Here’s the story about our one-out-of-one-hundred incarceration rate.
Here’s the example:
Red River sheriff’s deputies and Tri-Parish Drug Task Force agents arrested a Hall Summit couple after responding to a welfare concern for an infant child and suspected illegal drug use, authorities said.
Joseph V. Bennett, 21, and Krystal N. Bennett, 23, were booked into the Red River Parish Jail each on one count of possession of marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia and possession of a controlled dangerous substance in the presence of a juvenile. Marijuana and packaging materials were seized.
Why are these people in jail? Sure, they’re potheads, but how does their decision to get high harm me and everyone else in society so much that we have to spend our resources arresting, jailing, trying, and punishing them? Even if smoking marijuana is a bad thing, I don’t think the harm justifies the cost of attempting to eliminate it.
About the child, the article doesn’t say anything about anyone actually harming the kid. Presumably, then, the threat to the kid’s welfare was the fact that his parents are potheads. Granting for the sake of argument that potheads are necessarily bad parents, I still refuse to believe that growing up with married pothead parents is worse than what this child now faces: life bouncing between various relatives and foster care. A parent has got to do something much worse than smoking pot before putting the child in the care of the state will be an improvement.
It’s easy to go from “I think X is bad” to “X ought to be illegal” to “Those who do X ought to go to jail.” That’s why we have more people in jail than any other country. It’s important to count the costs before criminalizing something. Unfortunately, the folks who make these decisions only count votes.