JUDGE: TIME TO LEGALIZE DRUGS
U.S. Needs New Approach to Scourge, She Tells Civic Club
KETTERING - Retired Florida Judge Eleanor Schockett was speaking to
such a square crowd that they didn't even get the little joke in her
introduction about the fact she doesn't do drugs.
That didn't mean the 50 Kettering Rotarians weren't receptive to her
message at their meeting Wednesday. They listened to Schockett's
argument that everything from marijuana to narcotics should be made
legal, and regulated by the government. From the very start, they
agreed that the war on drugs has failed to reduce demand, and that a
new approach is needed.
"The United States has the largest prison population per capita of any
country in the world," she said. In Ohio, the Department of
Corrections 2004 annual report showed that nearly 23,900 felons went
to prison that year, with almost 5 percent from Montgomery County.
About 25 percent were convicted of violent crimes, but about 31
percent were drug offenses. The single most common conviction for all
prisoners was drug possession, at about 18 percent. Selling drugs was
second on the list, at 11 percent.
When you look at the total prisoner population, the numbers aren't
quite as dramatic, because drug sentences are shorter than those for
violent crimes. About 60 percent of all prisoners are in for violent
crimes such as severely beating someone, robbery and attempted rape.
Only 13 percent of all prisoners are in for drug offenses.
Each man costs $24,000 a year.
"It is a totally nonproductive expenditure," Schockett
She asked her audience -- which included leaders of Kettering's city
government and schools -- to call their state representatives and
congressmen and ask the country to move toward drug
"It's people like you that can really make a difference, because y'all
have credibility," she said.
Men in the audience asked questions about who's doing it right --
Switzerland and Holland, said the former judge of the circuit court in
Miami-Dade County, Fla. and how much a medicalized distribution system
would cost. She said it would be far less than the current one.
Chuck Sutherland of Kettering said after the talk, "We do have a
serious problem with drugs in this country, and we do need a new
approach to it." He said he doesn't think the United States is ready
for the Dutch approach, where marijuana is legal just like beer, and
heroin users can shoot up in government-run clinics. Although he
largely agreed with her position, he said he doubted he would write
his representatives urging legalization.