But, if you don't build 'em, they will come up with very creative things to do that keep the community safe and yet still do the incarceration necessary."

These comments are in line with a coalition of experts in Washington, D.C., who attacked the Harper government's omnibus crime package, Bill C-10, in a statement Monday.

"Republican governors and state legislators in such states of Texas, South Carolina, and Ohio are repealing mandatory minimum sentences, increasing opportunities for effective community supervision, and funding drug treatment because they know it will improve public safety and reduce taxpayer costs," said Tracy Velázquez, executive director of the Washington-based Justice Policy Institute.

"If passed, C-10 will take Canadian justice policies 180 degrees in the wrong direction, and Canadian citizens will bear the costs."

A state with a record

On a recent trip to Texas, an array of conservative voices told CBC News that Texas tried what Canada plans to do – and it failed.

As recently as 2004, Texas had the highest incarceration rate in the world, with fully one in 20 of its adult residents behind bars, on parole or on probation. The Lone Star state still has the death penalty, with more than 300 prisoners on death row today. But for three decades, as crime rates fell all over the U.S., the rate in Texas fell at only half the national average.

That didn't change the policy — but its cost did.

Faced with a budget crisis in 2005, the Texas statehouse was handed an estimate of $2 billion to build new prisons for a predicted influx of new prisoners.

They told Madden to find a way out. He and his committee dug into the facts. Did all those new prisoners really need to go to jail? And did all of those already behind bars really need to be there?

Madden's answer was, no. He found that Texas had diverted money from treatment and probation services to building prisons. But sending people to prison was costing 10 times as much as putting them on probation, on parole, or in treatment.

"It was kinda silly, what we were doing," says Madden. Then, he discovered that drug treatment wasn't just cheaper — it cut crime much more effectively than prison.

That was the moment, he says, when he knew: "My colleagues are gonna understand this. The public is gonna understand this.…The public will be safer and we will spend less money!"

His colleagues agreed. Texas just said no to the new prisons.

Instead, over the next few years, it spent a fraction of the $2 billion those prisons would have cost — about $300 million — to beef up drug treatment programs, mental health centres, probation services and community supervision for prisoners out on parole.

It worked. Costs fell and crime fell, too. Now, word of the Canadian government's crime plan is filtering down to Texas and it's getting bad reviews.

Marc Levin, a lawyer with an anti-tax group called Right on Crime, argues that building more prisons is a waste of taxpayers' money.

"We've see a double-digit decline in the last few years in Texas, both in our prison incarceration rate and, most importantly in our crime rate," says Levin.

"And the way we've done it is by strengthening some of the alternatives to prison."

The statistics bear him out. According to the Texas Department of Corrections, the rate of incarceration fell 9 per cent between 2005 and 2010. In the same period, according to the FBI, the crime rate in Texas fell by 12.8 per cent.

By contrast, Levin says, the Canadian government has increased the prison budget sharply, even though crime in Canada is down to its lowest level since 1973.

In fact, federal spending on corrections in Canada has gone up from $1.6 billion in 2005-06, when Stephen Harper's Conservatives took power, to $2.98 billion in 2010-11. That's an increase of 86 per cent. Soon, it will double.

Federal corrections budget: Canada

2005–06 $1.6 billion

2010–11 $2.98 billion

2012–13 $3.13 billion

The Harper government has already increased prison sentences by scrapping the two-for-one credit for time served waiting for trial. Bill C-10 would add new and longer sentences for drug offences, increase mandatory minimums and cut the use of conditional sentences such as house arrest.

In each case, Texas is doing the opposite.

So are several other states — egged on by a group of hardline conservatives who have joined the Right on Crime movement. These include Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, former Speaker Newt Gingrich, the tax-fighter Grover Norquist and the former attorney general for President Ronald Reagan, Ed Meese.

That's not a list of liberals. Marc Levin says Canada is out of step with the best conservative thinking south of the border.

"We've seen in the United States, states and conservative leaders moving in a much different direction than the Conservative Party is saying in Canada," he says.

"I think the conservative thing to do is to be cost-effective and to hold offenders accountable. And, frankly, for many of them, they go to prison, they don't pay child support, they don't have to work in the private sector, they don't pay restitution — I don't believe that's holding people accountable."

Hugging criminals? In Texas?

What Levin means by accountability is what happens at Judge John Creuzot's drug court in Dallas.

Thieves, drug addicts and drunk drivers must file into Creuzot's courtroom each week as a condition of their sentences. They're on probation with the threat of prison hanging over them. They must prove they are keeping up with their drug treatment.

Creuzot cajoles, threatens and lectures them to stick with the program — but he also rewards them when they succeed. If they graduate from treatment, clean and sober, he holds an awards ceremony in his courtroom. Then, he gives them a big, back-slapping Texas hug.

"Congratulations, bro!" he says as he wraps his arms around a hulking ex-addict. "Proud of ya!" he says as he hugs another and places a medal around her neck.

Hugs? From a judge in the state that gave us chain gangs?

It's not your father's Texas. But Creuzot isn't all hugs. He renders a blunt verdict when he is asked what's wrong with the Harper government's plan to get criminals off Canadian streets.

"Nothing, if you don't mind spending a lot of money locking people up and seeing your crime rate go up! Nothing wrong with it at all!"

Creuzot says prison just doesn't work as well as the less expensive methods he uses — because, one way or another, drugs and alcohol lie at the root of 80 per cent of crimes.

"What we've learned," he says, "is that if you deal with those underlying issues with the proper assessments up front, doing that before you make a sentencing decision … and you fund programs that will deal with that on a long-term basis, that you avoid sending thousands of people to prison."

But isn't all the treatment expensive?

"It's less expensive!" Creuzot snaps. "We had a university do a cost-benefit analysis. And every dollar we spend is worth $9 and 34 cents in avoided criminal justice costs."

Other studies in Texas agree that treatment and probation services cost about one-tenth of what it costs to build and run prisons. Besides that, offenders emerge much less likely to commit fresh crimes than those with similar records who go to prison.

Getting results

At Phoenix House, a drug treatment centre in Wilmer, just south of Dallas, Dr. Teresa May-Williams is a forensic psychologist, paid to assess the risk of letting offenders out on parole or in treatment. She's found that prison is even riskier.

"We can't ignore the fact that our ‘tough on crime' stance that puts a person in prison and assumes that their drug problem will somehow magically disappear while they're incarcerated and they'll never get out again and offend, is ridiculous!" she says.

May-Williams says most offenders with drug or alcohol problems quickly resume their criminal lifestyle when they get out of prison.

"The data showed that 60 per cent of those individuals will be out and committing a new crime in, on average, about 11 months."

That's four times the rate of those who go through her six-month program instead.

"A big focus of it is getting their drug problem under control," she says, "and then beginning to work on education, job training, getting them employed, getting them focused on becoming a tax payer rather than a tax user. The recidivism rate for probation, the same kind of offender, is somewhere around 15-16 per cent."

A 'hopeless' case

Equally striking is that even the hardest cases can respond to court-ordered treatment.

Kathryn Griffin, by her own account, was a "hopeless" case.

Loquacious, loud and candid, Griffin had six felonies on her record — for drug possession and prostitution — so she was facing 35 years to life in jail when she came to court in Houston, yet again.

"I'm a person who had a $30,000-a-month cocaine habit for 22 years!" she says. But, "I am totally clean and sober today."

And she's stayed clean for eight years — because, she says, she was a "guinea pig" in what was, back then, a new experiment: drug court.

The judge gave her a choice: get clean in drug treatment or flunk out — and die in prison.

She made it. Now, she has a job counselling street prostitutes, pays taxes and tells anyone who will listen that Texas, too, has changed its ways.

"What I like about this state and our government is they are willing to listen, look, study, learn and see results."

Left, right and middle-of-the-road Texans are recommending that Canada do the same — and the conservatives most of all.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/story/2011/10/17/pol-vp-milewski-texas-crime.html

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grass-movie.jpg

IF you've seen this, you know already know what Paul said. The Drug War is a waste of money and resources.

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I agree with him on the drugs piece, but most everything else he says is loony.

If you allow industries to regulate themselves, they will slash and burn everything there is for a buck today, leaving nothing for tomorrow. It is up to the government to ensure things are sustainable, fair, and safe because we know the industries won't do it themselves.

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I agree with him on the drugs piece, but most everything else he says is loony.

If you allow industries to regulate themselves, they will slash and burn everything there is for a buck today, leaving nothing for tomorrow. It is up to the government to ensure things are sustainable, fair, and safe because we know the industries won't do it themselves.

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Exactly.. That's my problem with conservatism in general. While I don't think the government should have too much control they need to have some because greed will always overpower what is right.

The people that build or run a multi billion dollar company got where they are because they're usually pretty slimey individuals. If you put a gun in their hand and a ten year old girl from a third world country in front of them and said your business with double in value if you shoot her and nobody will ever know.. They would most definitely pull the trigger.

I absolutely hate what Harper is doing to our identity right now but couldn't even imagine having to live under the rule of a conservative in the USA.

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You can't make much money off dead people.

You have some poor misconceptions that might require undoing of many years of institutionalised anti-capitalistic proselytism in order to have a more objective basis on.

What is "right" is about as subjective as it gets, which is exactly why less government interference in our lives (within reason) is good, not more.

Government does not ensure things are fair, government ensures things are the way government wants it. The more authority given to government means the more this is true.

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You can't make much money off dead people.

You have some poor misconceptions that might require undoing of many years of institutionalised anti-capitalistic proselytism in order to have a more objective basis on.

What is "right" is about as subjective as it gets, which is exactly why less government interference in our lives (within reason) is good, not more.

Government does not ensure things are fair, government ensures things are the way government wants it. The more authority given to government means the more this is true.

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